According to Wikipedia, the term Military brat “describes people who spend their childhood or adolescence while a parent (or parents) serve full-time in the armed forces.”
I have lived in Germany for most of my life, but I feel like I have really only lived in Germany during the last two years working for a small German Internet company and hosting a weekly talent show at a local German night club.
Many foreigners think about living in Germany after studying an interesting university language course, visiting on a family vacation, discovering a foreign job opportunity, or even after seeing a movie with scenes of Germany’s beautiful castles and countryside.
My introduction to Germany was different. I first came to the country as an military brat when I was only two years old, far too young to appreciate Germany for its cool culture and rich history.
I did get the chance, however, to grow up in different parts of Germany, moving from military base to military base with my parents until I graduated high school and returned back to the USA. You would probably think that after having spent most of my life living in Germany, I would have had the perfect introduction to the country. Not exactly.
I never learned the German language. I never had a real chance to develop friendships with German kids living in my area. I never got to stay home from school on German holidays or have Christmas on the 24th of December like most of the kids in Germany. Why?
Growing up on an American military base in Germany is like living in a self-sufficient mini-USA. It was nice having everything you need in one place, but there was no real incentive to step outside of the base community and get to know the host country or it’s language. So why did I return to Germany?
During a winter recess from college in the USA, I visited my dad in Germany, who was still living there with the military. On this trip, I met a German girl, we started a relationship, and I continued a long-distance relationship with her until I graduated college. After graduation, I finally had my incentive to return to Germany to live. Love.
I had finished college, I was in love, plus Germany felt more like home than the USA. However, I was unprepared for a life in Germany, completely different from the life I previously lived as a military brat. I would be living in Germany independent from the U.S. military, and this new life brought new challenges.
When I returned to Germany at the age of 22, not only did I not know the language, but I also knew nothing about how to get a residence and working permit, finding a job, acquiring health insurance, or how to meet other essential needs for living.
Soon after I had returned to Germany, my relationship with my girlfriend had failed, and I was fortunate to be able to live with my father while I decided whether to stay in Germany or go back to the USA. Ultimately, I decided to stay and finally discover the country I had called home for most of my life. Finally, I felt like I was living in Germany.
Check back at the Young Germany blog regularly to read more about our new blogger Jesse’s life in Germany. Welcome Jesse!