Returning to the U.S. After 15 Months in Europe

This will be last blog installment about my one year(ish) German adventure from which I just returned two weeks ago. I’d like to think it was some sort of deftly executed U.S. reconnaissance mission, but it really wasn't.

I never thought I would miss the U.S. as much as I did. I'm surprised how influenced I am by my American upbringing. I never thought of myself as a patriotic, flag-waving citizen – and quite frankly there a lot of things in U.S. culture that I think are absolutely absurd. But for the first time in my life, I really began to appreciate some things American culture has to offer.

One of the questions I got asked when in Germany was “So, what do you miss about the U.S.?” This was a surprisingly difficult and complex question to answer! I think my hesitation in answering gave the impression that I didn’t miss anything. But in fact I just needed time to really think about it. I could give a predictable answer like “Oh, I miss juicy hamburgers, big cars and hand guns.”  But that would be a lie. Ok, I’ll admit, I did miss American burgers, but that’s not what I missed the most.

What I really missed the most

The following six items would be on the top of my list of most missed experiences. I would say only the last two are U.S. specific; the others could be applied to any immigrant living in any country.

Speaking American slang

Speaking American slang

1. Speaking American slang

No language barrier

No language barrier

2. Understanding how everything works and what to expect

Figuring out administrative stuff, such as visa and driver's licenses can be mentally exhausting. Even small items such as how to tip, how your phone plan works, understanding your rental contract are all an added challenge in a foreign culture.

4. No language barrier

3. Not feeling like an alien  

When you're in your own country, you blend in with the other citizens, but when you're an expat, suddenly feel like the awkward new kid in school.

5. Customer service

Placing value on customer service seems to be a a uniquely American thing. Once you get out of the U.S. and any area that caters to Americans, you quickly realize that the motto "The customer is always right." doesn't work quite the same.

6. An innovative and entrepreneurial culture

This is something I never really thought of before, but when you live outside the U.S. you realize not all countries champion entrepreneurship like the U.S. does.

So there you have it! As usual, I could make the list much longer, but who the hell has time to read a rambling blog? I'm happy to be back in my comfort zone, but also very curious to do more exploring of Europe and beyond. Maybe there's another comfort zone waiting to be discovered.