Dixie Peach: If You've Learned It, Share It

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

If You've Learned It, Share It

When I moved to Germany nine years ago I wished and wished that there was a place where I could go to get some answers and support. It was scary and weird moving to a place where I didn't know the language or the customs and wasn't used to the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences between Americans and Germans. I wanted someone to assure me that yes, one day I would really be able to speak German and no, it wasn't unusual to be horribly homesick and yes, these people laugh at stuff that's not funny to you and you'll laugh at things they don't find funny. I wanted someone to tell me where I could find baking soda and what detergents were really the same thing as what I used in America but with a different name and if it was possible to find cranberry juice without it being a trauma. I wanted someone to warn me that I'd have to pay for extra ketchup at McDonald's.

Sure, I learned a lot from my German husband but I also wanted to run things by Americans who'd been here longer than me and who knew the ropes a little better. I wanted to talk to people who could see things from my point of view and who understood my points of reference. I live in what was formerly East Germany and there was simply not many Americans around for me to interact with or even randomly run across. After living here for a couple years I did meet one American lady who taught English at a language school and it was so refreshing to talk with someone who'd learned the German life and who could give me some tips.

Nine years ago blogs were virtually unheard of and what expat bulletin boards I saw felt cold and a bit unwelcoming. I had newbie questions and felt intimidated by these folks who had been living the expat life for years and years. I ended up having to learn a lot of things the hard way and I'm still learning.

But if there's a need, trust that eventually a clever person or two will come up with a solution. Now there's a website dedicated not just to expatriates but to expatriate women and what better name to give it than Expat Women? The creators, Andrea and Jill, seasons expats themselves, have created a site that's friendly and helpful and enlists the help of expat women from around the world. It brings together women from all across the globe - students and professionals and moms and retirees and singles and married women - and allows them to help each other and to get real answers to real questions - answers from women who have learned first hand how the expat life works.

I wonder how many women over the years hated their years living abroad because they felt isolated and lonely and felt as if no one understood them? I wonder how many could have had a completely different experience if a resource like Expat Women had been available to them? I think so highly of the concept of women helping women live the expat life that I've volunteered to be a mentor to other women who may be moving to the eastern part of Germany or even Germany in general so that I can help them get through the transition and so they can bloom where they're planted.

And so that they'll not be taken aback when they're charged for extra ketchup packets.

If you're new to living abroad, go check them out. And if you've been living the expat life for a while, consider making your valuable knowledge available to women who will find it priceless.

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Blogger christina said...

Whoo! Good for you for volunteering to be a mentor. Looks like there are only three of us in Germany so far, but I'm sure that will increase as word of the site gets out.

We didn't even have a computer until 1998 and there were NO other expats in my area as far as I knew, so from 1990 until then I was pretty much on my own when it came to Finding Stuff Out. A German husband's help only goes so far, as you well know. :-)

12:16 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Hey ladies, I'm there too. Saw it on Christina's blog and joined immediately. First thoughts were, should I be so presuming as to think myself capable of mentoring anyone? A few seconds later - heck, yeah! This suffering should be good for something! :)

2:11 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

Very good, Dixie. Well worth poking around there.
The challenge of shopping in a foreign country and trying to find those elusive items is what makes my

3:37 PM  
Blogger The Lone Beader said...

I'm planning a trip to Germany in the spring=:)

8:11 PM  
Blogger Dictator said...

lol I forgot about the extra ketchup :)

12:22 PM  
Blogger cncz said...

that would be from me, i hate blogger beta

12:22 PM  

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