Some people say that the language of love is universal. But what happens when two people from different countries fall in love? On Heartbeats bi-national couples tell their stories.
Nadia had already immigrated to the United States from Germany when she met her American husband Ted. They now live together in the United States, where Nadia penned the cookbook Spoonfuls of Germany. On her blog of the same name, she shares recipes and the stories behind some of Germany’s favorite cuisine.
Two and a half years after I immigrated to the United States from my native Germany, I met Ted at a book fair in Chicago. A year later to the day we were married. I left New York City to join Ted in rural Pennsylvania, where he lived with his two children, 8 and 10 at the time. Their mother had died when they were very young and I adopted them.
To introduce my new family to my heritage I started cooking the dishes I loved as a child. For more than a decade I have cooked my way through Germany’s cuisine for my book and then blog Spoonfuls of Germany. And Ted, being my photographer and taster, has learned a great deal about Germany through its food. Ted also points out that almost all of his tools and yard equipment are from Germany (and he always asks for a Porsche for his birthday – hasn’t happened).
We live in Pennsylvania Dutch country (which derives its name from Dutch as in “Deutsch”) where many people trace their ancestry back to Germany. With its rolling hills, the forest alternating with farm fields, the landscape dotted with impeccably kept farms, it looks like Germany too. I often shake my head over the fact that I ended up in an area like this because multiculturalism was one of the reasons why I came to America.
So I do not exactly live in the American melting pot environment I had imagined and wished for. However, after being married for 14 years, I came to the conclusion that what really matters is that the person you live with has an open mind for your culture and background. And, having lived in other countries and being a citizen of the world, Ted definitely qualifies. The only occasional test to his tolerance is when my German sense of order gets a bit overboard. Americans are definitely more easy-going than Germans.
Nadia had already lived in the United States for a couple of years when we met so she did not really experience a culture shock. The culture shock occurred more on my end when I realized that you can fold laundry in a way that it looks ironed.
We speak English with each other. There was no point in me learning German as Nadia speaks English so well. I know some Yiddish though, and when Nadia referred to someone as a “Schmuddel” the other day, I fully understood. Communication lapses are rare between us but I am aware that puns are often lost on me when we watch German movies together, as I depend on the English subtitles. The TV series Heimat and the movie Good-bye Lenin by the way are my favorites.
It is the way we do little things that gives away how our native countries have shaped us differently. On hot summer days we fill a plastic kiddie pool with water for our dogs. In the evening I usually dump it onto the lawn whereas Nadia always scoops out the water, watering can by watering can, and walks around pouring the water into the flower beds. We also have one of those magic collapsible clotheslines from Germany called “laundry spider” (Wäschespinne). Nadia hangs up laundry even on chilly days when I throw it in the dryer without thinking. I admire the way Germans are generally so much more mindful of resources than most Americans, and I like it when I see how Nadia’s German way of doing certain things has rubbed off on our children.