Dixie Peach: Seasonal funk

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Seasonal funk

It has arrived. My annual bout of late-winter homesickness. It's not that there's anything about home in the late winter that makes me homesick - instead I believe it's normal late-winter ennui that tends to make me think more about home and therefore lends itself to a wave of homesickness.

Over the years my homesickness has evolved from being the standard "I miss my family!" stuff to something a little less easy to pin down. I don't just miss my family and friends and my hometown but I miss being where virtually everything was familiar to me. Not just the landscape but the culture and the customs. It's as if everyone I know is over there having a conversation and I'm over here and I miss out. I want to be able to keep up too!

Not terribly long after I moved to Germany, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" came on TV in the US. I used to think that I could kick ass if I could be a contestant but I was here and missing out. Now I think that if I went on that show (They don't even still show it, do they? I don't know because I'm not there to know!), I'd be terrible at it because any question dealing with American culture from the last eight years would be lost on me because I wasn't there to learn it. And enhancing this is the idea that if I went on the same show in Germany (where it is still shown), I would get tripped up on the first five questions because so many of them deal with sayings or children's songs or other little tidbits of German culture that I don't know because I didn't grow up here.

When I go back to the US for a visit I have a sort of culture shock. Things are familiar but somehow changed. I no longer recongize automobiles on sight (and they all seem impossibly enormous). When I go to the grocery store there are products that I don't know and the ones I do know have different labels. The TV is filled with shows I've never heard of and I don't recognize the face of the person reading the news. I forget what all-you-can-eat buffets are about and if someone hands me a Big Gulp to drink from it feels like drinking from a bucket.

I once read a novel where one of the characters is from Germany and lives in the US. She laments to a confidant that she feels out of place in America and has been gone so long from Germany that she feels out of place there as well. The confidant suggests that instead of feeling as if she has no real home anywhere to feel as if she has two homelands and she's at home no matter in which country she is. I thought a long time about that and most of the time it is how I feel. For the most part I feel fairly comfortable with where I'm at but it's when I'm longing for my other home I feel out of sorts.

Well...I imagine it's nothing that a peanut butter, banana and mayonnaise sandwich couldn't remedy.


Blogger Mr. Fabulous said...

Nice sandwich. Elvis would be proud.

"Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire" is still on, but it's a daytime gameshow hosted by Meredith Vierra now.

3:13 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm feeling that same funk. Nothing is pleasing me right now and I really can't explain it. I've got travelidous and I'm not going to be out of town for a while. I wouldn't know the answers either!

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awww! You're not really missing anything. Everything on TV is crap. All the new and improved products that have new labels are exactly the same.

Uh, but I do drink out of buckets. It's not enough if it's less than 32 oz.! LOL! But that's only water or tea.

Big American hugs to ya, Dixie!

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

goodness dix. enough with the pb, b, and mayo love. you're grossing us northern americans out over here.

7:27 AM  
Blogger christina said...

I so know what you mean about feeling like everything is kind of passing you by. I miss all the things I left behind - nothing specific, just everything in general.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh P-SHAW people, pull it together!

We are the elite, the ones in the know! We look at life from many angles and are privileged to do so. CNN can't fool us anymore. We are giants who span two continents. We've seen things people over there only dream about, and speak our own secret expat language, laughing exclusively behind our hands about things they'd never understand.

We are lucky and happy and... and... we really, desperately miss Campbell's Chunky New England Clam Chowder, but we suck it up and deal, because what we gave up is more than compensated for in what we gained.
Damn it, I'm out of peanut butter.

10:09 AM  
Blogger leon's life said...

I can relate to the part about feeling foreign in your home country and not totally at home in you chosen country either. I have lived out of the UK for 19 years and here in France for the last 14 years and this doesn’t change as time goes by.

I guess when you decide to live in a country other than where you grew up you need to learn to be adaptable to survive. If you keep going on “but it’s not like this where I grew up ....” your just going to make yourself miserable.

You need to be optimistic and have a good sense of humour to survive.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donno what to say, because when the homesickness creeps up on me, I generally just book a flight home sometime in the near future.

I usually get homesick over summer because I start going crazy without cicadas and heat lightning and sweet tea. I expect I'll go over there sometime in July/August. I realise that you can't travel as easily, so I know it must be a lot harder for you.

Also, I tend to curl up and read a book that captures how I grew up. These days, that book is Donna Tartt's "The Little Friend". That way I can go and feel at home for a little while and come back out and be able to deal with things a little bit better.

Oh, and find something you REALLY HATE about back home and get proper angry about it. That helps, too. Makes one remember that the blue coconut slushes and frito chili pies from Sonic just ain't worth it. No, really...

Anyway, I don't know why I'm giving you advice, when you have had to deal with this a lot longer and much more severely than I have. So I think that next time I get homesick, I'll just have to make one of them there banana sammiches.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Kirsti said...

Yeah, I think I'm beginning to experience some of that. Despite trying very hard to keep my identity as "British", so much has changed and I've lost contact with so many people when I go back there, it's not quite the same as when London was "my" town, and i had "my" places to go and hang out and so on.

Obviously I need to find my equivalent of that sandwich...

9:24 PM  
Blogger Marshamlow said...

I know what you mean. When I get into that funk I try to imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't decided to leave the US. That usually snaps me out of it. Or I go and discover something about where I am, a new favorite restaurant, a new museum, a new fabulous store with great purses.

Since I was away from the US on Sept. 11, 2001 and having a small child at home we chose not to watch any American TV, since then I have felt a bit off when talking to my family and friends. Like I am no longer one of them.

12:22 AM  
Blogger Dixie said...

It's the hazard of being an expat I suppose.

I mostly just go with the flow and in the summer when it's great out and I'm doing lots of stuff I don't feel so out of place or even terribly homesick. My sister is coming to visit me in three months and during that time I'll be in full German mode where I'm feeling super familiar with everything because she's unfamiliar with everything.

Strangely, when I'm back in Mississippi I often will say "When I get back home I will..." and I'm meaning Germany.

Lisa got pretty much the right idea. It's good to forge ahead and feel extra special because we've gotten the chance to see the world in a way that you can't do if you're just seeing it as a tourist.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Dixie said...

By the way...Candace, I'm a-gonna thump you for mentioning Sonic! I could live there!

12:34 AM  
Blogger ninjapoodles said...

What a poignant post. But would that be *mayonnaise,* or Miracle Whip? Just to clarify.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

Belinda, only Hellmann's touches my lips!

10:07 PM  

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