Repatriation Interview #4
Repatriation means the return of someone to their own country.
As part of my series “Repatriate Interviews” I talked to Tina Busch, a German writer, translator and mother of two. After living the expat life in the US for several years, she her family moved back to Germany last year. Now the time of repatriation has passed. Tina tells me the story of their move, the challenges of reintegration and her dreams for the future. On her blog tinabusch.com she dealt with the topic of moving back herself.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Tina. I’m a freelance writer, translator and English coach (not a teacher with a text book and a perfect lesson plan!) and I’m also a very passionate blogger. My husband and I, we have two kids: my daughter is 7, my son is 4 years old. And we are an ex-expat family. About a year ago, in the summer of 2016, we moved back to Germany after 5 wonderful years in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA. Now we live in Burghausen – a city of 18.000 people in South-East Bavaria at the border to Austria.
Why did you move back to Germany?
My husband’s assignment was finished and he was offered a new job opportunity at a location in Germany.
How do/did you experience the reverse culture shock in Germany?
I would say that I was pretty well prepared since I had been dealing with the topic of reverse culture shock for many years. For my blog I had already done several interviews with expat women who were about to move back to their home country. But that does not mean that I didn’t experience reverse culture shock myself or that it was easier for me than it might have been for others. Yes, I was always aware of where my frustration, my sadness, my longing, my heartache, my out-of-place-feelings were coming from. But the first six months were still very difficult for me. My husband was expected back at work; my kids started school and day-care soon after we moved back. It was me who was by herself and who had to start all over – once again – on a personal as well as on a professional level. And although I knew that it would take time to make friends, meet like-minded people, and to discover a new career path for myself, I was still impatient. Very impatient. I wished that I could just push the “fast forward” button and then I would be there: settled in and happy and content with my life in Germany.
Looking back I can now say that Christmas time was a turning point in my repatriation journey. I just loved our first Advent season in Germany with its Christmas markets, the cookie baking, Christmas parties and many more familiar German traditions. Since the beginning of 2017 I’ve left the bottom of the culture shock curve, with small setbacks here and there. I’ve arrived in Burghausen. I feel happy and content with my life in Germany. But I’m not home yet.
What are the advantages of the life in Germany?
Being closer to family and old friends. Spending less time in the car. Being able to ride our bikes everywhere. Better chocolate, bread and cakes. Snow. Observing the new American president from a distance. Less parental helicoptering. Availability of alternative medicine.
How did the children adjust to their new schools?
My son loves German day-care. He has much more freedom and can roam around the playground all day if he feels like it, even when it is raining. The only things he needs are his rubber boots and Matschhose. The adjustment was much more difficult for my daughter. She didn’t know anyone on her first day of school and it took a couple of long weeks until she made friends.
How do you feel now, one year after the move?
We have arrived, but Burghausen is not home yet. How do I know this? Because every time we returned to Chattanooga and to our house after a vacation, I felt a certain sense of calmness the closer we got to our neighborhood. Driving down our street, looking at the neighbors’ illuminated front porches – always decorated according to the season, of course – opening the front door and stepping into our home always made me happy. I haven’t had that feeling here in Germany yet. Not yet.
With knowing what you know now, would you move to the United States again?
Not right away. But why not in a couple of years? I know that life would be much different then: with two school-age kids we would have to move to a different part of the city. And being involved in school routines and activities right away would make for a totally different expat experience.
If you could do your move again, what would you do differently?
Maybe less last minute shopping? As soon as I knew that we would be moving back to Germany, I went on a shopping spree. I bought stuff like Halloween costumes, Mason jars, boxes (!) of Glad Press & Seal wrap, and all kinds of memorabilia because I thought these things wouldn’t be available or would be much more expensive in Germany. Well, as it turns out now, a lot of these items actually are available in Germany. Or are no longer needed…
What do you miss most about your recent host country?
The weather. The easier and more relaxed way of life. Front porches. Humidity. Sweet tea. The smiles and friendly “how are yous”. The sound of crickets. Burger, pulled pork and BBQ sauce. Halloween decorations. The Southern drawl. Car drivers who look out for kids. Sea-salt caramel ice-cream. My Ford Explorer. Kale. And have I mentioned the weather?
What else would you like to tell about your experience?
I’m having a hard time accepting that my new hometown is not a creative start-up city with an event calendar that is filled with inspirational talks, workshops and conferences. Or the occasional showing of a movie in English. It’s a great place for families and kids, don’t get me wrong. But for a creative person who loves to learn new things, to stay up-to-date on digital trends, and to meet new people, Burghausen doesn’t offer much. I have to drive to Munich or Salzburg for these types of things – which I do, but not as often as I want to. So for a long time I’ve been having this idea in the back of my mind: if I can’t always attend these far-away creative events, I would like to find a way to fuel my creativity here in Burghausen. With workshops or a monthly meet-up, maybe even a conference that I would organize. Why I haven’t done any of that yet? Because I haven’t met enough like-minded people yet! I need at least a handful of people to summon up the courage and energy to start such a “creative movement”. But I’m certain that I’m going to get there. It will just take a little bit more time than I thought it would.
Thank you so much for taking the time, Tina. I’m sure you’ll start something amazing that will fulfill the yearning for creativity! Ultimately I’d just like to say how much I enjoy the blogosphere I’ve been building. It’s a place where I can connect with fabulous and like-minded people like Tina!
Did you move back to your home country? Would you like to share your story? I’d love to hear from you!