“So, you want to move to Europe?”

Cracked.com recently published a piece by C. Corville entitled, “Six Reasons Your Plan to Move Abroad Might Not Work Out“(15.08.11). I brought this up in a previous post and would like to continue discussing it here (along with culture shock). To summarize what C. Corville discusses in the piece, because the author does generalize, the basic six reasons are:

  • #6. The People There Probably Don’t Want You
  • #5. Their Governments Don’t Want You, Either
  • #4. Other Countries Treat Illegal Immigrants Worse Than America

(Keep reading for the last three points)

So, this list is from Cracked.com, which I love, for its obvious humor and I have toyed with the idea of sharing this with my culture studies students as an introduction to American culture just to see if they can successfully debunk it. When I first read it, it resonated with me, in spite of all the  hearty generalizations, the author does seem to back some of them with links to original stories which spark  comparisons.

Why did it resonate with me, because I have been living in Europe for two years now and I agree with some of what the author says. I can’t speak about the people not wanting me here, or the government as I am a native speaker and still struggling with the new language. I can only help the locals improve their own understanding of American culture and the English language. I do live in a tourist town though, so I am sure some of the locals DO NOT see it that way, and that is fine of course. Yet, most of the time when I am attempting to practice my German, many of the locals DO simply switch to English as I am sure they think they are helping me and thus are also helping themselves (that, or they really don’t want to hear me bastardize their mother tongue to such a horrifying degree).

As an Auslander (foreigner) having to go to the Auslandsampt, at first I did not have a good experience. I, along with the people I was working with originally, were under the understanding that I would not have to pay for my student work visa as the first exchange student who participated from the US did not. Yet, the Auslandsampt wanted 50€ from me without explanation and without the possibility of  a refund. My German-speaking friend pleaded with her in the nicest possible way to explain why and she refused. Even going so far as to raise her voice to an almost unrecognizably high pitch that would scare dogs. yet was still dripping with sticky-disgusting-sweetness. I couldn’t tell at the time that my friend wanted to rip her head off, which could have been because of my lack of understanding the German language or the observed fact that Germans (in Germany) do not seem to raise their voice in anger unless they are piss drunk or at a football match, or both. I can’t speak for the Germans that go to Australia and get pissed or other tropical islands and make asses of themselves however, sorry. I do hear this is a problem though but, in defense of Germans and Americans that get ostracized for doing this, a recent poll by Expedia said that Brits were the absolute worst of them all.

For the most part, I have felt pretty welcome here in Germany and Europe, except for the few occasions when my husband and I have been coming home from the pub (generally a German one, not the Irish or British type) and have been ostracized ourselves for being ‘tourists’ in what we regard now as our own city. How cute and provincial it is to make fun of the people speaking English in your town too, never mind that those tourists your negatively quipping about help pay you so you can live well here (didn’t I say we live in a VERY touristy city). Add to that this city would be incredibly more provincial and ‘quaint’ if it weren’t for the 14,000+ university students that come annually to study or the fact that this town is the biggest and cheapest in the area ON THE BORDER to another country.  The point is, that I know enough German to understand when I am the pun of an offensive joke or remark and cannot wait for the day that my German is better so as to say, “E.A.D.” in German or even better the local dialect.

I have no idea how this country treats illegals or if it is better or worse than America treats theirs. I do know that President Obama has increased the deportation of illegal’s who are convicted criminals by 70%. A friend of mine in Belgium, says there seem to be a heck of a lot of loopholes for illegals to become legals, which I know misses the point but, I guess my point is – they are out there, if you have the time to look for them. I also know that everything I learned about fearing other governments I learned from “Locked Up Abroad“,  growing up during the Cold War or literature like “1984“.  I was told when living in London in 1998 that if I stayed beyond my visa I would be sent home, charged for the plane ticket and barred entry for five years. I never tested that idea to see if it was actually true.

5 thoughts on ““So, you want to move to Europe?”

  1. Actually, when I went to London, a customs officer told me that if I didn’t get my Visa and return after my free 3 months are up that I would be refused entry and more. She even stamped it into my passport. Oh NO she di’in’t!

    Also to comment on your friend who went to SoKo- When I turned 18 (and W had just been re-elected) I said “peace out America” and was one of the Americans who actually moved to Canada with the intention of staying there. Once there I, as you describe, found the same things to be pissed off about: their government is just as conservative as ours was/is (?) and their foreign policy is just as bad, maybe even worse because no one gives a shit about Canada, so they could actually be cooler in the Middle East, but aren’t (in my opinion, obviously) whereas the US is under way more pressure and has a lot riding on their shitty foreign policy. Also, hearing people say “you Americans are so fat” and “you Americans are so ignorant” and on and on and on got old so fast. And the real funny thing is that our countries are so much alike- they were just picking on America because everyone else does, and it’s easy… but we really aren’t significantly different.

    As you felt in this post, about it being pro-American, I feel like that everyday. I don’t think this is wrong, though, since we are able to distinguish between bullshit and reality. That’s why when people say that anything in America sucks, food, whatever, I just want to shout “we have a thousand kinds of bread, we don’t just eat Wonder bread!!!” or whatever else, but that would just make us sound spoiled, so I don’t. 🙂

  2. I would say that then, about the bread. Since people outside the US have a very limited view of what actually happens inside the US. I have to actively seek out American news coverage because if I were to rely solely on the television or German news sources I wouldn’t get much information. So, it is like learning about the world outside of American while inside America, our view is skewed.

    I think your right, because ‘everyone’ seems to be on the “We hate America” bandwagon (okay not everybody but it is a popular thing to do) it is easy to job on it and continue the stereotypes but it shows just how ignorant people are. Since living abroad I try to realize when I myself am making generalizations and perpetuating stereotypes because I think of two things. One, it is amazing that I am here and I should try to learn all I can about myself, my country and my adopted country and two, that it is important that I do my best to help others do the same.

    Often when people throw American stereotypes at me I attempt to throw the ones I know about their country back at them as respectfully as I can and in the form of a question. Here in Germany I think it has worked quite well.

  3. Pingback: On my mind… « living the american dream in europe

  4. Pingback: How to move to Germany, part two: Why NOT! | living the american dream in europe

  5. Pingback: What I know about Germans… | living the american dream in europe

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