Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sehnsucht for Thanksgiving

A strange thing happened this year.

The Frau spent Thanksgiving with her family. Granted, she still had an expat Thanksgiving in the sense that she celebrated it the Saturday before the actual holiday. But it was the first time in 14 years or so that she celebrated Thanksgiving with family.

It was wonderful.

But it also made The Frau realize something: Namely, that she had acquired another family while in Switzerland and she missed them.

The Frau missed her expat family. For the last five or six years, she’s spent Thanksgiving with the same group of friends. And it was as strange not to be with them as it was to be with family.

No matter how The Frau does things these days, she finds herself longing for something else. Maybe that’s only a normal part of life as an expat or ex-expat. When you learn you can live life many wonderful ways, you wish all of them could somehow be combined. But they can’t. So if you’re like The Frau, you find yourself digesting a good portion of Sehnsucht for Thanksgiving.

Sehnsucht. A German word. How appropriate. Hard to translate, it involves a deep emotional state of longing.

Will you, like The Frau, be passing around the Sehnsucht this Thanksgiving? Longing for real family? Longing for your expat family? Either way, The Frau will say this: she understands. En Guete, mitenand.

9 comments:

Dominik said...

After moving back to Switzerland in 2012 after living 2 years in Tokyo I still haven't fully accustomed to Swiss life.
It's so hard to get back into the "old" life once you have experienced a different kind of life.
I still miss so many things about Japan that I simply can't get here.
I think this feeling will never go away fully.
Once you've opened a door and have seen what's behind it's hard to close it again and forget about it.

Chantal said...

Genau. Exactly. The Frau is thankful to hear she is not alone.

Hattie said...

It took me about a year to feel at home again in the U.S. after an almost 15 year absence. And I did miss my friends a lot. I called it reverse culture shock. Going back to college and grad school and teaching got me back into things eventually, but I needed some therapy.
It is tough at first, but it will get better.

Susan said...

Chantal--it's fun to read your blog! I spent 10 years in Zurich and at the end of this year it will be 10 years being back in the US. In the beginning, I went through a similar sehnsucht for Switzerland (& still do at Christmas time which is so beautiful there!!). I remember the good things, but there is no perfect place. We try to keep many of the nice traditions from Switzerland (& from other countries we have lived in) while also enjoying the good things about living here. I recently lost my dad to cancer and it made me realize how important it is to be close to family. Opportunities are also better here for our family across the board. We do get back to see our (mostly expat) friends in Zurich, but now have very dear new friends here as well. I will admit, however, that the adjustment period is difficult and takes time. Viele glueck!

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Kempeth said...

The German wiktionary defines "Sehnsucht" as "illness of painful longing". Or with a more literal translation of its components "Sehn(en)" = longing and "Sucht" = addiction it could be defined as "withdrawal from a positive addiction".

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