International Burnout?

April 13, 2008

Ok, so a few people wrote me about my dreary blog entry below. I’ll address their questions here:

Yes, I felt like this the last time I was in Germany, too. I always go through the different stages of cultural adjustment, as illustrated by the red curve below. But this year, i never got as excited to be here, and I have stayed in the unhappy zone a little too long.

I think there are several reasons for this:

1) I’m not in a structured program this time. Last time I lived in Germany, I was with 60 other young Americans. We took language classes together for two months. We hung out, plus I got to meet their friends and host families. This year, I had a three-day orientation with four other journalists, who are all stationed in the east. There are other Fulbrighters in Germany, but I never really got to know them.

2) I’m not single anymore. In all honesty, I’ve always made friends with guys more easily when traveling, probably due to the mutual flirtation factor. Through them, I would meet their friends and other women my age. Now that I’m in a relationship, I’m less likely to ask guys to do things, and they’re less likely to invite me as well. And I think having someone at home makes me miss it all that much more.

3) International burnout. I’ve never heard of this term before, but a professor of mine who spent a lot of time working abroad suggested that I might be suffering from it. I think he may be right.

I have gone abroad for a month or more every year since I turned 18. The longest were a year in Germany, a semester in Senegal, two summers in France and a summer in Germany. In between those trips, I usually moved once a year to a new apartment with new roommates, new job, and sometimes a new city and a new state. Basically, I’ve been living out of backpacks and boxes for the last ten years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a great time seeing the world, but I think I’m ready for some non-disposable furniture and a place I can put some roots down.

So, maybe the problem is not Germany. Maybe the problem is that I’m entering a different stage of my life where I want different things. I do think that there are real cultural differences in how the two cultures approach friendship. But maybe I’m tired of adjusting.

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