My 13 Years of Integration in Germany in Fast-Forward
(By Kate Müser)
I used to think that adapting to life in a new country would be a life-long process. When I first moved to Germany in 2002 – and even after I’d spent a decade here – I never thought that the process might at some point shift gears and head in reverse.
I’ve since spent over 13 – nearly 14 – years here, and it’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve started watching Netflix series in original language, attending an English-speaking church, googling the closet burrito shop – and even toying with the idea of relocating to San Diego or Silicon Valley.
It’s not that I don’t still appreciate the German lifestyle – their penchant for practicality, ecology and quality, not to mention comfortable car-free zones and the world’s best cakes and breads.
Rather I started noticing that the one American trait I’d always prided myself in – that naive but optimistic belief that you can achieve anything you set your mind to – was dwindling. And if I lost that, how American would I still be?
Most importantly, I grew up in California often feeling like I didn’t fit it: I sunburn easily, was a Francophile in high school, and studied classical piano. But fitting in – anywhere in the world – is drastically overrated. After all, there is SPF 70 sunscreen and – as you know better than anyone – plenty of Europeans in California, too.
Perhaps it was my German husband, who at times seems more like a Californian than I do (he tans and surfs!), or perhaps it was the structural changes at work that meant I now speak German 95% of the time.
Whatever the cause of my U-turn, cultural identity, I’ve found, is still in flux after 13 years – and it’s never too late to make a few readjustments.
In this YouTube video, I’ve summed up my personal ups and downs as an expat.
Are you a German in California? I would love to hear about your experiences, too.
Kate Müser, who grew up in Pleasanton, California, was surprised to discover that she feels even closer to her home state now than she did when she first moved to Bonn, Germany, over 13 years ago.
For over a decade, Kate has been a TV, radio and online journalist at Deutsche Welle, where she currently hosts the video series Meet the Germans with Kate and the TV show PopXport.