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Torn Between Two Countries - California Globetrotter

Torn Between Two Countries

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***Just a heads up: I don’t write sad posts nor do I like to think about writing such posts, but I have debated long and hard over this post about whether or not to share it. I’ve edited and re-edited, evaluated my feelings and continue to reevaluate my feelings. I think it’s a post many expats who have become long term expats can probably relate to. It has been very hard to write this post because that means admitting my feelings out loud, and if I admit it out loud it becomes true. The problem is, I don’t know where my heart lies. Nonetheless, here it is.***

In the summer of 2012, I made my solo journey, with a one way ticket to Germany to teach English abroad and travel through Europe. I had planned to stay for no more than 5 years, but not less than 1.

But suddenly my life changed.

We met. We fell in love. We built a home together. We traveled Europe together. We got engaged and now we are on the brink of getting married.

Today, I celebrate 4 years of my expat life abroad but am shocked at how fast time has flown by. How did that happen?

Time has slowly been inching, one day at a time towards our wedding day and every day I grow more unsettled as I contemplate where I want to spend the rest of my life. Where WE want to spend the rest of our lives.

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But, I sit here this afternoon after returning from spending a perfect typical summer afternoon at the local swimming pool, topped off with an enjoyable bike ride and a stop at a Bavarian beer garden for a cold Radler and Obazda. I sit here struggling to find the words to put my contorted, twisted and emotional heart into words, the day after having a HUGE meltdown to my fiance.

I’ve finally admitted it…

I’m unhappy living in Germany. How did that happen!?

Didn’t I want to live here? Hadn’t I sold allll of my belongings to make a new life abroad?  Don’t I love every minute here? Yes. Yes. And YES.

But, I never intended to spend the rest of my life living in Germany, speaking a foreign language and being so far away from my family, friends and pets. And that thought alone, causes me great anxiety. I have certainly enjoyed every single minute living here, traveling easily throughout Europe, going for amazing bike rides and enjoying the Bavarian lifestyle.

Falling in love with a German changed all that. He’s from Germany. I’m from America.

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I adjusted and adopted to my new life with ease (granted a few bumps in the road). My fiance’s family have accepted me as one of their own as far as a foreigner can ever be accepted. I’ve made friends who by now have come and gone back to their own home countries. I built a routine here. And now I realize how fast time has flown by.

I love so much about my life in Germany. It’s a completely different culture than anything you’ll ever find in America. I love biking anytime, anywhere. I love going for a beer anytime, anywhere. I love traveling anytime, anywhere. Life is so simple here. So relaxed. So enjoyable. It keeps the homesickness at bay.

This is my “home” now, so shouldn’t I love EVERYTHING about it? Shouldn’t I want to stay here? Shouldn’t I be happy? Aren’t I lucky that I do live here? Isn’t this the dream we all wish we could have?

But there is so much I have never been able to just accept and get over with. And the longer I stay here, the more it gets to me, the more it causes my homesickness to grow. Part of the expat life is always comparing and contrasting one’s new home to one’s former home. Part of the expat life is trying to fit in to one’s new home culture, blending in.

But what happens when you don’t blend in and you don’t fit in with those around you? What happens when you wake up one morning and you realize you have no more expat friends? What happens when your local friends and you are too different to form the kind of friendship to sustain a lifetime? What happens when you get tired of trying to speak a foreign language and you get tired of translating everything or not understanding everything? What happens when you realize you listen more than you join the conversation and you soon realize that people don’t know the “real you” or the “English you” and they only know the quiet person who listens all the time? What happens when you don’t agree with the way your new home culture does things and you can’t let go of it?

What happens when you want to leave? What happens when you want to stay?

My fiance and I have been back to the states several times together. He blended right in with my family and my friends. We always did some of the touristy things to show him the good ol’ US of A. But recently, I was just home, on my first solo trip back to the States to find my wedding dress. It felt different. Life felt normal. I fell back into many of my old routines. Shopping. Hanging out with friends (finally!), hanging with my parents. And I realized, as I boarded the plane to come back to Germany, I didn’t want to. But, I didn’t want to stay either. IMG_6092

I have and still do miss my American life so much. I miss my family, my friends and my dogs. I miss having stores open on Sundays, I miss good customer service, I miss not having to make a reservation every time I want to go out. I miss understanding the entire conversation. I miss speaking English. I miss having a normal work life. I miss NOT living on my computer. I miss crazy, absurd, good ol’ America!

But to be honest, at the same time, while I have been in Germany, I have become more and more critical of the US, the gun laws, the black vs white inequality, the anti-vacation mentality. There is so much right now in the US that is just so crazy, it keeps me here. I’ve been heard to say a thousand and one times, “I’m never coming back to the States.”

But what if I miss all that crazy? Because it is MY kind of crazy?

How does one decide where they should live the rest of their life? How can someone walk away from one life without forgetting that life or leaving it behind? Don’t we take a piece of our home with us wherever we go in our hearts? Isn’t it true that “home is where the heart is?”

Germany is my home now, so shouldn’t my heart be here? A good portion of my heart is here. I love so much, but I feel like the other half of my heart is sitting on the beach in sunny SoCal waiting for me to come home to it. How do I connect the two pieces back together?

I have changed so much since I got here. I’m a completely different woman today than the girl who first arrived here. What if I were to go back to America? What if the woman I am today doesn’t fit in anymore?

I sit here wondering what would I be giving up if I returned home? What would I be gaining? What would I get out of staying here forever? Would I be willing to walk away from this life to go back to the US if I had the chance?

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What about my future fiance? He has a say in all this too. I’m no longer “me” but “us”. My decisions, my feelings, my emotions effect him, us. Together, we have to make the next step on our life path.

I’m terribly torn between the best and worst of both worlds. Two homes. Two families. Two lives. Two of me.

Every day I find that it fluctuates and some days are better than others. I don’t even know if what I’m feeling is how I REALLY feel. I know that doesn’t make sense, but a part of me feels like my brain and my heart are trying to confuse me. I’ve tallied up the pros and the cons of both countries and they linger at almost equal. So how do I choose which is the right path?

Will he resent me one day for causing him to uproot his entire life that he has ever known from Germany to move to the US to make me happy? Or will I resent him if I stay in Germany and sacrifice my American life for this life? After all, it was me who chose to move here. Or will I just become more bitter by the day about living here and missing home? But what happens when I’m unwilling to give up my love of traveling through Europe? Or what if we move back to the States and we decide we don’t belong there either?

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Or is this just some kind of “4 year itch” and I’ll get over it and want to stay here forever? Or will I always push down a lump in my throat every time I allow thoughts and feelings of home to bubble to the surface?

How does one grow roots when they have wings?

I have no immediate answers to these questions nor do I know where to begin. I’m afraid of making the wrong decision and hurting him, hurting me, hurting loved ones. I’m afraid of family missing out on the next big events of our lives. I’m afraid of making a decision I will regret and if anyone knows me, they know I don’t live a life of regrets.

For other related posts:

One Woman’s Journey to Bliss Through Europe

10 Struggles of Being an Expat

10 Things to Think About Before Moving Abroad

Who Would I Have Been Without Travel?

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Author: California Globetrotter

At 14 I started traveling the world with my parents and was hooked! By 21 I was studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. By 26 I sold all of my belongings and bought a one way ticket to Germany to teach English. Little did I know, I'd meet the love of my life and end up traveling to the most romantic and idyllic towns in Europe and becoming a long-term expat in Bavaria! My name is Lorelei and I'm just your typical CaliGirl, Sunset Chaser, Fairytale Dreamer, Dress Lover, Traveloholic, Beer Drinker!

37 thoughts on “Torn Between Two Countries

  1. I think it’s really important to verbalize feelings like this – it helps you to work through them. I hope that if this is just a hurdle to get past that you are able to get past it, but I also hope that if not you can find a way to be happy wherever you go.

    • Thanks Ava! I am definitely happy everywhere I go, but I get fidgety after a few years and need to move and experience something new. I don’t know how to grow roots and that is my problem which makes me unhappy because I want to belong.

  2. Very heartfelt post, California Globetrotter. I can relate to everything you have mentioned to a certain degree. The difference being that I am almost sure I do not want to live in Nepal, my home country. I do not like many aspects of Nepali culture and I know for sure I will never fit in there, no matter how much I miss friends, family and the familiarity. I am in a long-term relationship and my boyfriend is from Poland. I was first living and studying in Finland, with intentions to return to Nepal after it was over. But then love happened. And I moved to Poland to be with him. I am sure he must find it hard to understand why I do not 100% love living in Poland.. I get tired of constantly trying to understand what’s going on around me due to language barrier, having to translate even SMSs I get from telephone operators, having to be the quiet one despite having a lot to say in conversations. All this despite speaking good, everyday Polish. It’s not easy at all, it can get very frustrating at times. Just like you, I am also very accepted and liked by my boyfriend’s family, my Polish colleagues and friends etc, but I am skeptic if that is enough to keep me in this country. One solution we’ve found is that we will be probably moving to a third country together (where they speak English. so tired of navigating through languages I only learned as an adult), I am not sure how my boyfriend will handle that and I am worried if his family will resent me for taking him away (his choice too, but mostly motivated by me) from here. It is not easy being in an inter-cultural, international relationship. I hope you do start feeling better and find a way to deal with these frustrations. Maybe visit the USA more often?🙂 Good luck to you!

    • Thank you! I am definitely a more vibrant, social butterfly in English but in German, despite my good everyday language skills, I just sit back and listen and I’m afraid my fiancés family and our friends will never get to know the REAL me. We also talk about either going back to the states for a visit more often, moving to a different English speaking country or even moving back to the States for a few years, but as you said I am afraid his family might resent me for taking him away. But we gotta do what’s best for US and not them or anyone else.

      • I am totally in the same situation.. Its hard to choose when there are so many emotions behind those decisions… I feel totally torn between my life in UK and the life I have with my Italian partner in Italy. Its scary to think forever.. I also struggle with the social side, I sit at family meals thinking that none of his family have ever seen my true personality because I’m not able to express myself and it’s hard because I feel like I’m concealing myself. We also talk about moving to a third country where we would both be expats so to speak. I’d love to connect with you as your words exactly mirror my own. Perhaps we could help each other with these decisions we must face x

      • Hi Kirsty, I completely understand how you feel! Feeling concealed is a good way of putting it! Italy must be very nice to live in though! Although, the language is certainly a tough one!
        Feel free to connect with me via facebook: http://www.facebook.com/caliglobetrotter as I am more reachable to chat with there! Would be nice to have another person to chat to who is going through the same thing! Would be nice to brainstorm!

  3. I’m just off out the door for my weekly German language class – even though I understand a lot more than I can talk now (after 5 years) and can hold my own conversationally in hotels, shops, restaurants, cafes etc when we’ve been travelling in German speaking countries, I know I’ll never be fluent. I can understand your frustrations and hope you can come to the best decision for you and your fiance, very best wishes Rosemary🙂

    • Thanks Rosemary! I’ve studied German since I was 14 but the problem is I’ve forgotten much of the grammar so what I can speak now is from 4 years and living in Germany, using, practicing, listening and having fun with the German but it’s just not enough. I know that the solution to my problems could be to retake a German class to learn the language but I still don’t want to spend the rest of my life speaking German. But I might need to just come to grips with that!

      • Yes I can well understand that! I did a couple of years at school but really couldn’t get into German unlike French, which I studied for 7 years. Also did a few weeks exchange to a non English speaking family in France so that helped a lot. However I went back to evening classes here in Perth 5 years ago as we had been travelling a fair bit to German speaking countries so I was keen to learn more. I started back in the Beginners class and effectively learnt German from scratch. Sometimes we have people coming into classes who’ve lived in Germany for a while and know a fair bit colloquially but don’t know any of the grammar so they can really struggle. I know if I went to live there I’d pick up so much more – won’t happen but it’s fun to be able to use my German when we’re travelling and people do seem to really appreciate the effort! Maybe a class would be a good solution as you’ve already studied the grammar at school so it would come back easily. We have to speak German the whole time (2 hours) at our weekly class and the rest of that evening and the following day I keep wanting to speak German! Since it’s so different in sentence structure from English it can almost feel a bit confusing for my brain as I want to turn things round when speaking English if that makes sense!! Viel Glueck!

      • I’ve certainly thought about it. Nice to hear that people who speak some German also start over. I might have to do that! Thank you for your lovely feedback!

      • You’re very welcome and hopefully you can work out a solution that works for you! It’s not quite the same of course but our younger daughter, who moved to London nearly 2 years ago, has gone through all sorts of soul searching about where her future lies so know how tough it can be when you’ve moved across an ocean (which we also did from the Uk to Australia). She works in the music industry and has built up some great experience and has a good job at present but she misses her family and the Aussie climate plus many of her friends are European and she’s concerned re the Brexit implications etc I personally think she’ll end up staying over in Europe but we’ll see! Have a lovely weekend🙂

      • I’m definitely going through a soul searching moment in my life too. Although if Trump becomes president, it’ll be a helluva lot easier to stay in Europe!🙂

      • Yes I can well understand – even though it might make your decision easier I sincerely hope he won’t get elected!! Puzzling times in the world at present!

  4. I’m sorry you’re feeling so bad right now. Four years is both a really short time and a really long time. It probably feels like forever for you right now, especially feeling like you can’t communicate properly. But actually it’s not that long to learn a new language and an entirely new way of life. I’m not sure whether you read Heather’s blog, but she recently wrote a post for her 5th year in Germany. Read it then read her 3 year anniversary post: https://heathergoesdeutsch.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/five/ She is proof that things DO get better. But if you really feel like you can never be as happy or fit in as well in Germany as you do back home then you need to make that decision, as hard as it is. Good luck!

    • Thank you! I will check it out! The problem is is that I have studied German since I was 14 but I don’t think my German will get better than it is now

      • It can and will definitely get better. You are capable of much more than you are giving yourself credit for. My husband is German and we have been living here since January. Although we plan to return to the U.S. in 20 years or so, I know that I need to do whatever I can to integrate myself as much as possible. We want to spend our retirement years in the U.S. and this is the way we have decided to move forward. Germany is a great place to raise kids, so safe. My daughter spent her first 11 years in the U.S. and is leaps and bounds happier here. She is constantly outside and playing with friends. Everything is just a bit lighter.

        But…all that being said, I struggle immensely with the language. There are some days when I just need to take a day off. But there are other days when I need to push myself to keep learning. One of the struggles you may have with pushing through to the next language learning level is that you haven’t decided on the next steps yet. If you move back, you don’t need the language so much. If you stay, you do. So you are very right in saying that the decision needs to come first.

        I know so many people who are now fluent in German that can’t write anywhere near as eloquently as you have here in this blog. So…you have the skills and the ability, next is just the commitment (if you decide to stay for a while). I would call it a major push for the next year or two. I just don’t think it is possible to slowly and casually learn the language, you have to go crazy at it.

        For me, spending my later years with my family was more important than spending time with them now. I miss the U.S., I miss being able to talk at a dinner party, I miss everything just being EASY, but sometimes it is better when things are hard. I’ve had to plug into life rather than just drifting through it here. I always try to focus on the good when my mind keeps trying to remind me of the ‘not so easy’ things.

        Regarding my own language learning, I mostly hate it but I know that if I don’t ‘push through this pain’, I’ll never get over the mountain and be able to live my life here like normal. I’m still not sure how I’m going to do it but I know that I have to…and that I can’t give up. You just can’t be fully happy and integrated here in Bavaria without speaking German in my opinion. It leaves you out of the ‘club’. And in the meantime, I know how important it is for me to find some American friends who understand what I’m going through. It helps to know we aren’t the only ones who struggle. And it is like a breath of fresh air to have a night of English speaking fun.

        Anyway, good luck to you and your future husband!! Congratulations on finding a great German guy. Finding mine was the best thing that ever happened to me, even if it did give me a whole new set of life challenges🙂

      • Thank you for your very heartfelt response! I’m definitely in a mood of “taking time off from German”. I have no desire to use it at the moment. I agree that if we decide to stay here then I will probably buckle down and fix my German.

  5. Great, heartfelt post! Just keep talking things out. Visiting “home” is always easier than moving back definitively. Talk to your loved ones, you’ll find a way.

  6. ok where to start are you truly expat if your not willing to give up your feelings for your homeland ? that has been debated from both sides or are you just like Hemingway just a Francophile he loved all of Europe and would stay for very extended stays but he never let go of calling America his home having been to Germany i too love the place and lone to return some day hopefully Hans is still running the little tavern on kuffinhimer strassa (don’t think i spelled it right ) in the outskirts of oberursel and the mentality of the young has changed a little to be more tolerant of Americans but i regress
    if your soon to be bridegroom truly loves you why not a compromise of dual citizenship that works for my sister and her husband ( hes from India) then you dont have to choose..

  7. Well written! I can relate deeply to your feelings.

    I have spent the last 9 years in the US – I love everything about the States and decided that even as a “foreigner” I’ll stay. But last year I met my boyfriend who just moved from Germany to the States, and we spent a wonderful year together. Recently we started to consider furthering our relationship. But he told me basically exactly the same thing you wrote here. He thinks in the long run he’ll become unhappy and want to go back to Germany. Should I uproot myself to go with him eventually, or stay here and let him go, or try to make him stay in the States. So I’m also torn.

  8. Hmm as an expat of 15 years and 3 continents, I completely understand. Each time I’ve thought I was settled in a place I’ve moved on. I no longer feel it’s this place or that place nor do I consider going home. As you know, every place has its positives and negatives.
    I would recommend that perhaps you both consider moving again? Sounds crazy on the face if it, but it’s like moving into his house or yours, a bit uncomfortable for one or the other. If you have a joint new home together it’s a joint challenge and an equal footing.
    I will warn you though, the lobger you are gone, the less any place is home.
    Good luck and it’s a wonderful problem, as most will never have or understand it

  9. I can relate so well to your feelings. Was an expat for more than 15 years. (3 continents, European husband and a TCK kid) I am home now. (But, not really) I too, have changed. I’m like a “fish-out-of-water.” Still trying to figure out which ocean to swim in. It’s been 5 years. Good luck to you. It’s different for all of us. You will come back changed, some will understand, some will not. Some will be interested in your stories, some will not. (They can’t relate if they haven’t traveled) and many will have moved on. Do what is in your best interest. Those that are truly your friends, will always be there.

    • Thank you for your sweet words! I felt that way after my first year abroad and I came home. No one understood my excitement of Europe, many didn’t want to hear about my travels or some did. I always felt like I was bragging but it was just my life I was sharing.

  10. I just found your blog and wow! I can relate so much to what you are feeling.! I too, American, married a German man. I have lived here in Germany for almost 6 years now. It wasnt until my last trip to visit family in April that I stopped struggling with many of the sames issues you are. I enjoyed my weeks spent in the U.S. so much more this time than before. I stopped calling my trips to the U.S. as going home and going home was flying back to Germany. One day we may move to the U.S. but for now, Germany is our home. I am sure you will follow your heart and I wish you only the best in your decision.

  11. With this post, you perfectly put into words all the thoughts, feelings, and struggles that I’ve been dealing with too. I am from Wisconsin, but have been living in Magdeburg with my German husband for a year and a half. There are so many pros and cons to each country, as well as deep (sometimes conflicting) feelings. You’re completely right that it is a decision which deeply affects you both and which needs to be made together. My husband spent over a year living with me and my family in the US. At the end of the day, I know it’s just as difficult to watch your significant other struggle with homesickness as it is to deal with it yourself. As time passes, I am sure that our feelings will develop and change. Hopefully at the same time, we will find some answers. Or someone will invent a teleporter and we won’t have to make a decision anymore.🙂

  12. Thanks for writing such a beautiful piece, with honesty and grace. That space of being between places is so familiar. When more than one place has a hold on your heart, there is no one place in which you feel completely at home – there is always something (or someone) missing. I think it’s healthy to sit in the tension, as you do here – to recognise that there is no easy answer, no simple solution. I suspect the “where” will be less important than HOW you and your fiance journey together. Enjoy the ride!

  13. So much respect for your honesty – it’s not easy to share such personal feelings with the world! As a fellow expat in a bi-national marriage, I feel you. My only advice is to lessen the burden of choice: you’re not jumping off a cliff when you choose to live somewhere. You can always change your mind again! Don’t put so much pressure on the idea of “forever.” You can choose something that feels right for now and then adjust as needed in the future. I’m happy to have found your site and I look forward to following your journey, wherever it leads you!

    • That j you for your sweet words! I believe exactly the same thing! It’s not forever and if we don’t like it or it doesn’t work out we can change it again. There is always this stigma that if you’re going to have a family you should settle down instead of dragging them all over the place. But I personally disagree as I moved all the time going to new schools ever couple of years. It’s a hard tradition but not impossible and it made it easier for me today to be able to just pack up and move around, so that’s probably why I feel like I don’t have roots. Who said I needed to have roots anyways?

    • Ps. Thanks for joining my journey and following along!

  14. Pingback: Recommended reading – August 2, 2016 | MISUNDERSTOOD

  15. I relate to this article more than you know! I too am torn between 2 countries, when I’m there I miss here and when I’m here I miss there. Thank you for sharing!

  16. I suppose that being torn between two (or more) places is the sort of dilemma any expat will always face. Home can be anywhere, but nowhere will really ever be home. We can move back to the place of our upbringing, but something will always be missing. And vice versa.

    On a side note, it looks like we’ve both been on a similar trajectory. I also moved to Germany in September 2012 and originally came over to teach English.

  17. Another American expat in Germany here to throw her hat into the ring. I just celebrated my one year anniversary of living in Germany and my one year anniversary of marriage to my German husband. I understand a lot of your fears and worries. I had to make the, “where do I want to live forever?” decision myself. And I had to make it while still living in Texas. The two weeks leading up to my international move – after quitting my dream job and making goodbye visits to friends and family – I became downright hysterical. The fear of such a life changing decision was all-consuming to a point I never imagined. So, if you ever want to chat or swap stories, just let me know!🙂

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