Maybe I just don’t notice. Maybe I am just too busy to notice I’m not noticing. But one thing’s for sure. The words culture and shock have not held hands nor gone together through, in, out, under, or over my brain in quite some time. It’s in the not noticing that I actually realized how much I have grown accustomed to living here in Germany.
A friend commented today on how brave I was for toting my kids all over God’s green earth. Well, actually, she didn’t say that. Germans don’t use that expression. But, she did say I was brave. I definitely don’t think of myself as brave. It’s more that I think if I sat in one place for too long, God’s green earth would start growing out my ears and over my eyeballs instead of on the ground as it’s supposed to. And while I definitely haven’t been in this country long enough for that to happen, I guess after almost eight months, Germany just doesn’t seem all that different.
Granted, they do have weird toilets, eat way too much pork (I still have yet to see a single pig here, alive), selectively choose when (and if) to wear deodorant, drive manual transmissions, take Sundays off for real, and participate in a socially-accepted clothing-optional policy for bodies near bodies of water.
But, I look like they do (except when we’re next to each other on the lake shore), and as long as I don’t open my mouth, nobody knows I’m not from ’round these parts. Actually, it’s really as long as my kids don’t open their pie holes. They always give me away. Every time.
And speaking of those kiddos, for being as young as they are, they have adapted marvelously. T-Rex loves his kindergarten and his teachers. He seems to enjoy figuring out German and when to speak which language and with whom. He has started learning what it means to be friends. And, Screech, well, as long as there’s warm milk, bread and his family, he could set up camp just about anywhere.
When I lived in Russia, I watched a friend’s mom get diagnosed with cancer and shortly thereafter pass away in a dirty hospital with questionable care. A prominent member of our church here (in Germany) has been diagnosed with cancer and is now fighting for his life. Why-do-bad-things-happen probing aside, it doesn’t feel unfair. I don’t feel frustrated that he might receive better treatment if he were in the US.
I’m not worried my boys (or their parents) are going to contract some hideous, serious, dramatic disease. We have clean water to drink. In abundance. It’s safe to ride a bike alone at 11pm. And though it may get old to get stopped constantly for having a cool pram and cute kids, I am not stared at constantly (or in danger) because my skin is a different color. If I lived somewhere else, these things might not be so.
I really do have so much for which to be thankful. We have a church, a home group, friends, neighbors, book club buddies, and provision for all our physical needs. And perhaps it is out of this thankfulness that I have grown so accustomed to this place.
It’s possible I won’t always feel this way about Germany. It’s definitely not implausible to think that next week I’ll want to go home (wherever that is). But, for now, we’re enjoying our adventure abroad. And man-oh-man are we trying like mad to learn German to help others and be helped.
And, so even though we happen to be very unshaken by this culture at this moment in time, I know there are those in our community – and yours – who are just trying to figure out which way is up. Who have you noticed around you that needs help? You’d be surprised how much you can communicate without a common language. So bake some cupcakes, put on a smile, and offer your friendship to someone new near you.