It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I took the leap of faith and moved to Germany to marry my wife, Corinna and to dedicate more time to my artwork. However, yesterday marked my first year living abroad (actually, today if I follow German time because I arrived a day later than I left the US).
It has been quite a year, not totally according to plan, but as Matthew McConaughey said at the end of the movie, Reign of Fire, “Life sure has a funny way of turning out different, don’t it?” As I reflect on the past year and write my top ten, I’m wondering … if life always turned out the way we wanted it, would it be life anymore? And would it be as exciting?
Okay, here’s my Top Ten …
10. Chocolate is just better over here. Please accept that everyone. In fact, when I travel to the US, I bring a nice stash of German chocolate with me (74-85% dark; hey, I have to watch my boyish figure).
9. There is American Reality, and then there is reality. Don’t get me wrong, I love my homeland as much as any other American, but I think the above observation (#9) rang true when my German dentist recently said to me, “You guys don’t really have news over there, just entertainment.”
8. The German language is beautiful but was engineered to be unlearnable, except through native process. So I’m just trying to be as fluent as I can. In my mind, I see the German language as a giant china shop with an incomprehensible maze running through it; my best hope is to try and walk around without getting lost or breaking anything expensive.
7. America is not so much a “Land of Plenty” as it is a “Land of Land.” Until an American lives abroad in Europe, I’m not sure he or she may truly appreciate this. When my wife asks me, What do you miss? My first answer, after loved ones and old friends, is the lonely, vast, American Highways. In fact, I wrote a song with just that title, and hope to record it this year.
6. Germans love Hollywood! But Hollywood loves Hollywood, too. I get a real hoot out of watching my favorite films in German every night, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many Hollywood films are shown. But when you live in a small city in Europe where people lose it over a good street artist, it suddenly hits you that Hollywood contributes more than it may think to its own fame. And fame to me now … just seems more like … fame.
5. People over here don’t care about what you do, or even what you wear, just how well you smile. In my time in Germany, and in my travels around Europe so far, I’ve noticed that people are so polite and smile back more. For example, in Germany, when you leave any place, even a fitness studio locker room, complete strangers yell, “Tschuess!” (roughly translated as cheers). And today, I almost accidentally ran into someone with my bike. Through the last second of braking and a desperate final evasive maneuver, the woman just kept smiling.
4. Germans and many Europeans are virtual heroes at never drinking water or going to the bathroom. It is amazing, and that’s that. Ironically, I don’t seem to miss being served water or being able to find a bathroom.
3. Many Americans probably have a doppelganger in Europe. It is downright creepy but scientifically explainable. After all, unless someone from the US is Native American, there is a good chance that his or her roots trace back to Europe. But … still … can we say, Weird? I keep seeing American actors, musicians, politicians, even old friends, and so on, everywhere I go. I was even told recently that I have a doppelganger in Lueneburg. Kind of makes me a little scared to walk around.
2. Germans REALLY know how to party! On New Year’s Eve, if I were a blind man, I would have sought cover. The reverberating explosions, like live rounds, banging and shoving unapologetically through the streets, were fascinating. And the constant, blooming, panoramic rockets … it was as if everyone bought fireworks all year round, filled up their houses with them, then launched them off simultaneously from their balconies and street corners. We turned on the TV and other cities were doing the same thing, only on a far bigger level, with more fireworks (which seemed unthinkable) and with DJs and light shows that one would have to witness to believe. What a blast!
1. Retired German men and women pass you on their bikes going uphill during a snow storm. Whenever I’m feeling lazy, I just look outside and watch them doing a pre-workout stretch in the snow … kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? I wanted to live longer to try and write that great book. I guess I moved to the right place! And one of these days I’m going to catch this old man who always passes me uphill … the one who looks like my grandfather.
One of these days …
Yours in leaps of faith,