Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dancing Queens

It isn't easy to meet new people in Germany. In part because the culture is based on a much stricter definition of "inside" and "outside" relationships; friendships are taken more seriously, and most people don't move around too often. Put together, this means the vast majority of people already have their support structures, friends, family, hobbies, etc, and they don't really need a new person nor do they think they have time to dedicate to a new relationship.* All in all, it takes much longer to really get to know people, let alone get invited to their home or into their group.

Of course these are generalizations and should be taken with a grain of salt.** But before we move on and you think I'm just pulling it from thin air: two personal stories to highlight my experience: 

How people don't need a new person part one:
Years ago my now-husband invited me to meet some of his friends at a party. I was very nervous because my German was almost nonexistent at the time and I was walking into what I thought was a German-only environment (turns out they all speak great English - learned that years later). The apartment was packed with people and my then-boyfriend introduced me to a few of them. They shook my hand and then didn't talk to me. Seriously. Not even the usually annoying get-to-know-you small talk questions like: "where are you from?" or "how did you meet?" or "want a drink?" I sat on the couch, drink in hand, while people literally spoke over me but not at me. They weren't trying to be rude - I now know these people and these are decent people - but they didn't know me and so they just didn't talk to me. Nothing personal.***

How people don't need a new person part two: 
About three years ago in a conversation with my now-father-in-law about how I wanted to meet new people, I asked him how he meets new people. He looked at me with real confusion on his face and finally answered, "I don't need new people." End of conversation. Right-o

Anyways, all of this to say that I shouldn't have been surprised when I walked into my first German mommy group and no one talked to me. They looked up, knew they didn't know me, and then turned back to the people that they did know. I tried as hard as I could to break through that barrier, reaping a handful of answers and a few questions, but I was a new mom struggling with being a new mom and just didn't have the strength. 

I left each attempt - four in total - so lonely, so full of failure, and so empty of hope. I was already dealing with a lot and each experience made the dark seem so much darker.   

But then when PJ was six weeks old - and by rather strange turn of events - I learned about a mommy group hosted by the US Army. I sent an email to ask if I could join and got a welcoming response. So against my instinct, I drug myself to my first Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS) meeting. 

Lets be frank here, I felt and looked awful. PJ was miserable, crying all the way to the meeting. I was expecting to be ignored in the best case and rejected in the worse. With trepidation I walked into the church and before I was more than two feet through the door, a stranger turned to me and exclaimed with joy in her voice and a smile across her face, "Well, I don't think I knew your face!"

I'm not too proud to admit that I cried. In relief. In hope. In oh-thank-god-I-came-here-ness. PJ liked it too: he slept through the entire meeting.
It has been about four months since that first meeting. I now know that I have stumbled into a group of supportive, encouraging, goofy mothers from all over the world. I look forward to seeing these women every two weeks and I'm so thankful for the friendships I'm building outside of the meetings as well. Frankly, I think I am a better mom because of them

Which brings us to the point of this blog entry: this weekend we had a mommy's-night-out. There was a Wii with some sort of dancing game. I learned that Britney Spears has nothing on us.

video video

The original video for Hit Me Baby One More Time was so lame in comparison. Next time we should seriously sell tickets.


*Of course there are always exceptions. For example, when I first moved to Germany I met a lovely German woman. Over the series of a couple of months we slowly grew a friendship. Then I hit a rough patch and even though she lived in a tiny one room apartment, she let me sleep on her flip-out bed for countless nights. She loaned me money when frankly she was struggling too. She pulled me out into the world when I just couldn't. She called me, sent me encouraging text messages, and just constantly let me know she believed in me. Since then life has thrown us both a number of curve balls that floored us and some beautiful pitches we hit out of the park. We've lived in different countries for years but she remains such a wonderful friend. And she is an amazing example of the incredible reality of what German friendships can be. 

**There is an awesome book that goes into much more detail and with all sorts of footnotes called Germany: Unraveling the Enigma if you want to know more.

***There is one exception and I am so grateful to him that he may always get away with bullshit in my book. Including, but not limited to, shoving his naked butt into my face while drunk; pointing out that my boobs are huge in front of about five male friends; and licking my neck for some unknown reason while sober. What was up with that?


Jill said...

Please tell me that someone was smart enough to take your camera and snap you too!

Pickles and Onions said...

I'm the idiot in the middle of the frame, dressed all in black. Only fair to put a video that includes me up!

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