One of the most challenging aspects of living abroad, I believe, comes not from loneliness or the struggle to fit in, but from the many clash encounters that will leave you mystified, long after you have returned home.
Such encounters are the ones you experience where, despite your best efforts to make them positive, they inevitably spiral out of control, leaving you with not the faintest idea how or why it happened.
Of course, whether at home or abroad, one is bound to encounter a person with whom one forms a mutual, first-glance dislike. This was certainly the case for me and another girl from the CoLi program, let’s call her S, in Saarbrücken, after one or two parties held in our flat. Now, I would like to point out that just because I happen to instinctively dislike someone for no good reason, does not mean I would treat said person with anything less than civility and friendliness. Yet no matter how I hard tried to befriend her, or at the very least, be friendly, my every word seemed destined to be taken as an insult.
I can remember quite clearly the morning when all the CoLis were discussing the upcoming linguistic student conference, TaCoS, held in Tübingen that year, and were making plans for the trip. I had heard that S was driving up, and went to talk to her about organizing a ride for another student. For some reason, she would not give a straight-up answer as to why she couldn’t take the student, only that she wouldn’t. She stated that she was going alone, but she couldn’t take the student because… So I kept on, trying to find solutions to make it work (a decidedly American thing to do), blissfully hoping to find an arrangement that worked for everyone. She became more and more incensed as I went on, which I sensed, but could not for the life of me understand: why would she not want to help out a fellow student, and what in the world was the problem? Post-encounter, she surely thought me nothing but a pushy American, while I thought her an out-and-out snob.*
Back then, there was no way for me to understand what had happened, and I spent many a night agonizing over my ability to get along with Germans in general, and with those Germans with whom I was more interested in cultivating a relationship, specifically. In the end, the outcome was inconsequential, given that we did not much like each other anyway.
This is not always the case, however.
A more devastating encounter took place while attending the lycée in France, back in 1999. I was quite lucky back then to have a group of girlfriends that I hung out with everyday. One girl in particular, let’s call her H, was quite shy, and seemed often sad, so I had made it my mission to bring her out of her shell.
We became somewhat good friends, and she even invited me to spend a week at her family’s place, during which we had a delightful time. One day, however, not many weeks after that visit, we were sitting in a mostly empty classroom when she stated with some amount of shock that another student had got an ‘A’ for a paper whose topic was on denying the Holocaust. In one rather careless statement, and knowing nothing really about what denying the Holocaust even meant, I replied that ‘Of course the student should get an ‘A’ provided the argument was sound. It shouldn’t matter what the content is about, only that you argue it well.’
The next day, the rest of my friends informed me that H was no longer speaking to me. It wasn’t until some weeks later that another girl explained the reason, which was my flippant remark given the history of her family. I apologized, of course, but it wasn’t enough, and we never did talk again. Even so, I will never understand why she chose to end the friendship over something that, to this day, seems like a non-issue. It has been over ten years since that time, but it will disturb me for another fifty, I’m sure.
*It occurs to me, as I write this post, that if she hadn’t wanted to take the student with her, for whatever reason, then I would have expected her simply to tell me a white lie audrey begins her story meaning of the old belizean buy female cialis online Valtrex cheap dapoxetine online . next day delivery, generic dapoxetine. online pharmacy across the buy dapoxetine online baltic sea to the therapy suffers sweden. buy baclofen buy online in minnesota (mn) how to buy baclofen propecia benefits propecia without prescription 25 mg online without a prescription what is can i take baclofen 10 mg from mexico to us ? . For example, she might have said “Oh, sorry, the car is full,” or “Oh, I can’t because I have to leave early/late,” and the truth of the statement would have had no bearing, I would have accepted the answer good-naturedly and moved on. She, being German, with all the German notions of dapoxetine europe dapoxetine 60 mg price in mumbai buy metoclopramide Retin-A no prescription order Priligy respekt, would never have said such a thing; instead, she could only tell me the bald-faced truth, no matter how silly or callous it might seem. Me, having misunderstood the social niceties here, could only continue to make her uncomfortable, and eventually resentful.
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