Wanderlust and home away from home

“Wanderlust” is one of the few German words that have made it into the English language. It appears in dictionaries and is used in intellectual circles. “Wanderlust” as well as “Fernweh” describe the desire to leave one’s home to discover places one has never been to before. Going abroad to spend a year or two studying is already a sizeable challenge for a young person. To leave family and friends who have accompanied you throughout your whole life changes your personality and attitude towards life. In some cases, the globetrotters are grateful to have the opportunity to live in another country, while others fail to grow accustomed to a new way of life. This might depend on the individual, but some countries are known for being particularly open-minded, others are not.

The Germans, for instance, are famous for ruining the atmosphere of hotel swimming pools worldwide by trying to mark their pool chairs with their towels like dogs spreading their scent on trees. It’s also the Germans who force helpless Spanish islands to make German their new national language to survive economically. Of course, they also have to serve German beer (or what used to be German before it got snapped up by international brewery giants). So, in terms of tourism, the Germans struggle with integrating into the foreign destinations. But, to be fair to them, it’s only a holiday and thus not necessarily required that one adopts a new cultural identity!

So, what’s with the community of German expats of whom many are very successful abroad? They must be worldly, open-minded, tolerant and so forth! After all, they have decided to spend a major part of their life in a foreign country! Far from it! They are clever and well-organized so to avoid having to take onboard too much of the foreign world. The first lot of them open bakeries and restaurants, where they can meet once a week for “Stammtisch” – with, who would have guessed, German beer and Schnitzel! Then they open international schools where their children learn English, and a bit of the language that is actually spoken in the country, in case this is not English. Why do the Germans accept English? Firstly, it’s because English originates from Germanic and, secondly, the Germans don’t really speak English; they speak German with English words. Most shocking is the fact that lots of Germans further germanicize abroad. They become proud of things they didn’t care about when still living in their home country. This is true for many cultural groups. The foreign country is like a mirror showing your identity – and also a magnifying glass through which new details become visible. This can be both helpful and harmful.

But no matter if it’s the Germans or any other nationality, spending some time abroad is in fact the best chance to get rid of bad habits and reeducate oneself about what’s most likeable in one’s own country. Maybe it’s mom’s stew that you hated as a child or just the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind on your way back home. I personally learned a lot through studying abroad and also got to know my home country better from a distance. However, one thing is for sure: I won’t forgo the best chair near the pool just to show the world how nice the Germans are: Let Heidi, Karl or Dirk save the planet, that is, the Germans’ reputation. They get paid for it, don’t they!?

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