Sunday, January 04, 2009
Is being homesick a real illness?
I've had the fortune, or misfortune, to work in Europe the past 1.5 yrs. During that time I've made absolutely no progress in making friends, enjoying my time here or building a life. I still have unopened boxes in various rooms, no curtains or blinds on the windows and generally have a temporary living situation look and feel to my life. As if I'm walking in space, treading water, in a holding pattern. I want to go home. I want to go home so badly my heart aches the same it did when I lost the love of my life.

I go to work in the morning to an office where my German colleague nitpicks my American ways to death every chance she gets and constantly reminds me what I can and cannot do. Innovation and pro-active thinking is discouraged and I am supposed to just buck up and conform. I am miserable there. Unfortunately we sit across from each other in a rather small office, so there is no escape. We work mostly in silence or minimal conversation as required to get the job done. I am bored, unchallenged and dismayed. Speaking with my various supervisors and HR has had no results (you don't have to like your co-workers), speaking with my colleague only resulted in her pointing out my failures as a "German" employee. A request to be transferred to HQ in the U.S. has been shot down with my boss pointing out the terrible financial crisis that this is just not going to happen. Wouldn't I be better off looking for another job on my own?

She may be right in a way. However, a little over a year ago I dissolved my U.S. household, tore my teenage son out of his life and made of to Germany to work for this company. I received no assistance finding an appropriate school for him, no assistance in assimilating into this "new" culture - I was simply left to my own devices. I still have no clue how various things work over here and am currently embroiled in a fight with the wicked witch of the west in a landlord-tenant dispute (me being the tenant) over mold in the house. She's given me three months notice as required by German law and wants us out. My son thinks I should take this opportunity to find a job back home and blow this joint. Lord, do I ever wish this could happen!

For an outsider the question always comes up: "Why did your company move you here?" I will tell you why. I was born and raised in Germany. I lived here until 1985 before I emigrated. After that, I had never set foot again on German soil, never spoke another word of German. I assimilated into the American culture wholeheartedly, raised my two boys there, went to college there, had a life and a career. Life was not always easy as a single mom, but I did alright for myself.

The assumption was, that I was born here, hence I should have no problem readjusting to life here. Nothing could have been further from the truth! I spoke very little German when I first arrived and I still have difficulty with the language. I have no experience with German accounting and hence am delegated to responsibilities that have nothing to do with my skills, experience or talents. I am an MBA that opens the mail. answers the phones and does data entry. Once a month I am working on budgets and forecasts. Woot! Shoot me now, please. Why did they want me here???

We speak English at home, we watch English TV, we live as we did in the U.S. Yes, I enjoy the occasional typical German dinner, evening out or going to any one of the festivities. But then I go home and wish I could get on a plane and fly back to the states.

I am so homesick that I fight depression every day. I find it difficult to function on a normal level, have no interest in anything other than devising ways to get back home. Given the current economic situation in the states I realize this is an uphill battle. No, more like Hamburger Hill. And there's me fighting with no more ammo. I'm simply out of bullets.

My son attends a private school, a good school and I'm grateful for that. He will have a great international education he can take to any college. He will also be 18 in a year and has made it known that he will leave to go back the first chance he gets - I guess with or without me. On the surface this should be ok since all kids are going to leave eventually. In our case this is not so ideal. He has no one in his life but me. No father, no family, no support network. It has always been just me and the kids. To think of my youngest without a support net in the world only deepens my depression and adds to my many sleepness nights.

I'm praying for a miracle, something light my way to the solution. I want to go home.

posted by Gina at 5:52 AM | Permalink | 10 comments

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