I was recently watching Chopped (I love that show. Actually I love the Food Network, it's one of the few channels I watch) and the episode was Oktoberfest themed. One of the contestants was 2nd generation German and ran a German restaurant with his family. That got me thinking about all the (hopefully) awesome things that my future children will experience being dual nationals: being bilingual, traveling, maybe even studying abroad as I did for example.

I decided to learn German in high school. At the time, college counselors always said, "If you want to get into college, we recommend at least 2 years of a foreign language." It wasn't the best advice our counselors could give us (they weren't that great to begin with), but it still was a great thing to do. My high school offered German, French and Spanish. Spanish would have been a great choice, but I chose German for personal reasons: my paternal grandmother was born in Germany. I didn't see my Omi really much growing up since she lived in New Jersey, but learning to speak German was something that I could do to have a connection to her.

One stereotype of Americans, that I think most Europeans have, is that Americans are kind of oblivious to the rest of the world. Stereotypes, while sometimes quite funny, do tend to have some truth to them.

The first time I went to Germany was for an exchange program shortly after the start of the War on Terror. It was an eye opening experience as a teenager. When asked where we were from, if we said "America" we were greeted with a degree of disgust. Our military was invading. We were awful people because of it. If we said "California," suddenly we were really cool and asked if we lived near the ocean, knew celebrities etc. It was the first time I had been disliked simply because of where I came from. It was an indescribable experience to live in a different culture for a short period at that age. 

After finishing my B.A. I decided to complete my M.A. in Germany. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder and that definitely rang true for the appreciation I have as an American or growing up in America. I loved living abroad: it really was fabulous. But experiencing a very different (in this case socialized) culture so intimately makes you appreciate some things you took advantage of at home. A very good friend of my mom's lives in Amsterdam; she has lived there for over 20 years and was married and had 2 children. She used to regretfully say that her children, while Dutch-American, didn't identify as anything but Dutch even though they visited family in the States regularly. They rarely spoke English at home, even though mom tried to enforce it. Her daughter, Eva, who is almost 18 and going into her last year of high school has just started to come around to her American side. She has expressed wanting to finish school in the US and has even thought about college here.

I hope that F and I will be able to instill a sense of connection to both the US and Germany for our kids. I want them to appreciate their ties outside of the US and be able to critically think about things going on in the world, which I feel grows partially from experiencing different cultures and places. 



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