Well, I could spend this whole blog post talking about the Whiny Expat Blogger Meet Up in Hamburg which happened… oh what… 4 weeks ago? But you know what? Others have covered it quite succinctly and may I just say that I assume they remember it better than I do anyway. What I DO remember is the great time I had. I would like to thank our wonderful hosts, Ian from Letters Home, Mandy from No Apathy Allowed, Emily at Transkitten and PapaScott
People ask me why I always have a camera in my hand… it’s because dammit, I want to have SOME recollection of what happened!
Seriously, even Claire of Cheeseburgers and Sauerkraut has hammered out some time to talk about it and the poodle had been AWOL for a long time, you know?
So here is what kept occurring to me while exploring the city of Hamburg with a lovely, noisy, interesting, smart and funny group like this one. If I had met these people in other circumstances, would we have become such fast friends?
I will admit that there are blogs I read regularly, and others that get my time if I have the time. Some of them are classified as “my peeps”, others are people I read because I know that my peeps read them. Does that make sense?
If we were not all sharing this same experience, would we want to get to know each other like we do? Would we really be grasping out for others “like us”?
I’ve come to the realization that my Sweet (German) No is not going to understand the odd American reference. She simply doesn’t get it when I throw something out like, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin
“, or “Give it to Mikey, he won’t eat it, he hates everything
“, or how my bologna has a first and second name
, or “If they take my stapler, then I’ll set the building on fire
“. American pop culture references are lost on her as her German cultural references are lost on me. Yes, I know about “Der Struwwelpeter
“, (only because I read it in my search for that spark to get me into the German language/culture) no I never heard of the book outside of this country. After 5 years in Germany I know all about
“Dinner for one
“. But my German friends still don’t seem to understand that just because it is in English does not mean that every English speaker in the world knows it like the Germans do. Why the oft repeated phrase “Same procedure as every year” should be funny was lost on me until December 31, 2005.
Music is another experience which she and I simply don’t share. Since coming here I’ve been exposed to much more of the pop music she grew up with, so yes, I know how to exclaim “Who the fuck is Alice?” at the appropriate moments, or when to jump up and down while dancing to that silly schlager song.
I don’t work with Americans, and although I have a few American friends here in Berlin, I really don’t see them often. So being with this group in Hamburg was an experience for me, as always. Not only am I assailed by so much English around me, but the cultural references grab me and put a smile on my face.
One of my WEBUM roommates (u know who u r) would whistle half a bar of a tune and my ears would pick up on it immediately. This is not to say that I don’t get to hear music, or that the Germans aren’t exposed to lots of American music… just that whistling the tune to 867-5309 in my vicinity kinda makes me jump a bit. I’m not used to someone actually sharing my culture, in fact I find that I really like it in a nostalgic way.
OK, so let’s get back to the topic. Is simply being an expat enough of a basis for a friendship? Is the fact that we have moved to this country from the same country a good reason for us to get buddy buddy? Trust me, I’ve met some expats here in Berlin that I would NEVER hang out with, and certainly wouldn’t have given them the time of day “back home”, but we run in the same circles… thus we bump into each other from time to time. ugh.
At the same time I’ve found that I really enjoy spending time with Yelli, even though in our former lives we probably would have never met up. For one she is a teacher, of science no less. Next division is that she is a mommy of two really cute boys. (gotta mention the scientist hubby is really a great guy and I really enjoy spending time around them both). Although I really don’t feel that it divides us, it should be mentioned that she is straight and of course I’m a lesbo, ya know?
The point is that even if we had lived in the same town in America, it is highly unlikely that we would have become buddies, as we really don’t have so much in common. I’m just not hanging around in many playgrounds or science labs and I seriously doubt that she’s put in a lot of time in gay places or wherever else I would spend my free time. Yet we meet up once in a while and I really enjoy chatting with her. Since she continues to call me for meet-ups, I assume that she’s enjoying our time together as well.
So please, what do you think? Do we American expats become such fast friends because we have the expat thing in common? Are we searching for someone with our own culture as a way of staving off Heimweh (homesickness in German), or is the German stereotype correct when they say is it just the American way… making fast friends and abandoning them when maintaining the relationship is no longer convenient?