Monday, March 10, 2008

A New Normal

When you move to another country, three things eventually happen:

1. If you work on learning the language, you actually begin to understand some of it and can even—after a long, hard year and a half--start to even understand at least the main points of office meetings and work-related things. This has been a major step for me that I’ve just started to notice recently. It is no longer so hard to understand at least the main points during meetings and discussions and read basic creative briefings in German as well as understand most feedback. I can ask basic questions in German without having to think through what I want to ask first. It just takes a lot of patience to get to this point without giving up first.

2. Your body begins to act like the country it’s living in. I naturally shove people out of the way, run for the door of the train before it stops, and keep my shopping cart as close to the person in front of me in line as humanly possible. I have also been successfully able to stop smiling at people I pass on the streets and look no one in the eye while jogging along the river. It’s strange how your body just starts doing these things before you realize it. It’s a whole other “retraining.” I can even control one cart while packing another, be ready to pay exactly when the cashier is done scanning my stuff, and successful push both carts at the same time, return the store one, get my coin back, and keep going with my personal cart almost without blinking an eye. I can also type on a German keyboard without making every "Y" a "Z" and vice versa. And pressing "ctrl" + "alt" + "2" to get the "@" sign no longer mystifies me. The lack of personal space here still creeps me out though. Once I get over that I will really have triumphed.

3. You adjust to the new standard of living. Twenty-five dollars for lunch? Almost three thousand dollars for rent? You just pay them and don’t even think about it like you used to. That’s just how much things cost. Of course, it’s still fun to go to Germany for the day and marvel at how much things should cost. But then you get back in the habit again of the paying too much for everything and forget to notice.

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