When I moved to Germany nine years ago, the last thing I wanted to do was acculturate. Pseudo-intellectual conversations involving names like Kant and Benjamin nearly made me drop out of graduate school. So why was I leaving everything in the US behind to go to a country where even average high school kids can recite their philosophies front to back?
Why was I moving to the place made famous by Mike Myers’ skit featuring Dieter, he of the tight black turtleneck, greased hair and wire-rimmed glasses, who on his faux talk show once asked Kyle MacLachlan if he wanted to pet his monkey before breaking into robotic dance moves?
Most pressing of all, why was I going somewhere where people spoke a language I could never get my head around (and which Mark Twain once famously said would take 30 years to learn properly). A place where, when a person speaks English, he sounds so much like a B-movie villain, I can’t help but laugh out loud?
A lot has changed in the meantime. I no longer giggle when someone asks, Jou vant to pat mah monkey? Instead, I reply (in my increasingly good German), Deine Schlappschwanz? Oh bitte nicht! For another, I actually get to have these conversations now, since I’m recently divorced.
And that’s partially what this blog is about – documenting the strangeness that is mid-life dating in a foreign country. Because although I’d like to say I’ve come to know the Germans and their ways well over the last few years, being single has taught me a lot about these people that I’m not sure I wanted to know. Like their feelings about depilation (a Muss for both sexes!).
If dating is a labyrinth filled with false doors and booby traps, then dating in Germany is like wandering the maze blindfolded. The rules I could never figure out as a teenager – I met my ex-husband when I was 19 so I missed that whole decade of discovery in my 20s – are different here and I’m still feeling my way around in the dark to figure out what they may be.
Despite my attempts to understand Zee Germans, to acculturate if you will, I still own zero black turtlenecks and absolutely no lederhosen (a misleading title, I know). I could likewise not give a hoot what Walter Benjamin or Sigmund Freud (I know he’s Austrian, but the accent fits) would have to say about that. That’s one thing that’ll never change about me: my total lack of interest in theories or philosophies, Protestant or otherwise.
I still can’t answer anyone who asks why I came here, but one thing’s for sure: I’ve got no plans to leave any time soon. And that’s the other part of what this blog is about – exploring the purgatory that is expatriatism, the limbo of trying to build up a life in a place that still feels too foreign to be home, but of having no home “to go back to.” Of being neither here nor there, but knowing there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Even if all the guys do shave their armpits.