My name is Heather Saunders. I’m from Philadelphia. All my life, I’ve wanted not just to travel, but to live in other countries, learn languages and experience other cultures. My parents came to the United States from England, so I grew up with two cultures – more different than they might seem at first glance!
In the early 1980s, I studied Chinese at college and was among the first American undergrads to spend a summer at a university in Beijing. Language study programs in West Germany, West Berlin (before reunification) and back in Beijing followed. I even lived in Hong Kong during the winter and spring of 1988-89, when student protests in Beijing grabbed the headlines.
In 1992, after grad school in the United States, I got the opportunity to move from New Jersey to Frankfurt, Germany, with my job. I was a junior consultant working for a big accounting firm, and it seemed like my big chance. My new boss was worried I’d get homesick and want to bail out after a few months, but I promised him I’d stay for at least two years.
I ended up staying in Germany for 20 years. Most of my professional career, most of my married life, the births of my 4 children and most of my parenting experience all took place there. I became fully bilingual, formed many wonderful friendships, and my family and I were integrated and active in our community.
My (American) husband’s career brought us back to the US in 2012. We settled in the Philadelphia area – the same region where I’d grown up. Our new home has proven to be a lovely, welcoming community. The kids adjusted well, and the proximity to family has enriched our lives greatly.
So, why was I reluctant? When we left Germany, my international adventure came to an end. I gave up my job, my dream house, friends and community. After 20 years, Germany had become my home, and I miss it every day.
But as I try to find my place in my new home and to maintain connections to Europe, bouncing in my mind and in my correspondence between at least two cultures, I get into conversations that are sometimes frustrating, often humorous, and occasionally very, very revealing. Friends often say, “You should write about this!” And that’s how this blog was born.