My Life Back in Germany After a Grand Welcome Back
It was bittersweet touching ground in Germany after an almost 12 hour flight. On the one hand, I was of course excited to see my family and friends again after more than a year away. But, on the other hand, I was already homesick for California. But for now I tried to keep a positive attitude and just enjoy seeing everybody. And boy, did I see everybody! I mean, I knew that my parents were going to be there to pick me up, but I didn’t expect quite the entourage they had in tow with them.
Before I was able to see everyone however I had one major challenge to face. A challenge, that every au pair I talked to had: going through German customs after a year of living in the United States. Man, was I nervous once I had my four pieces of luggage loaded onto my cart! I for sure believed that the customs officers would pull me over after seeing what I came back home with. “Stay cool, they might not even notice you,” I kept telling myself. But, yeah, how would they not notice me pushing a cart with all these suitcases piled up. I reminded myself not to look at their faces when passing the officers. I kept looking straight ahead and just smiled, and “tadaa”!, I made it successfully through the customs without anyone going through my luggage.
I instantly relaxed after this burden fell of my shoulders and marched ahead towards the sliding doors that would open up to the arrival area. Well, what can I say…, before I was able to spot anyone I just heard loud yelling from a crowd of people that came from the area I was supposed to go to. I heard familiar voices especially my dad’s, who always loved to sing the loudest back in the days when we all went to church together, so it wasn’t hard to identify his voice throughout all the yelling, and when I eventually turned my head toward the loud crowd’s direction, I spotted a whole bunch of familiar faces.
I can barely remember how many of my closest friends and family actually made the effort to show up at the airport to welcome me, but I was positively overwhelmed with such an amazing turnout. These people all just had come out because of me, me ‘little’ Kathrin who just got back from a longer trip to the U.S. I am not going to lie though; it felt really good to be the center of such attention once, just as if I had landed from a successful exploration trip to the moon or something like it. Once I pushed the luggage cart towards where all the yelling and cheering came from, I finally realized that actually over sixteen people of my family and friends had gathered at the airport and waited for me to come through those sliding doors. I was so happy to see all those faces and couldn’t wait to tell them about my adventures at my “Welcome home” party my parents threw for me that afternoon.
On the 15 minute car ride to my parents’ home I was excited to see what might have changed in my hometown since I had left more than a year ago. But, to my honest surprise, not much had actually changed. It dawned on me that while I had certainly grown up more throughout my au pair experience it didn’t mean that everything else in life had gone through changes as well. The streets of Düsseldorf still mainly looked the same, and so did the house I grew up in. This wasn’t a bad thing, I just kind of expected or rather had waited for things to be different since my own life had changed so drastically.
Once we arrived at the house I had grown up in, I let go of those thoughts and just enjoyed having good German cake while catching up with friends and family. Despite the jet lag I made it through the day until the evening before I fell into bed and was fast asleep. The next couple of days went by pretty quickly. I met with all my friends who couldn’t be at the airport when I arrived and just had a great time catching up. But soon I realized that this wasn’t California anymore, and I had to get back on my feet. Deep in my heart I was so homesick for the United States that I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it for long here in Europe. But at that moment, I had no idea of how I would be able to move back to the United States.
Once I started to fully understand that , I fell into a big hole. I started being miserable and couldn’t find the motivation to apply for jobs. I kept complaining to my friends until one of them gave me the kick in the butt I needed at that time. She was the one telling me to start applying now and that she wouldn’t want me to come up with any more excuses. At that same moment, she brought out her computer and told me: “Here you go; you won’t leave my house until you drafted an application and a resume.” And boy, did she mean that! She was sitting with me all afternoon and night, helping me to get back on my feet. And thanks to her and her support, I was able to find a job as a kindergarten teacher in less than a week. I knew that this wasn’t supposed to be my “last chapter in life” yet , but for now I had to settle until I was able to continue living my American Dream.
To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s search to find a way back to to a life in the United States)
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.