WHAT I LEARNED FROM LIVING SEVEN YEARS IN CALIFORNIA
Last month, I celebrated my seven year anniversary of living in Huntington Beach. It has been quite a journey composed of a lot of learning and self development. Today, I am a much happier and self-accepting person than I was when I arrived in Southern California.
I believe that life is a continuous ‘work in progress’ with never ending life lessons that challenge us. In the end, it all depends on what we make out of and take away from them. I had a really hard time in the beginning when I moved out here, not really knowing anyone and trying to adapt to a new culture.
One thing I learned quickly was that even though people are telling you they are going to do certain things, you better be careful because a lot of it is just ‘hot air’. I can’t count how often acquaintances and even friends promised help but then never came through with it.
I love that people here are so friendly and seem so nice, but I do miss the German ‘upfront –ness’ here and there. I’d rather have someone telling me, “I am sorry, I can’t do it,” instead of, ”Oh yeah, of course I am going to help you,” but then never showing up.
Nowadays I am aware of who I can really trust and who is going to be there for me. This was definitely one of the biggest cultural adaptations I had to undergo living over here.
While I wish that some people that crossed my path would have been more direct, I do love how positive and encouraging people in California are. In the beginning, it was a bit weird to me when someone randomly approached me on the street and complimented me on my hair or my shoes. This is just not something that happened to me during my time growing up in Germany.
I don’t know if some of you have made the same experiences, but my environment in Germany was way more negative. One of the main reasons I feel this way is probably because I was being bullied during High School. Boy, do I not like looking back at this time of my life. Teenagers already have it so hard with everything they are going through. To me, it is such a weird stage of life, and I really don’t miss it.
But even after my teenage years I felt that what I was doing was never good enough in regards to some people in my life. Over here in the United States, people are so different and way more positive. Where I was being told in Germany that I was a bit old to go back to university and that it would be hard for me to find a job after finishing (considering my age), here in California people believe in you and that you can be anything you want to be, regardless of how old you are.
I always tell myself that you are never too old to change your life for the better- NEVER! One of my very close friends worked in the Accounting industry for over 10 years. Like me, she is in her mid-thirties. She hated her work, but she made good money. She did grow very unhappy with her profession and was looking for a change.
Instead of us as her friends telling her that she was too old to take on a new career path, we encouraged her. We saw how stressed she was from working crazy hours and what a toll it took on her. She eventually took the leap and got her license to become a massage therapist, and she is a much happier person.
I myself was not very happy in the corporate world in America. While the position I was in definitely looked good on paper, I personally was a wreck. Luckily, it was only a five-month internship, and it taught me what I don’t want. No job is worth making you sick, regardless of its prestige or image.
Shortly after, I discovered dog walking and how much joy it gives me still up to this day. While some people in my family don’t understand how this can be a full time and self-fulfilling profession (it is just not very common in Germany) and expressed some doubt in the past, I never received this feeling over in California.
If you put your heart and soul into something you love and are happy with, than that is the only acknowledgement you need to keep you going. You can be who you want to be and do what you want to do regardless of how old you are. Remember, it is NEVER too late to change your life for the better. And that is the biggest lesson I have learned while residing in the United States.
Anne-Kathrin Schulte is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes about her personal experience of the American Dream as well as about 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 has been living 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.