Monday, January 14, 2008

should we stay or should we go?

We have just had the most stressful weekend.

First of all, some background information: My husband, Karl, works for a German engineering firm. He was hired by the US branch of the firm in Ohio and was sent here just a couple of months after he was hired for a two-year assignment. In November we found out that the two-year assignment was going to be cut short and instead of going home in October 2008 we'd be going home in January 2008. That made us very sad because we've loved living here and we weren't ready to go home to Ohio yet. Living in Germany over the past 16 months has been a dream come true for us. We love this country and its culture and we love Europe. We wanted to have the chance to live here as long as we could.

Enjoying the view out our apartment window

(Photo of me gazing out at the beautiful Black Forest view over the Christmas holiday trying to make a mental photo knowing that view would soon be gone.)

Well...this past week Karl found out that the firm here in Germany want him to stay...but not just to serve out the original 2-year contract but permanently. Forever. And ever. Or at least for as long as we wanted to. Five years. Twenty years. Until we retire. Until we die. Our choice.

Be careful what you wish for, people, 'cause it might actually come true and then you are face-to-face with the reality of the situation and it scares you half to death.

Think of what this would mean, being an American living permanently in Germany, because it really hit us hard: our children would grow up German, our families would be on the other side of the world and they might hate us just a little bit for staying on the other side of the world by choice, we'll have to keep downloading the American TV shows we like instead watching them as they air on TV, there are a lot more taxes in Germany and the gas prices are three times more expensive and we would keep paying them, plus we'd have to keep speaking German and working on our German and concentrating on listening to German (and that can really be a work-out on your brain). Of course, we thought of the perks...I mean, it's Germany. In Europe. The land of self-serve produce and baked goods stands and where Paris is an inexpensive train ride away instead of an expensive plane trip. Where we can raise our children bi-lingual and vacation in the Swiss Alps and have much better health-care than in America and eat our schnitzel dinners in cozy Biergartens. Yes, there are definitely some perks.

And then there are the really scary, immediate things like finding an apartment, buying a car and I would need to find a job. The company actually found and pays for the apartment we currently live in, as well as the car we currently drive...all part of the original 2-year contract. But becoming a permanent employee would mean that we would now have to take care of these things ourselves. Of course, everyone kept reminding us that we'd have to take care of all these things -- find a job, find a home, buy a car, etc. -- no matter if we were in the US or Germany. But we kept thinking that if we had to do them in Germany...we would have to do them in German!!

It's like that famous feminist quote -- and I can't remember now who said it -- saying that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did...but backwards and in high heels. Sure, we'd have to take care of all the same stuff in Germany as in America...but in Germany it would be in German! At a job interview I would be less worried about impressing them with my clothes or resume and only be thinking, "Just please speak clearly and slowly so I can understand you and please don't ask me anything that I don't have the vocabulary to answer!" And will my husband be able to convince the car salesman that he knows more than a little bit about cars so don't you dare try to screw us over just because he has as an foreign accent! And what in the world does this renting contract say?! It's all in hard-to-understand German legal language with super-long compound words!!

And the really hard thing about making this decision? We had one weekend's time to make it. We found all this out on Friday and the company needed to know first thing Monday morning what we wanted to do...go back to Ohio or stay in Germany forever. A major life-changing decision. One weekend. Less than 72 hours.

So we spent our weekend making pro/con lists, seeking the advice of our parents, talking logistics with our German friends, coming up with more questions than we could possibly find answers for in one short weekend. And praying. A lot. And getting a lot of headaches and not sleeping well at all.

After gathering all the information we had time to gather, going over and over the pros and cons, and having a lot of meaningful discussions, we began to see the events of the past couple of years of our lives with new meaning and new understanding. Let's just say...God works in mysterious and confusing ways. And late Sunday night we finally came to a decision.

And is with great excitement and trepidation that I declare to everyone in blogland...

We're staying.


MrsDragon said...

What a difficult decision! I'm happy that you have come to an answer and I will you and your hubby well in following your chosen path.

Moving away from family (or, I supposed staying away from family, in your case) can be tough, but it is often for the best.

Ivy Arts said...

Congratulations. As I was reading, I was hoping that would be your answer. A friend tells me that you can have everything, just not all at once. Enjoy your time there. It sounds wonderful. (My dad was stationed in Germany and tells wonderful stories about it.)

Cicada Studio said...

"Be careful what you wish for, people, 'cause it might actually come true and then you are face-to-face with the reality of the situation and it scares you half to death."

So true!!

Congratulations on your major, major decision. I'm sure you will not regret it one bit. Every day it will feel all the more right, I'm sure. It will be "home" before you know it.

*my son's name is Karl, too!

Kitty Grrlz Knits & Spins! said...

wow! what a decision to make . . . but i agree with ivy arts, i was hoping in the end you were going to stay . . . congratulations!

one of those Greathouse women said...

Wow! What a tough decision! The greatest of luck to you in this major life shift :)

Thanks for sharing your blog with me!

Tiffani said...

I am so glad you decided to stay :)
My husband and I would love to figure out a way to live overseas (he travels every now and then to Germany for business...), and to know that you, as Americans, got to make the choice shows me that it *can* happen. You'll be able to show your kids *so much*. Congrats!

heather said...

Thanks for all your cheers and support, everyone!! I really appreciate your comments!

We are still exhausted from the whirl-wind weekend but we are excited by our future here!

Kellybot said...

I knew you would decide to stay! Congratulations, that's so awesome. I really enjoy reading all about being an American in another country. You make Germany sound so much more interesting than I previously thought.

tootsiegrace said...

Oh wow, what a decision! I can totally relate! My husband is from England and moved to the US when we got married and started our family. We are currently planning on leaving the US and moving to England for the next 10 years and I am so torn about leaving my large and loving family to relocate in England where our girls would grow up English! I love England... but it is such a HUGE decision! Good luck to you and your family!! And I wish you the best!


LoveMeKnot Creations said...

ohh how fun and exciting:) My cousin was born in berlin, but lives in virginia now lol...

Attack of the Vintage said...

Oh how wonderful that you are given this opportunity!! I am glad that you decided to stay also, it just sounds right for you two. Enjoy!! We will miss you in Ohio though, I was hoping that someday all us Ohioans could get together. :)

Dharma Designs said...

How exciting!

Sufoot said... are the bravest woman I know. Good thing you're my sister.

SugarLoveHoney said...

I'll I can say is WOW! First I want to say, I found your blog by way of this etsy link today:
I was reading some of the blogs posted on there. When I saw you were in Germany and close to the Black Forest, my interest peak! I read your story about making the decision to stay and I can't wait to read the rest of your blog! I'll def. be adding you to my blog roll:) My Father's Mother's side of the Family is from that area..I believe some where around Wiesbaden, Germany. My Grandmother's maiden last name was Holtz(S)claw which is German-Dutch!
I never met her, she past before I was born. But I do have that bit of information about her and when I saw your blog (it was the first one I read btw) I thought how neat. Sorry so long winded...
I hope you don't mind!
Thank You and Good Luck in Germany!

Andrea Q said...


We're facing a similar situation with Las Vegas (temp) and Boston (home). I can't imagine having to decide between two continents in 72 hours.

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