EXPATS AGAIN! Experiencing other cultures while enriching our global view.



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Munich, Germany
I am married to the love of my life and am finally able to shower him with all of the attention he deserves. I am now retired and living the life here in Europe. I am an American, he is an Australian, and this is our second overseas address. The first was Shanghai, China and now Munich, Germany. Come along and live the life with us as we continue our adventure of discovering all Europe has to offer.

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Friday, July 31, 2009


One of the many pleasures of returning home again is to reconnect with friends.

Le DivorceImage via Wikipedia

I can't speak for men, but my women friends are irreplaceable. After my divorce, almost twenty years ago, I realized that my old friendships (mainly couples) were just not what I needed, so I sought out other women who were going through a similar journey in their lives. It was during this special time in my life that I established strong relationships with a core group of amazing women. Today, I can't imagine my life with them.

A lot happens in twenty years. Some of these women have gone on and raised their families, accumulated degrees and better jobs, married and remarried again, and some have chosen never to marry again. But, one thing has always remained constant, their care and concern for one another. We used to laugh and say, "Men may come and go in our lives (and they did), but our friendship is forever." We didn't know it then, but that is exactly how it has played out.

So, during August, I will be able to meet with my dear friends back home. I will golf with one dear friend, celebrate a missed birthday with another, have coffee and chat with another friend whom I've known since grade school, and ride bikes and exercise with another. We will do dinner, movies, a festival or two, walk, and have cocktails. It is reassuring to know that just because I've moved, I haven't been replaced and my friends are still here for me, just as I am for them.

Another group of great friends are the ones I made while we, my current husband and I, lived in Shanghai, China. I didn't know i

Massage in Frankfurt, GermanyImage via Wikipedia

t at the time, but they were my "family" while my family was still in the states. We were all women whose husbands had jobs that included a lot of overseas travel so we were frequently left behind in Shanghai. These women, many of whom had been living overseas previously, were our saving grace. Together we traveled to exotic destinations, reveled in massages and spas, shopped Hui Hai Lu until we dropped, did lunch & dinner, played mah jong, took classes, golfed, and shared all our host country had to offer. At difficult times, we commiserated together about missing our children/sisters & brothers/parents/ and grandchildren. We planned holidays together and baked turkeys for a Chinese Thanksgiving and hams for Christmas. We made sure that the husbands or wives of traveling spouses had a place to come for dinner while their spouse was away. At times, we held one another hands in times of sadness or despair. These women are ever so dear to me as the ones I ma

martiniImage by wickenden via Flickr

de post-divorce.

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A golf ball directly before the holeImage via Wikipedia

In two weeks I will be reconnecting with six of these remarkable women at the beach house of one of the Shanghai Expats. She has graciously invited us to spend a week at her house on the lake and has planned evenings of plays, casinos, theater, and entertainment for us as well. Since our fun-filled days in Shanghai, we've given up our drivers, cooks, and maids that were standard luxuries for expats living in a "hardship" country at that time. We would laugh at the word, "hardship" and say, "If only the world knew how so un-hardship it is to live here." Now, years later, we have resumed being full-time homemakers, workers, and retirees in many different parts of the world. Some, like me, have moved on to another country to experience yet another culture. However, for one week in August, we will revisit our lifelong friendship with one another.

One of my goals, upon returning to Munich in September, is to work towards meeting kindred souls in Germany. Soon after arriving, I will begin intensive language courses, join the expat group, a photography group, and an exercise club, just to start. Why, there is even an expat Blogger group that has invited me to a get-together. It is my desire to be able to communicate in German and not rely on English for all of my friendships. The friends I have made so far are wonderfully bi and tri-lingual. This is such a blessing, yet it makes it so easy not to have to learn German. I've heard that many expats never learn the language because most everyone speaks English. That may be so, but when you are with a group of people speaking German, you are certainly left out of the conversation.

Life is rich with new adventures and new experiences. But to fully enjoy all a new country or culture has to offer, it is necessary to form new international friendships, in my opinion. Living as an American in Germany has no appeal for me. I want to be able to try it the German way, first. It is my observation that too much of the world is being homogenized and westernized. The lines are very blurred and wherever you travel, you can recognize similarities. Sadly, the differences are vanishing. So, while we still have those vital differences in life, I want to know them and celebrate them. Hopefully, with the amazing women in Germany who I have yet to meet who I know will become lifelong friends.

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cliff1976 said...

when you are with a group of people speaking German, you are certainly left out of the conversation.

We have certainly found that to be true. I work at a supposedly international company, but the Germans I work with don't use their English whenenver a non-German is in the room (like they've agreed to), but rather only when they're addressing her directly. German by osmosis doesn't really work -- at least not at our office. I'm glad I made everyone use German with me from the beginning.

Our expat meetups tend to be pretty English-intensive though -- so if you're looking for German-language interaction, there won't be much of it that weekend.

Welcome aboard!

Expats Again said...

Thank you, Cliff, for your encouraging words about the meetups. I may have to miss this upcoming one since I'm in the states until Sept. 13th. I most certainly will do my utmost to make the subsequent meetups. I'm really looking forward to it. I plan to begin German lessons once I'm back. Any good ideas of where to take them? I only know of Berlitz in Munich. Again, thanks for your warm welcome!

cliff1976 said...

Well, I certainly can't speak for Munich, but I have heard various general opinions and experiences here about the VHS (Volkshochschule) versus private (commercial) lessons. I guess they vary according to your personal learning style and availability. Personally, I think my wife Sarah had great results with the VHS classes, but she also had the time to invest a few hours 5 days a week.