Wednesday, June 11, 2008

what? you don't know The Goodies?

Jan left a comment on the last post about cultural differences in relationships, whether they're a big deal or not, if it gets better with time or if it adds crispy freshness to every serve.

The short answer is: It's a two sided coin. Yes it is refr.. well interesting and is a relatively limitless source of amusement. At the same time it can be kind of frustrating and a little sad that we can't share the stories, jokes, knowledge or experiences that I have with other Australians. It's why I need to go home for such long stretches when I do and surround myself with people who knew me when I was young and why those from my hometown have become that much more important to me. With them, there are many things I don't have to explain, that I can refer to obliquely and still have them laugh. On a very basic level I know that they "get" me in a way DrH never will.

Now, I realise I could just hunt down all Aussie expats here to try and find the same thing, but I deliberately avoided that until about 6 months ago and it still isn't something I want to immerse myself in too deeply. Expats amongst themselves and integration is something I'll get into in some other post.

Soooo. That's my side of it. How I deal with DrH not being of my culture. What about the other way around - me not being of his?

This is also tough. I don't know really what his teenage years were like, for example. I've seen pictures, I know some stories, I know how schools etc work intellectually, but I never experienced it myself. I don't really know what the formative influences on him in these times were: what were the trends or fashions, music, pasttimes, local or world events which had an impact on making him the guy his is.

Do I really need to know this? No. but it makes that basic level of understanding that little bit more difficult. Sometimes I just really don't understand where he's coming from. I expect he feels the same.

Now to the point of: does this get better? Will you ever know each other well enough that these differences don't exist. I can't say for sure but I'd be betting on no. I've been here almost nine years, I've been with DrH for six of those. Sure they've lessened, but it is still always there hovering in the background.

So: Doesn't it make it refreshing? The early years most definately, and it is still useful for a laugh. Now though, I do find myself frustrated from time to time, wishing I didn't have to explain myself so often and getting snappy when I do. Again. This is why I need to immerse myself in Australia occassionally. It's like releasing a breath I've been holding onto for two years, where I can just be me and know that those around me understand it.

Okay, this has turned into a long-winded, and surprisingly negative sounding, rant and there are still a few points I haven't discussed yet: not being as home in Australia as I was, being around Australians who do get the being abroad thing, getting integrated into Germany etc etc etc.

The summary is: DrH and I still have cultural differences and that probably won't change. However I'm with him for the guy he is, and he's that guy also because he was raised in a different culture to mine. It can get annoying sometimes, but I have things in place (visits home, other expats) to temper it. We have a damn good relationship going and compared to more fundamental problems relationships can have, our cultural differences are minor.


G in Berlin said...

I was just talking about heimweh with my German this weekend. I don't really have any, as per his description. interestingly, Australians seem to (see Justine Larbalestier's web site). I grew up a reader and I don't expect most people to understand my childhood of MGM musicals, Tolkein, the Aeneid and other mythologies, and British children's books, as well as a good helping of cultural angst from being the child of a Holocaust survivior. I belong to SF fandom to get a piece of familiarity and I have more in common with a Brit in some cases than another American. It took me a long time to find someone I wanted to be with and his different culture meant nothing at all to me in terms of that: it was the sweetness of his temperament that drew me (to counter my fiery temper;)). Always interesting to think about this...

Btw-the shop you are at- does it also teach sewing? I'd like to learn how to sew to a pattern on a machine...

Dr. J said...

Homesickness always came in bouts for me and I guess I'd been here about a year before the first real homesickness (rather than just depression over job/boss etc) hit. Then it'd hit again every year or so, sometimes so extreme that it scared me. Usually it was something minor - supermarkets for example - which would bring it on. I'm happy for you that you haven't experienced it, and I hope you never do because it can be really, really upsetting.

As to the nähcafe:
She does individual sewing courses, group sewing courses, pattern making courses and, in autumn, will hopefully run a corset making course. I'm already down for that one!

Anonymous said...

I am sure Jac that you also see the positive side of it - as you have confirmed. Immediately after my comment I thought that I probably missed the humour in your previous post (on which I commented on) and that you are just making fun of the matter. And hey, that would just confirm that Germans have no humour (old 'Kalauer') and that there are cultural differences in place...

You raised many interesting points!

For me, it's all about the small things that comes with different cultures and especially different languages. I really love to discover these differences, and surely, what better place is there to do this than a relationship with somebody of a different cultural background!

Much comes through the language. For example the fourth word of this comment. Germans would never drop a name in the middle of a sentence (or at the end). We would consider that as rather silly. But English people do this kind of stuff and I enjoy picking these detail up and expressing them.

Since I'd like to improve my English, I am trying to understand how Brits feel. One thing, for example, is football, rugby, cricket. Surely you have to know the rules of these games to understand many ENglish jokes. And once you understand all jokes in an English sitcom you are probably quite immersed in the country, and ready for a muliti-cultural relationship!

I think it is possible to learn everything with time. That, of course, requires for DrH to live in Australia! He is like Natascha Kampusch - there is only one (Australian) human around him, you, and he has to get the whole socialisation process started on the basis of this person! So that would explain if he has not picked up everything yet! From my experience over the last 37 yrs, I can also say that he is generally a fast learner! :)

Learning everything would also require a desire to do this. Does DrH want to do it? Probably it's impossible to answer this question because you cannot want to fully understand the humanicus Australiaus, and the Australian behavioural society, without having lived in Down Under! Therefore this is a pointless question.

I am always shocked when I come across couples where one partner does not make the effort of learning the mother tongue of the other. For example, there is a girl attending my French evenings and her boyfriend does not bother learning French. Many of her feelings will always be a secret for him. I hope for her that he will change!

Many other points would be worthwhile to discuss. To mention just one: Leraning English opens the world! Learning German ... ? I mean that, for Germans, the English language enables you to speak with so many people. My office colleagues come from Turkey, Malaysia, China and Ghana. No-one speaks English as a first language but we all go lunch together every day, party together and become friends. But you see, now I was taling about languages. Jan is single, so no wonder that his post is a bit off the point when it comes to multi-cultural relationships! I only hope that I will lose my heart to somebody from a 'big language', let's say English, French, Mandarin or Spanish, cause that would foster the desire in me to understand where she is coming from! But things like that can of course not be planned, or would you have dreamt of getting a German husband?


Dr. J said...

Wow Jan, I think that's the longest comment I've ever had.. and the take home point is: go easy on those exclamation marks, dude. Less is more when it comes to that particular punctuation.

Now from what I can tell out of all of that, you are specifically "into" getting cosy with foreign chicks. I'm all for that, but be careful of using women as cultural ambassadors. We can get a bit snarky if we think you're just there for the novelty value.

In the end, and it may have been lost a bit in my post, I am with DrH because of the guy he is, regardless of nationality. our different backgrounds make things more interesting, but at the same time more complicated. It's not the reason I am with him, nor reason enough not to be with him. He is a complex personality, more than just "German". So pick the girl who suits you most, Jan, not the nationality.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I'm with an expat. English is first language for both of us, so that is not an issue (although there can be funny issues with word choice and slang). Your post made me think how I don't really respect that he knows so much more about my culture than I know of his. There was a lot of American influence were he comes from when he was growing up, so he saw many American movies tv shows, etc. Because of that, I expect him to know pretty much everything American, from our politics to our pop culture. That's not really fair. On the other hand, it's difficult for me to know much about his culture since they export very little to the U.S. My conclusion is that his culture is about 5% different from mine. Maybe if I lived there I would feel differently.