A couple of months ago, right around the time my dog MacGregor died, I picked up a new friend on Facebook. It was a German Army wife who had seen the Facebook page I made for MacGregor and worked with the beagle rescue that gave us Arran. It's been fun getting to know her. I imagine that being a German living in America must be, in some ways, like being an American living in Germany.
My friend, Susi, is about sixteen years younger than I am. When I was her age, I was single and living in Armenia, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Susi is married to a soldier. I'm assuming she met and married him when he was posted in Stuttgart. Incidentally, that's where Bill and I lived when we lived in Germany. In chatting with Susi, I've been very impressed by a lot of things...
First off, she has quite an affinity for profanity. I am not offended by this, actually. I like to cuss too. She often uses profanity to express her displeasure with America. I'm not sure if she feels this way because America-- especially where she lives in North Carolina-- is not as exciting as Germany is. I mean, the weather is milder here, but we don't have the really beautiful old buildings or picturesque towns that they have in Europe. And we have a lot of ugly big box stores and fast food restaurants.
Last night, she commented on how American kitchens were not designed for people who like to cook. When we lived in Germany, we actually had a very nice kitchen. Our landlord had a masonry heater that had a bench built into it, as well as a table bolted to the floor. We had an infrared stove, which we hated, and a convection oven, which was smaller than what we were used to. The Army gave us a refrigerator, which was nice because European fridges are smaller. I didn't necessarily think that kitchen was better than any I'd had in America, though.
Also, my husband and I love to cook. My husband has actually turned it into a hobby and has become quite proficient at creating a nice meal. I taught him a lot and he has since learned more on his own. There are a lot of Americans who cook.
On the other hand, Americans who are lucky enough to have a job typically work long hours. And they don't tend to get as much vacation time as Europeans get, nor is it necessarily guaranteed that Americans will even get a vacation. The upshot is, a lot of us Yanks eat convenience foods. Bill and I don't, really... we cook most days. But a lot of Americans do. So maybe that's why our kitchens "suck".
I wonder if Susi had a cultural high when she came to America. I know I did in Germany, though it was actually pretty stressful to move there because we were stuck in a hotel for six weeks with two noisy beagles. Susi has an advantage because she speaks excellent English, while I don't speak a lick of German. And even if I did, it's likely the Germans I ran into would switch to English anyway.
Given a choice, I'd probably prefer Germany to America. It's beautiful there... the food and beverages are excellent... so many wonderful places are within driving distance. Granted, America has its share of beautiful places too. But America has become too generic, to the point that you can go most anywhere and it won't be that different.
I didn't make a lot of friends in Germany. There were a few locals we interacted with a bit, but we found that it takes time to get to know Germans. Once they know you, they seem to be wonderful friends who are solid to the core. But it takes awhile to crack the surface. I wonder if Susi finds Americans too easy to make friends with. Culturally, we are very different... even those of us who have German heritage (and I do, a little, but my family is more Scottish/English/Irish than anything else).
I also wonder if Susi has a trash disposal and if she enjoys using it. I know compost heaps are big in Germany. I give Susi props for knowing the town where I lived in Germany.
One of the many views from our back yard in Germany...
An even better shot...