Fucking hell, it’s like I’m 18 again

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Anyone out there who seriously can wax poetic and dream about how great life is as a teenager, bend over and spread those cheeks, here comes my boot headed for your ass because that’s bullshit. Who really would turn back the clock to their teens? NO ONE in their right mind wants to return to a time when they constantly make mistakes, never know enough about anything and are always dependant upon someone else giving them permission to do things.

I HATED being 18 the first time. I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when I turned 20. Armed with my fake ID I was finally over the major hurdles governing young people’s behavior. I voted, drove, drank and did (*ahem*) what I wanted with whomever I pleased. I paid my own bills and answered to myself.

Little did I know that when – years later – I moved to Germany I would not only be leaving my country but surrendering all those little battles won along the way to adulthood.

Here I am – again – at square one. Except for the drinking. That I could have started here at 14 but it’s small consolation and I digress.

Voting: Technically I still vote absentee but I’ve given carte blanche to my parents on that one since they, not I, have to live with the consequences. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the right to vote here and I haven’t been so clueless and confused about the political system since the 5th grade when the presidential race felt more like a football game with lame halftime shows.

I have no complaints about the drinking and the sex (and the food here’s good too). What I still don’t have yet is the feeling that I have regained the status of independent adulthood that I relinquished when I turned in the keys to my last apartment and got on that plane there years ago.

A significant step towards that was the language, and I’m getting there, but my ‘fluency’ I get complimented on everywhere is nothing close to that. I get by and people get my drift most often but I cringe every time I see the realization cross the listener’s face when they see that I’m foreign. The better my accent, the worse that face gets. I’ve found myself purposely talking like an American to lower people’s expectations before they have a chance to be too disappointed. I start out good until the tenses get complicated and then it all crumbles and out pours the dulcet tones of ignorance:

(In German) “Hello, I need just a moment of your time if you don’t mind. Could you be ever so kind as to tell me… um…train…if… um… snow…long wait?”

(In German) “Good evening, I’d like to reserve a table for four at 8pm Friday night under the name of Megan. If possible… me… want… table… out window (?)”

I think ya’ll get the drift. Strong beginning that ends in disaster. Whether or not I like it, in Germany I am 18 again.

Have a bill I need to pay? A bureaucratic question I need answered? Problems with my visa? Need a credit card in Germany? A doctor’s appointment? All these roads lead to Oliver who makes the calls and writes the letters for me. Who’s my daddy? Clearly he’s got that title and is firmly in the driver’s seat.

Driving. A particularly sore point at the moment.

A coworker today told me that Germany has more road signs than any other country on the planet and the information they try to communicate is actually more than the human mind can process at one go. This is little consolation (but sheds some light on why roadside advertising is illegal).

People, there are rules about driving here that you never dreamed of in your wildest.

I haven’t been legal to drive here for about two years now. After six months all Californians lose their privileges, but if you’re from Arizona you can just trade in your AZ license for a deutsche, no problems. Someone explain the logic behind that.

So ok, Megan stop whining and get a license.

Easy for you to think but do you know what that costs and what’s involved? I’ve dealt with sample study tests written in pigeon English; driving lessons with a guy who speaks and understands no English, forcing me to think and translate from German to English while learning the rules of driving on a country road where five roads intersect and what to do when behind a tractor. All this at a driving school that is an hour outside of Munich and costs the same as an off-season ticket to San Francisco (with tax).

*sigh*

Today I left work at 10 and headed to the country to take my driving test. Just like my German I started out strong until we encountered something for which I had not been prepared for and would NEVER have to do if I lived in North America and it all went to shit from there.

The German word for failure is very similar to the word for diarrhea. I am feeling so very very shitty and so very 18 right now.

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4 responses to “Fucking hell, it’s like I’m 18 again

  1. Your writing is hilarious … and it scares me ****less !! We leave for Germany tomorrow morning and no, I don’t have a friendly state driver’s license, nor do I speak German yet and I agree – 18 was hell and here we go again!

  2. You’re not alone! I’m 42, have lived in Germany for over 15 years and STILL feel like I’m 18 most of the time.

    Did they make you drive on a roundabout? I hate those.

  3. Actually it was a debateable ‘failure’ to yield to the right in a residential area. Back home we call that a ‘California stop’, here they call it failing your driving test.

    But everyone is telling me that foriegners are automatically failed the first time to make them ‘pay dues’. It may not be so drastic but Germans consider all drivers from abroad to be barbarians and may feel we’ve earned a hard time.

    If ONLY I had bought a cheap flight to Arizona and had a license issued. A coworker did just that and flew straight to Germany with it and is a happy legal driver.

  4. In conversation just yesterday, the theoretical topic came up of ‘if you could be any age, what age would you be?’ and one in the group said ’18’. It was all I could do. You couldn’t pay me enough. Then again, another said ‘9 months’, and as my son is just out recently out of that phase, I have to admit that he has a pretty cushy ride. But be 18 again? Fuh.