A while ago I read this post and followed it back to the original article about expatriates who have “gone local”. They define it as expats having developed such strong emotional ties to the new country and its people that they admit that they would have a difficult time re-integrating into their home country. This is supposed to happen after 5-7 years. The post kind of stuck with me because I’ve moved around a lot since I finished high school (a good 11 years ago) in Germany. I spent a year in Egypt, went back to Germany to start college, spent 6 months in France for an internship as part of my studies, spent 5 months in Texas as an exchange student, went back to Germany for 1.5 years to finish my degree and moved back to Texas in 2004 for more college and, since two years now, work. That means that I have been here almost 7 years – at the end of the scale when expats are supposed to go local.
Then today I read Laurel’s post about Cultural Assimilation, and started thinking about the whole “going local”/ assimilation thing again. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? And moreover, have I gone local? Have I assimilated enough? Too much?
I feel very German (whatever that may mean) and would never consider myself American. As much as I like it here for the moment, I don’t even want to stay here in the long run. Do I want to go back to Germany? I don’t know. Part of me does (mainly because of my family there), but I also like living in a different country and it would be pretty difficult for my Italian boyfriend whose German is not ready for the workplace (no blame here because neither is my Italian). Plus, I have really come to enjoy the constant sunshine in Texas. And while there are a lot of things in Germany I miss, I don’t particularly miss the absence of the sun throughout the winter (or at least long stretches of it). And in general, I like being in a place where there are a lot of other expats, because you automatically have so much in common.
Assimilation? I think I fit in here in Texas pretty well. In fact, many people don’t know that I am German until I tell them. Would I fit in back in Germany? I’m pretty sure I would. It’s home! And I still go twice a year to visit family and friends and don’t feel like an outsider then either. Would I miss parts of my life here in Texas? Yes, definitely. I would miss the Texan friendliness and, believe it or not, the nice atmosphere created by light small talk with strangers. Would I miss the cashier at Walmart calling me “honey” or “darling”? Probably not so much 😉 Still too much for me! I do enjoy that people are more direct in Germany (dare I say Europe?) and less afraid to tell you what they think. It makes it so much easier to know where you stand, to know if you are actually friends. But at this point I also think that people could be a little friendlier “in the old continent”. Friendly just for the sake of a nice atmosphere. Would it kill you to smile once in a while, my German waitress/cashier/service provider!?
So, I guess, at this point I do feel a little torn. There are things I like about Texas. There are things I like about Germany. There are things I don’t like in Texas or Germany. Honestly, I think I could livein either place and be fine. I also could live in a whole new place – even though I’ve gotten pretty comfortable here and the thought of starting somewhere completely new, not speaking the language well, not knowing the cultural do’s and don’t’s…. I wouldn’t look forward to that.
Anyways, I think I have gone local to a certain extent. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. What do you think? Is it good? Is it bad? And what about you? Gone local yet? 😉
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