In my travels on the blogosphere (which is really a nice way of saying whilst I was playing around on the internet doing absolutely nothing productive), I stumbled across this monthly Expat to Expat Q& A which asked some really interesting questions about fitting in into your new home which I thought would be fun to tackle here.
How do you fit in to your new culture without losing some of your identity?
Unlike most of the blogs I read by female expats I moved to Germany by myself and without knowing a single soul here. I used this big grand move to find my identity after being in a long-term relationship where I felt like I lost a large part of myself. Also I have the distinct luxury of living by myself where I don’t have to conform to anyone’s standard of what is deemed acceptable, culturally or otherwise. If I want to fart loudly whilst walking around my apartment, I am free to do so, without worrying if I am going to offend anyone. Still, even with all this space to be simply me, I still need in some way to conform to German society. This is where I choose my battles. Am I going to lose a part of my core self if I need an instruction manual to understand how the recycling works here? No, but I will most likely grow some grey hairs. Am I going to lose a part of my core self if I have to bring a birthday cake to work even though it is my birthday? Again, no. Yes, it is odd and feels very strange, but that is part of the fun of moving to a different country. Also, if I want people to bring me cake for my birthday, this is where my expat friends fit in. Living away from your home culture is all about compromise. You take part in that country’s culture and you share your home culture with them. Expats run into problems when they think the way their home culture does things is superior to how they are done in their current country’s culture. They are not. They are simply different. Embrace them. Try them out. You never know, you might actually prefer the new way of doing things.
What do you think your biggest trigger for homesickness is?
I feel like I totally fail as a typical expat here. I read blogs upon blogs all of them talking about how much they miss home and how homesick they are most of the time – and to be honest, I’m really not. Sure, there are things I miss from home, but I am not plagued by an overwhelming desire to go back. Still there are times when I miss the people, the food and the culture and they sneak up unaware and seem to have nothing to do with the time of year or big occasions. For instance the last time I felt the pangs of homesickness was watching the Election Night coverage and suddenly I missed the Australian wit & humour. But who on earth thinks Election time and suddenly feels homesick? Not me that’s for sure, but there I was watching the coverage and missing my home culture. That I think is the issue – it is the little things. Things that you don’t even think would make you homesick, that take you by surprise and can throw you off balance. The big stuff you can plan to feel homesick for, which takes the edge of it somehow, but the little stuff you don’t even think would make you feel that way can knock you around a bit.