Ann-Kathrin is here and I love it. She came up and hugged each one of us at the airport. When we got home she asked Mira to help her with the presents upstairs. She smiles and still talks to me in German. I forgot (how could I!?) how much I adore her. I think once you get home from a long trip—like my 10-month exchange to Germany—you start telling people the stories that will give you the best reactions. For instance, I tell people about holidays, or rescuing Sara from her evil host parents, or the shower incident, or the scary plumb dude. After telling the big stories over and over, you forget about the little stuff. Like how every night I used to go into Ann-Kathrin’s bedroom and talk. Or how we always burst out laughing when we were out cause one of us would trip in the grocery store or Josa would start singing obnoxiously (on purpose) in the car. Or dinner! Just sitting at dinner every day. I’m glad she’s here to remind me of those little things. And I’m just glad to be with her again.
Lara has one day left until she’s back to Germany. It’s been a hilarious and crazy four weeks. We’ve done so much. We’ve seen Salt Lake City, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Moab. We had one lazy day where we just sat in my room and watched Glee. Other then that, we’ve been busy. In Germany Lara was the only friend who “hung out” with me. We never went to a disko together, but instead we attempted to make Grandma’s brownies one day, and went horseback riding in her backyard another, and watched Pirates of the Caribbean. But those were the only times we hung out. She would ask me every week if we could do something, but once March hit, I had already scheduled out all of my weekends. I’d spent too many weekends alone the first half of Germany and I was not going to keep it that way.
My favorite cultural difference about people in America and Germany is the friendships. Americans make friends fast. They put on the big smile and talk to you in your classes, or hug you in the hallways and say, “You look so cute today!” And then a couple months into the “friendship” they think… Huh… I don’t really like this person. So they distant themselves from that person and stop texting them and passively ignore them by not answering their messages on Facebook. Germans, however… Germans speculate. They check you out, see how good you are in school, watch what makes you laugh, etc. And once they’ve decided (maybe months later) that they like you, you are really good friends with them. Like, even if you live in a different country, they’ll still keep in contact with you. (I’m generalizing, I know. This is just what I’ve gotten out of my own experience in Germany and talking to Germans about it as well.)
So for the first several months of Germany, I had no friends. I felt unwelcome at school and very alone on the weekends. I was perky and loud and they thought I was just over the top. But by the end of the exchange (during April) my whole class started warming up to me. They invited me to diskos, birthday parties, sleepovers, Karneval parties, etc. They thought of me as a best friend. But when I left Germany, I thought, What the hell! You jerks ignored me for seven months! Now you’re asking for my friendship? After I accepted the fact that German girls hate my guts and Josa and Oma are my only homies now? I had to get over that pretty quick, but you know. It was a cultural difference that I wasn’t easily able to accept at first. I like it that my German friends keep in contact with me still. I don’t like it that it took seven months for them to figure out I was one of their good friends. I like it that Americans are friendly from the beginning. I don’t like it that they’re fake and only feel obligated be über friendly when they don’t even like you.
Anyway, I’m glad that Lara and I have had this time to sit and talk to each other and gain an American friendship along with our German one. It’s fun to show her my own culture and friends. We’ve definitely had our moments where we had to confront each other about this or that. Like Lara was getting bugged that I never say where I want to go. And to me it’s perfectly sensible to just shut my mouth when Lara wants to go somewhere, because Lara is only here for a small amount of time, and it doesn’t matter where I do or don’t want to go. But Lara doesn’t like that. She wants me to tell her what I want, even if she wants to go some place where I don’t. She says her friends in Germany would not be able to keep their mouth shut about this. She says they are much easier to read than me and my American friends.
And then for me, I was stressed out because every day Lara would ask “What are we doing tomorrow?” and I wanted to cry. I don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow! We haven’t even gotten through today yet! I am not a planner. It makes me anxious plan out every day. Having to plan makes me feel like I have to entertain as well. But to Lara it’s a reasonable question to ask what the plans are for tomorrow, because at home, her mom would have known a week in advance! Why wouldn’t I know what was going on tomorrow?
We can’t change each other. That’s how we are. So instead of getting bugged, we just accept that we think differently… And make fun of each other for it. ☺