Tuesday 24 February 2015

Unsolicited advice + Let's grow together {Link-up #8}

Out of the 55 days of this year, we have had German guests on 30 of them, and still counting (18 more to go). This is more than half the days! Needless to say, I'm exhausted. 

As you may know, I am German myself and lived the first 23 years of my life there. It's what I know, it's what I used to be, it should be completely natural and familiar to me. 
However, it isn't. Not any more. Furthermore, even when I was still living in Germany, there came a time when I realized that I didn't feel at home in my own home land, which is quite a startling and, frankly, horrifying realization - if your own country doesn't feel like home, then which one will?
In my case, I found my happy ending in Canada, a place that felt familiar to me as soon as I set foot on her soil. 
Alas, this is a story for another day. 

Today I want to share a few observations I have made not only during the 30 days, but throughout the years with our German guests:

Unsolicited advice
Germans love to share their wisdom, because they are a helpful people and like to educate the ignorant (i.e. Rich and myself). You don't even have to ask for help, they will give it to you with no prompting! If they are to be believed, there is lots of room for improvement in our lives:
We should sell most of our animals (we have too many).
I don't have the right kitchen equipment - for example, the peeler I use for peeling potatoes is wrong.
Why don't I work full-time? I should work full-time. Why only work 4 days/week when you can work 5? My slacker-ways are very un-German.

Germans value honesty. It is a virtue that is underrated in North America, based on what I've learned from my old-country relatives and friends. All that being nice to other people is fake, telling them how it is is the only way to go. And don't sugar-coat it either, be blunt about it:
"You don't have good bread here." All the bread is bad, and that's the way it is. 
"Oh, so you are cleaning today because you invited guests?" Well yes, I am, but am I the only one thinking it's rude to point it out? I may be a touch sensitive about it.
"Your houses aren't built very sturdy, not like in Germany." Made in Germany beats all.
"It looks much better here than usual, I can tell that you had help." Criticism disguised as a compliment is a classic.
"Your oven needs to be cleaned." Ouch, the truth hurts. 
"You are too old to ride horses." Uhm, nope, don't think so. You are never too old to do anything you like doing.

Even though brutal honesty is the policy when pointing out the errors in other people's ways, when it comes to their own lives our families play their cards close to their chests. "What's going on with us is nobody's business" is the motto I grew up with, which pretty much goes against anything I'm doing on this blog. While I fully respect people's privacy and do my best not to violate it on here, I do not understand the need to keep everything from everybody. To me, sharing bits and pieces of your life helps to unburden yourself, makes you feel connected, and forms foundations on which friendships are built. Keeping everyone at arm's length will make you feel very isolated and alone.
I did not start feeling confident and at ease with myself until I started to open up about my insecurities and learnt that I'm not the only one having them. While that may not be the right route for everyone, shutting yourself off from other people is the worse option of the two, as I have witnessed time and time again.  

Being frugal is another quality highly valued in many of our German friends. It is an admirable quality, one that ensures that most of our German acquaintances have paid off their mortgages, don't owe credit card debts and live firmly within their means. The cost for that is high though: I know people who never go out to restaurants, don't travel, and constantly fight with their spouses about money. My goal in life is to experience and see new things, and doing that costs money. If that means that I will pay off my mortgage slower, then so be it. Not being able to travel, seeing a show, trying out a yoga class or going out for a nice meal with my husband once in a while for the sake of saving money is not my idea of living life to the fullest. The worst is when people are stingy towards other people - just don't. Some of the most generous people I know are the ones who have little, but they share with others what they have. Those are the kind of people I look up to, and the ones I try to emulate in my own life.    

My way
We are in the fortunate position to know people who figured shit out. They found a path in life that works for them, and now they are convinced that's the best way to live life. Oh, you are doing it differently? Let me show you how you can do it better! (The unsolicited advice strikes again.)
Don't get me wrong, I see the temptation of doing that: The way I live my life is nice and dandy for me, and why shouldn't everybody live on a farm with too many dogs and a guy they dropped everything for? But believe it or not, people are different, and to many our way of living might be abhorrent. I try to understand and respect that. (Well, respect it at least. I do not understand at all.)
Please, please stop telling us that our yard is too messy, all those animals are too much (this is a common, constant point of disbelief to all of our guests), that not having regular meal times is disagreeable (we like it that way), and that my dogs smell.
Our house, our rules - I thought that's the whole point of being a grown-up?
Obviously, I'm not talking about all Germans. I don't know you all. So don't take this as a generalization. 
I may or may not be exaggerating.
I am German myself, so some of these (all?) may include myself. I sincerely hope not, but nature and nurture are both working against me. Rats. 

I'm curious: Do any of you expats have similar experiences when you go back to your old country or have guests coming from there to visit you? Please share in the comments!

Now it's your turn! Link up your latest post and find some new blogs to read!

Farm Girl



  1. I am absolutely cracking up right now...my dad's side of the family is German (not first generation or anything, but still) and this describes them (us?) to the T. Frugal Germans who impart their wisdom on everybody and keep to themselves in most situations. Hahaha thank you so much for doing this post!
    And PS, out of the 310 days left, how many of them will you HAVE Germans? :-)
    ~ Samantha

  2. This post was so funny! I can relate to that because I have family in Germany and they're in the process of becoming more and more like the Germans you've met! :)

  3. Sooo funny. My great-grandparents emigrated from Germany and my family still has remnants of these qualities. When I was younger, I had a German tutor whom I loved, but also shared many of these traits! "the peeler I use for peeling potatoes is wrong" made me laugh out loud. (P.S. Have you ever heard of this blog? http://ohgodmywifeisgerman.com/)

  4. I hadn't, but thank you so much for bringing it into my life!! I've just spent a happy 20 minutes clicking around, and I love it. He is hilarious, and I love the description of his blog on bloglovin': "An expatriate marriage sure to kill us both." I couldn't have said it better.

  5. It's stronger than us, so we better admit defeat. 'Live and let live' is not a motto we can get on board with - our way is better! ;-)

  6. Maybe 20 more, and then we are home free! The rest of the year will be a breeze. Which is good, because I will have to practice my listening skills - as my husband likes to say, "You learn more with two ears than one mouth". Always imparting wisdom, he can't help it haha!

  7. OMG this is funny. I was sharing some of it with my sister who's desk is next to mine. My house is clean but it's spotless when company is coming over! I am pretty blunt about things- especially when I get fired up. I always say that's the German in me. :)

  8. Too old to ride horses? Don't show that person a John Wayne movie....they'd fall right off the couch.
    All of the above must bring some stress, but your attitude and ability to laugh about it and stay true to the life you want to lead is empowering! Keep it up! You will survive. And Hawaii soon, right? Soo...life is alright.

  9. It's stronger than us! I try to keep my house organized, and try extra hard when guests are coming. Apparently though, not hard enough! The thing is, I would NEVER say that to someone else about their house. Must be the Canadian influence haha!

  10. We are leaving for the airport in half an hour! But to keep things interesting, we are taking one German with us. I bring my laptop because I want to blog from Hawaii, I'll keep you posted ;-)

  11. to funny and thanks for stopping by an admiring my H & M dress, hopefully you still get to join my linkup tomorrow

  12. I've never lived outside of the U.S. But, you have described my Dad! And he has also never lived outside of the U.S. We moved within 2 miles of him several years ago. I loved that he could just drop in...it felt so nice to see him everyday (I'd lived out of state for 7 years). What wasn't fun was the judgy nuggets of advice or questions. Like: "Why haven't you weeded out the flower bed? The weeds are going to take over." or "You should get that willow tree cut down. The roots are going to go under your house and ruin your foundation. You better hurry and take care of this..." OMG! My anxiety level was always higher after these visits. After all, I was clearly an incompetent homeowner. The weird thing is I don't think he realizes that all I "hear" is "You are doing it wrong". I think he thinks he's "just talking". Is it generational?

  13. Yes, I think it's more pronounced in the older generation - but then again I also had a guest who was only 30 and did the same thing, so who knows?
    I can picture exactly what it feels like when you hear your dad! It sounds like criticism, but I believe they really mean to be helpful - in a blunt, harsh sort of way. I have found that the best way to deal with it is to nod and then do whatever you want.
    Thanks so much for sharing Kimberly!

  14. This is an awesome post. My extended family has German roots including my great grandmother that everyone referred to as Big Mama. We don't get the too many animals comments, but we sure get the please don't have any more kids comments!

  15. Big Mama, love it!
    I think that the German in people makes them say things out loud that others are just thinking. Maybe it's a good thing? But you need a thick skin to take it, and my skin has gotten too thin to accept it without getting offended haha :-)


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