Monday, August 25, 2008


I have been struggling to get back to blogging these last few months. Obviously. I've been waiting for things to settle down, get better, seem real, seem like home. And they're not, really. Things are very up and down and my perspective is all out of whack these days.

Perspective. That's the tricky thing I've been working on over here. Because I know that the idea of moving to Europe, no matter how temporary, from an American standpoint sounds all fairytale-like. You know-- how exciting, see the world, pointy cathedrals and castles and history so thick and deep you can smell it--- kind of thing. And it's that, sure, but it also has this flip-side every day living sort of reality where it's just not all fluffy and fantastic. It's just plain hard most days.

I've been letting my perspective issues hold me back from blogging because I thought maybe I could get my head screwed on straight, but I see now that it's going to be a process that just doesn't happen overnight. Meanwhile, life and motherhood and homeschooling continue on. I mean, that IS life isn't it? We're always rolling with the punches or at least taking them and having to get back up and press onward.

So, I'm going to rant a little and try to get past this sort of awkward little bump in my reality. Okay? Good. This is how we're going to do it. The happy, idealistic, fairy-tale believer in me is going to make one fluffy statement, and then the melancholic, realistic, beaten-down part of me is going to make a counter statement. Got it? Great. Let's begin.

Europe is amazing!
Europe sucks!

How great that we have the chance to have real immersion in a foreign language.
OMG, I can't understand anything anyone says to me.

There are so many new and exciting foods to try.
Ugh, who would want to eat horses and cheese that smells like someone's old, decaying butt?

Public transportation is so accessible here.
Why does it have to take all day to get anywhere!

It's so beautiful.
Well, well... yeah, so what?!

So it's beautiful. I'm trying to concentrate on that, rather than the fact that my kids seem to be having major adjustment issues and we have no homeschooling community. I'm trying to focus on the lovely wood-grain on the staircase as I lug my groceries up several flights of stairs. I'm trying to really appreciate the ornate architecture and detailed sculptures while all hell breaks loose with my kids because things aren't just mildly different, they are over the top. And most days are just plain trials.

We have moved around a lot. And it's always hard at first. There is always this period of missing friends or old neighborhoods, favorite restaurants or stores or products. There is always this period of feeling lost or lonely or displaced... this surrealness when we wake up and don't know where we are because things are just new and not yet firmly planted in our subconsciousness. But this moving here... it's all that times a thousand.

It's not just that people speak a different language here. I mean, they do, sure, and I had no idea exactly how different Swiss German was from high German, but now I know. Worlds different. So there's that. But the food is different. The laws are different. We can't just run our dishwasher when we get around to it, I have to plan because there are noise ordinances. Same for laundry. Same for grocery shopping. It takes all day to buy groceries-- well, for us it does. And I have to remember that certain stores close for lunch, don't stay open late, and hardly anything is open on Sunday. And since we have food allergies and diet restrictions, I have to stop and try to decipher the ingredients on everything we buy. And to remember, always remember, that I can only buy as much as I can carry and still manage to keep three kids from getting sucked under the trams, trains or smashed by passing motorists.

Which is not a pretty thought, obviously. There are so many things I could just be down about if I chose to let myself, like how difficult it is to figure out new medicines, health care systems, banking systems, transportation systems... the lack of recognizable vitamin supplements, the high costs of gosh, just about everything... so much stuff I could drown in it if I wasn't careful.

So I'm working on it. It's indisputably amazingly beautiful here, but perspective is a tricky thing.


  1. Anonymous6:14 PM

    Everything you've mentioned is true. We have friends who told us all about these issues. The guy went to grad school with my husband and is actually from Switzerland, but his wife is Canadian and she hated living there for years (they moved to Sw after he finished his ph.d. and after they got married - both occurred about the same time)...and this was before they had kids even.

    Regimented is a word I'd use for the Swiss and their system.

    I'm glad you posted this. It's highly therapeutic to air one's thoughts.

    I wish I had solutions for you. those friends I talked about, they moved to the States when their kids were 2 and infant, and lived here for close to 12 years. Then the guy got a job in Germany last year and they have now moved back to Europe again. We saw them over the summer when they came back for a visit, and the wife dislikes it there as much as she used to hate living in Switzerland.

    I know there are tons of happy ex-pats, but I personally know of none. Still, I wish very much for you that things will get easier soon.

  2. Anonymous7:39 PM

    I went through this as well. We lived in Hamburg and Bavaria for over 4 years and I know that what you are going through is culture shock. It does get easier with time. Just do not let yourself get depressed! Try to get out and experience the culture as much as you can. Learn as much of the language as you can and focus on the beautiful aspects of the journey (like the buildings and scenery). It can be incredibly disorienting to relocate to another country.

  3. It is always nice to hear more than the usual "encouraging" words. I appreciate your honesty (and steel myself for the worst while hoping for the best with my upcoming Big Move). I do feel like things will get better for you, but if not, at least we can visit each other. Having y'all over there gives me so much peace. I hope you can find some as well.

    Love, Jo

  4. I loved this post! I'm an expat as well and I saw often hear the differing realities seen by my brutally honest mind versus my PC, don't make anyone worry mind. Feel free to cry on my shoulder antime!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate your sweet words so much!

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