Thursday, March 06, 2008

If I go there will be trouble...

Today I found out that there will be no new work contract for me after this one runs out at the end of this month. I knew this was likely going to happen, but the whole experience has still left a bad taste in my mouth for various reasons. The fifteen months at the job have been mostly good and I've learned a lot, but the throughout the whole time, the job was full of miscommunications that left me feeling like I was the idiot, one day after another. It started with a miscommunication, and has now ended with one - how appropriate. And, there's still another three weeks left for them to get in a few more jabs in at my dignity. Somehow I'm supposed to get it together enough to give a presentation next Tuesday to all of them, too.

In the meanwhile, my husband is stressing out to the point of being irritable and unhelpful as well. He's gone from, "Can I help with the laundry?" to "Why don't you just do (insert household chore I ask for help with here) yourself?" His fellowship will end later this year, also, so we are coming upon a point of important decision-making regarding our future plans. I've been encouraged by a couple of people at work, whatever their motivations for doing so might be, to apply for a PhD program here. It would mean three more years in Heidelberg. Though I am not eager to leave, the prospect of three more years here still somehow feels a bit constraining. I don't feel any sense of permanence here...but then, I've never felt that way about anywhere. I could really use the PhD and additional experience. Having a foreign master's isn't likely to get me a leg up anywhere if we move back to the US.

If I don't apply or don't get a position, I could be looking at unemployment for a while - and the door will be open to leave Heidelberg, either for another city in Germany, for another country, or for returning to the States.

We don't feel ready to leave Germany yet - we really like life here, and haven't yet done nearly the amount of European travel we wanted to do while here. But working here has been another story. There are definitely aspects that make it difficult. I'm sure language is a major player, but there are also some cultural differences that seem small at first, but end up huge after a while.

We especially don't feel ready to go back to the US. The big advantage would be jobs. We could work there with full confidence in the language and a good grasp on expectations and social environment. Language alone is such a huge advantage. Being near friends and family is also an advantage, but the chances are that even in the States, we might not end up very close to any of them anyway. But the economy is a point of concern. The differences in health insurance and government benefits, especially for those having children, is another huge one. The lack of decent vacation time. The sprawl and the difficulty in finding a place to live that's affordable and doesn't involve a huge commute. The lack of public transit. I do love Boston, but I remember feeling so suffocated there. Even if we'd had a car, it would have taken hours to get to a place that wasn't covered in suburbs. And we had no car, so we'd be festering inside the Boston/Cambridge city limits for weeks on end. And Boston is the city with GOOD public transit. Never mind that most place in the US have terrible systems, or don't have any at all. In short, we're nowhere near the point of romanticizing the US yet - wouldn't it be nice to stay here at least until we get to that phase, so that we can look forward to going back?

Sadly, in the end, work usually wins out over quality of life. It's only one aspect of a complete life, but it's where the money is and in the end, I'm sure that work will eventually lead us back to the States. We just don't know how soon.


  1. oh my...
    your post sums up everything about my job experience snce arriving here last summer.
    I hate that I feel time is moving too fast, and with respect to the DODDS system, is SO totally not on my side.
    We want to stay here longer than the 3 years we've been guaranteed, and have little desire to return to that suffocating feeling that the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia creates. And we love Virginia-we really do...
    I'm keeping my fingers crossed for positive resolution-and maybe-less hostile laundry help! :)

    Hang in there, keep blogging, and know that someone else in Heidelberg is feeling "it" too.

  2. Look at it as an opportunity to do something different - whatever that might be. It's good that you are still at that stage of life when getting a doctorate is a realistic option. Just because it's from a German uni doesn't make it less valuable - au contraire, some places will see it as something that separates you from the crowd.

  3. wow, big dilemna. Doesn't your uni have a corresponding one in the US that offers a degree? Or are there only a few in Europe that do that?

    Whatever you decide, I wish you guys all the best (and if you do decide to go back to the US, we should arrange a Bon-Voyage-Mini-Meet-Up.

  4. Eh!?!? I'd like to think I would go back to NYC in a heartbeat (since I would probably do it for three times the money), but I kind of like six weeks of vacation and buzzing around Europe for the weekend. I figured I would stay around DEU for one more gig, and then if I really must go on working it would by necessity be back in the US.

    Stay for a while and enjoy yourself while you are young enough to tough out the locals and their torments ;~)

  5. We all miss you here in the States- but stay as long as you can- when you finally do settle in the 'burbs with the little ones you will have great memories. Besides we are just getting our passports!!!
    dnc & bpc

  6. The only good thing there is to say about moving back to the States right now is that the housing market is becoming more favorable for buyers. But whatever happens to the economy there will also affect what happens in Germany as far as jobs go. You are facing the dilemma of globe trotters everywhere... not home here nor there.

    My advice - don't wait until retirement to see the world and enjoy this time seeing Europe. When you're old, your health may impair you from traveling.

  7. Come to Dresden! It's cheaper here... hubby can clearly continue his work, and there's a plethora of educational opportunities.

  8. Wow! So many emotions all wrapped into one decision. I can hardly imagine.

    May you have peace and a clear mind amidst the turbulence.

  9. I hear you sister. That decision of whether to stay in Europe or go back to the States is a tough one. Sometimes I like to think I'd go back in a heartbeat, but the truth is that I no longer think I'm marketable back there. It's tough to stay here though because you're right, the cultural differences end up being a huge deal. The older I get, the less I am willing to put up with certain things.

    I hope you come to a decision you're happy with. You never know, maybe you'll end up somewhere totally unexpected!

  10. Oh, the time of not knowing. I've got my fingers crossed for stay in Germany/Europe :)

  11. Thanks everybody for your thoughtful and helpful comments! We'll see how things unfold in the next few months....


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