I have lived in the US for 15 years now. I visit Germany every other year, if I can. For some reason, I expect things to be the same when I go, but they never are. I have lost several beloved family members over the years. The ones that remain have changed living situations so that sometimes, prior to returning, I have to print directions to “my new home” on Google. The house I grew up in is now in the hands of a stranger, and on every visit I drive there and take pictures. It feels so awkward to stand in the driveway where I learned walking and riding a bike and not be able to go in. I then wonder if things would be different had I not remained in the US but returned after one year as all my other friends did.  You see, I came as an Au-pair, just like many Europeans do. We came mainly to learn English fluently and experience the culture first hand, but it’s also a great time to take break from life and think things over. I liked the uncomplicatedness of life here, the many opportunities that, if you take them, will open numerous doors down the road, and now I visit my country only when I can. I try to eat all the foods that I dream of while in the US. Among some of the things I most of enjoy are bakery items. It’s quite easy for me to resist them here but in Europe I can’t.  Especially the Broetchen, comparable only by its appearance to rolls are an essential part of my vacation diet. We have them for breakfast with sweet toppings such as Jam or Nutella or sandwich meats / cheese. The cakes are pieces of art. Any bakery will offer a wide variety of wonderfully crafted cakes and Torten (something much creamier and richer).  On these trips, there is usually more eating going in than there is hunger, which equals to some additional pounds. Some I can stave off by walking. I love that aspect of life in Europe: destinations such as shopping centers are simply not as accessible by car as they are here so there is a bigger reliance on public transportation or your legs. Parking is usually also a hassle since there are only limited spaces. It’s simply much easier to walk. I often stay with friends who have cars, but when we are in a larger city, the car stays in the spot (otherwise we will lose the place) and we walk.

Germany, so I noticed on this year’s trip, is a beautiful country. Now, 22 years after the reunification of the two parts, it’s almost impossible to tell a difference between east and west. We drove from Stuttgart, which is former west on the autobahn to Leipzig in the east, the city I most frequent when I visit my country and I was simply amazed at the beauty. East German dwellings used to be described as grey by outsiders. This was due to the fact that there was a lack of building materials and only standard stuff was available. Anything extra or out of the ordinary had to be either stolen or purchased “under the table.” I guess somewhere materials were available, for “special” people maybe. Today, almost all houses have a fresh coat of paint and many have bright new red roofs.  I visited a small town that I knew from the time I still lived in Germany. I hardly recognized it after all the renovations and restorations that had taken place in the last years. It used to be a boring place with little to do. Now, simply walking through the quaint and historic town center is enlightening.

The US is my home now. After so many years here, I cannot see myself living in Germany. There is more to Germany than the beauty and the good food. It would take more blog entries to describe some of the challenges of living in Germany. All I can say is, it felt great when I arrived at the airport and the immigration official said “Welcome Home.”