I’m Sarah-Lambert Cook, a somewhat quirky redhead from the US of A who has been living in Germany since August, 2013. Most of the time, I can be found writing for my blog, or painting miniature watercolors I make into all sorts of things and sell for a living. I moved here with my husband whose Air Force career has brought us to Germany for the next few years.
Integrating has been interesting and not always easy. It’s hard to blend in with a thick American accent dragging through my rough-at-best German. Like with small towns anywhere in the world, newcomers stick out like a sore thumb. People are kind and will chat when I’m at the local bakery and say, “Halo!” if we pass one another walking, but making friends and being trusted takes time.
The biggest difference is the language barrier which can be a bit of a challenge. I constantly feel worried that I am butchering German with my attempts, but fortunately no one has been unwelcoming about it. In fact, I’ve found that every German I’ve met has been very patient with me if I try speaking the language. It’s quite humbling and I am very grateful.
Being in Germany actually feels strangely familiar. Little farms dot the landscape, small villages are separated by very short distances, and the local grocery store is nice and small. It feels familiar to my teen years living in a small town in Kansas. The biggest difference is that this area of Germany I find myself in (Rhineland-Pfalz) has rolling hills as opposed to the total flat of Kansas. I suppose that similarity makes sense, though. After all, much of the American midwest was populated by Germans who came to America.
Since arriving here a year ago, my lifestyle hasn’t changed so much. I’ve always been an artist and I’m able to continue that here. I’ve always loved travel and now I’m able to do it more often with so many places in such easy distance from me. I think the internet makes it hard to always remember that I am in a different place. English is easy to find all over and globalization means I even hear American songs playing in stores and restaurants.
Despite that, (and it sounds odd to say) I feel Germany is very German. What I mean by that is that it doesn’t strike me as exactly “multicultural” in the way I think of many US cities as being (which are melting pots for so many languages and cultures). We live in an increasingly “globalized” world where cultures begin to blend into one another borrowing from each other and in the process often lose those things that make them distinct. Germany has certainly not been immune to that, but I have loved feeling like crossing the border back into Germany after a trip to France, the Netherlands, or elsewhere feels like I’ve come into a place that is distinctly its own. In my opinion, Germany seems multicultural in that one can find restaurants, products, and people from all over the globe here, but I feel like it has still maintained an overarching, distinctly German identity.
This isn’t to say that I think Germany isn’t solidly integrated into Europe or the world’s multicultural tapestries. On the contrary! What I love is how it has managed to retain its individuality and culture while still being a major player in European and global economies.
Sometimes, the fact that Germany is so much its own makes me miss America—specifically the American south. I can find places in Europe that remind me of the northeast, the west, and even the midwest, but I can’t find anywhere that compares to the deep south or southwest. However, I don’t miss them enough to want to go back! I think I’d be happy to live here my whole life if I spoke the language better.
Which brings me to my next project: learn to speak German fluently. I can comment all I want about Germany, whether it feels multicultural to me or not and what I feel it reminds me of, but I can never truly know this wonderful country until I can speak the language. Hopefully, within a year I’ll be able to have decent conversations in German and better understand this wonderful country I am so fortunate to live in for a little while.