Friday, May 8, 2020

What I Won't Miss

Since I wrote a very gushy post about our lives here in Basel and how much we will mourn the loss of that life - I felt it was only fair to say that there are things I won't miss.  This goes with any move we make, of course.  There are always things about a place that you can point to that you could do without.  Or less of.

**Disclaimer - not one of these facts below change my love for Switzerland at all.  If we weren't moving and Mat's job would have kept us here for long term, these things would have slowly faded into the background.

While those feelings take a FAR back seat to the feelings of loss, they are still there.  They did help when we were making a pro and con list of moving back to the United States.  There are things going on in the USA right now that I am not anxious to be apart of again.  To be sure.  So making a list of things I won't miss about Basel made it easier to decide on a move.

The biggest thing is the language barrier.  Hands down.  I knew it was going to be challenging, and I was up to the challenge.  I took German classes for the first two years we were here.  I learned enough to be able to run my errands and have very basic conversations on the phone.  It was much harder to learn a foreign language than I expected.  My 40 something year old brain wasn't up to the tasks.

This language barrier made life hard on many levels.  Well....not hard......challenging.  I shop in almost completely silence.  I talk very little when I am out in public.  I keep much more to myself than I might have in an English speaking country.  Phone calls makes me break out in a sweat.  I am never sure if I am going to be get someone on the other side that speaks even a little English.  I silently beg for doctor's offices to have email communication options and online scheduling to make my life easier.  All of my mail is in German and must be translated.  All of it.  After 3 years we have gotten used to it, but it is EXHAUSTING.  Truly.  I have been humbled by the experience and feel that all Americans - especially - should experience living in a country where they don't speak the language to see what it like being on that side of things.  My compassion has grown for sure.

Changing the way we lived and shopped was hard to get used to as well.  There are no "big box" stores or "one stop shops" here in Basel.  Grocery stores are small.  There was very little that I recognized - at first (now that is not the case).  We need to bring all of our own bags to shop.  Without a car, I spent the first year taking the tram into Germany (a 45 minute ride each way) to shop a few times a week.   (Now I rent a car and cut that commute down to about 10 minutes).  I shop almost exclusively in Germany because the cost difference is incredible.  But that comes with its own challenges.  I stop at the border on my way out with a receipt.  I am limited to bring 2 pounds (1 kg) of meat across the border at a time.  Lots of rules to learn, and with that, anxiety shows its face.  After 3 years I am used to it, but again - it is extra work that I had to adjust to.  And something I won't miss.

We still don't own a car, so we don't do anything spontaneously any more.  Do we need a car in Basel?  Definitely not.  The tram/bus system is incredible.  I only ever have to walk a few blocks to get on public transportation to go anywhere.  But without a car, we couldn't get up on a Saturday morning and decide we wanted to take a trip somewhere in Switzerland or France or Germany.  It had to be planned.  For my surgery - we had to plan a car in advance.  For Scooby's surgery - the same.  It was a change that was not tough to adjust to - just made things a little harder to do.  I am looking forward to having a car again.

Those are the big things.  Life was easier for us in the United States with the things I mentioned above.  Not BETTER - EASIER.  That is the difference.  I just had to change the way I did things.  Things take more time to do here, but that is the lifestyle.  No one is in a hurry here.  Going shopping or going places is leisurely.  It isn't a job to be completed - it is an outing.  It is a different way of life that is hard to explain if you haven't experienced it.

We are returning to what we know.  We are going back to the life we were used to before we lived here.  Soon these challenges will just be a memory.  I had a chance to live WAY out of my comfort zone, and while I will not miss the hardest challenges about that life, I am still glad I had a chance to experience it.  I will use how I felt when having to be in a situation that was hard for me and express more compassion for someone who is new to the United States.  It was a great lesson.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer this brings back some memories. We were so fortunate that being part of a military community (even though we lived on the economy) provided us with many fellow English speaking people. I remember going into the kitchen and seeing the tiny refrigerator thinking well that isn't going to be easy. We are used to our huge refrigerators and freezers. I had to learn to shop weekly (my neighbor shopped daily for her meats). I found that we walked more overall, whether into town or just around our community. I loved the open air markets. When we were in Germany, shops closed 'early' and there was one long Saturday a month where the hours might be extended until dinner time. It took some adjustments. Again, we had the American commissary and PX to shop at so it wasn't too much of a big deal. I do remember coming back to the states for the first time and being overwhelmed at the mall and grocery store. Where we might have had twenty choices for cereal at the military commissary, now I was in an aisle with hundreds of choices. The lights and people and hustle and bustle at the mall was too much for this introvert, haha... We also noticed a difference with laundry appliances. We had a small, and I mean small washer and dryer. Many people hung their clothing out back in their yard. Oh, and there were the noise you can't honk your horn unless it was an emergency...considered noise pollution. Cutting grass - better make sure you do it during the appropriate hours so as not to disturb your neighbors. I always told people that actually living in a foreign country is different than just visiting for a week. But I am so glad that we had this opportunity and I agree, I think all children should have the opportunity to travel and see what other cultures way of life is like. Learning how to do things differently is okay. :) I still vividly remember certain things about our time in northern Germany...chance of a lifetime and I am so glad that we lived there.