I visited some friends last April who, like myself, have a multicultural family. She is American and her husband is Austrian. After living for almost twenty years in Austria she called in her “marker” that she could someday return to the USA. So they packed up the family and left fabulous Austria behind for Texas. My situation is similar in that I am American but moved to Germany with my German husband. I asked her Austrian husband, now living in Texas , how his adjustment has been. He mentioned that he has had to do some soul searching in order in order not to be angry at America. Wait what? He was angry with America? How could he be angry with America if I was angry with Europe? Wasn’t Germany to blame for all my frustrations and America was perfect?
He helped me realize that maybe sometimes Expats have some displaced anger. It is not easy by any means to learn a new culture. The little things can set you off. I remember one day feeling particularly annoyed at the lack of a line system in a bakery. For a country with so many processes and rules, how can Germans not know how to queue up properly? I was feeling empowered and gave the twenty-year-old bakery guy my philosophy on queuing up! He looked very embarrassed and didn’t seem to know what to do with me and replied: “that’s the way it is”. Then that got me started on a whole new annoyance, the lack of customer service in my host country. I walked away grumbling under my breath about Germany.
So I have come up with some simple ideas for overcoming “Rage Against your Host” (country). Foremost, figure out what you are personally angry about. Is it the queue at the bakery, or are you angry that you followed a partner on an adventure that is less adventure and somewhat stressful? Either way, all expats should be on this journey to learn about other cultures and learn about ourselves in the process. I apparently like a good clear queue/line.
Don’t forget to smile! I was terribly lost and upset on the train system last week and was exiting the train looking at the train schedule on my phone. An old man got quite snippy with me in German. He sneered at me “Are you getting on or off the train”. I turned around and started yelling at him in German “ You know you could be nice”. I have been on a kick lately to tell people in my city to be nicer. But then I stopped to think, am I the one not being nice by confronting them and their culture? I ever so slightly bumped into a woman this morning and she gave me a death stare. I smiled at her and completely disarmed her! It worked much better then confronting unsuspecting victims.
Learn the language. My German is pretty kick ass but I still get myself in difficult situations where I think I understand but completely do not! I get frustrated and angry but after some introspection I believe I am angrier at myself for not studying more, not listening to German TV and using the translate button on Google Chrome way too often.
So breathe and give it a try! No country is perfect, learning a little patience might be helpful for us all.