Diary of an Expat, Part 83
Lessons learned, and the news
My original goal when starting this blog was to keep track of what it's like to live as an expatriate in a foreign country. At some point, that became "comment on how Germans do things vs. how Americans do things," which diverges a little bit from "expat life" so.

I have realized a few things.

One thing is that a lot of what I was worried about never really came to pass. I don't feel especially shunned, and I don't feel especially helpless. I feel that if I needed to get most things taken care of, I could in the half-German pidgin that I speak in Berlin and, increasingly, outside of it because my English skills seem to be slipping.

There are certain exceptions. I have not encountered yet a medical crisis, and I suspect that this would be unpleasant. Um. Not just the crisis part, I mean; the dealing with the German system bit. I know it's not especially traumatic, because my friends have done it, but I'm not entirely looking forward to it.

Legal affairs, also. I got lucky this year, in that I have filed a 1040 again, and that's just about it. You can report foreign income on your 1040, I did, I have lived in Germany enough of the year to qualify, and I don't make enough to owe taxes in the States. For 2013 I will, and I will have investment income because my company offered a stock purchase plan. I am hopeful that this will not require much; a freelancer friend of mine recently spent €400+ on a relatively straightforward tax preparation lawyer.

C'est la vie.

Anyway, so I have realized that. Another thing I have realized is that I am really somewhat disconnected from a lot of what I would think of as "the world." I have particular interests — my writing, for one; mobile technology, electronic gadgets, cartography, etc. I continue to pursue those.

However, in the United States you are constantly bombarded with information in the form of news and advertising. In Germany, I don't get American news nor American advertising, so the details of all the political intrigues and celebrity scandals are as lost to me as what is now airing on TLC or what Lindsey Lohan has been arrested for.

At the same time, I listen to German radio in the background, and see German newspapers on the stands, but I don't have the same sort of good background processing agent you have with your native language, so I don't pick up much from there, either.

The effect has been that my news mostly comes from social media, and since my friends' interests are mostly the same as mine I only really know what's going on in their spheres. I know that the Boy Scouts of America, my old nemesis, has recently decided to dial back some of their parochial bigotry, not enough to get me to support or appreciate them but enough to make George Takei happy.

I know that there is a new X-Box, and it makes some people happy and other people very unhappy. I know that the governor of my former state has decided not to execute any more people, but is too much of a fucking coward to commute all the sentences and nudge Colorado into the *checks watch* Oh, right, this century. The 21st one.

There are other things I know about because my German coworkers care about them. Alternative power arrangements, the Eurozone crisis, Berlin political scandals and the ongoing debacle that is the Berlin-Brandenburg "airport."

Then there are things I know vaguely about. Riots in Sweden; fighting in Turkey. Problems in North Korea. Also in the United States. There was a thing called a sequester; there was also a presidential election. I am not honestly certain whether the two are related, but I gather it has something to do with budgets.

I know that there are people who take a dim view of those who are uninformed about the goings-on in the world around them, and I am one of them. Or I used to be. The reality is that it is very, very easy to not let any of it filter in, particularly if you are not completely immersed in a culture and it doesn't really matter to you.

But, since I always used to consider myself relatively engaged, this has been a transition. It's not something that bothers me, actually; indeed I think I'm probably happier for it. Just something I realized, reading some offhanded comment about a Supreme Court case that I had heard nothing about.

Ah well. It's raining now; I'm going to go wander for a bit.
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