Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On Traveling, Arriving, and My Countless Faux Pas

Albert Einstein once said, "I love to travel, but I hate to arrive."

We are in a state of flux, but this is magnified whilst traveling. Things are changing. We are surrounded with that which is unfamiliar to us.

Strangely, I need this to survive. Don't get me wrong, I can keep my head above water for a short time when treading is in order, but - to stick with the swimming analogy - it's easier for me to stay afloat if I am moving. And it is also when I am at my happiest.

That's the great thing about living abroad. No matter how long you've lived in a place, no matter how integrated you think you are, you're constantly learning... or, on the flip side, constantly "screwing up."

Which brings me to my second favorite Einstein quote, "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new."

To this day, I am constantly put into situations where I encounter something unfamiliar. In spite of having a German husband, German kids in German schools, German in-laws, German friends, German neighbors, and a German house, I am still the "strange foreigner" at times... probably even more than I realize!

Case in point: I meet a distant relative today - my husband's second cousin - who happens to live in the next village. And, I should mention that I like her a lot, though I seldom see her. How do I greet her? A great, big, American-style hug, of course!

Well it turns out that, for a German, or more specifically, for a Franconian (as cultural norms vary from region to region), this is weird. I could tell by her body posture, and it was confirmed by my in-laws an hour later. Oops.

And then was the incident last week that I began eating lunch while standing, not waiting for my girlfriend and her son to sit down at the table. And, while we're at it, I...

Often leave a couple bites of food on my plate.

Lay down my knife while eating.

Write cards with poor penmanship (relatively speaking), but a beautifully, thoughtfully written message.

Just plop myself down on the floor if I want to look at something quickly, even if there is a chair or couch nearby.

Friends, family, and neighbors, I'm sure this is not the complete list, so feel free to submit other odd "Liz" faux pas. But, to return to the original Einstein comment about his love of travel and loathe of arriving, it appears as though I still haven't quite "arrived" , and perhaps I never will. I am a foreigner in a "strange" land, and - with a little luck and some creative thinking - it will forever remain exotic and wonderful, and I will never cease to make mistakes.

And that, readers, is most comforting in my opinion. Life in Germany truly is still an adventure.

Ich bin eben noch nicht ganz angekommen.

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