On Cross-Cultural (and Continent) Friendships

I met my German friend in Spanish class when I was fourteen, the September of my freshman year of high school. After spending the first 9 years of my schooling at a small, private Catholic school where the majority of the 50 students in my eighth grade class had shared those 9 years with me, starting off at a large public high school was intimidating, especially for an introvert like me. The first semester of high school, I clung to a fellow introvert and friend from my parochial school–we were essentially attached at the hip. With the exception of my German friend, who was my first new high school friend, it wasn’t until second semester when I started to expand my horizons and develop more friendships.  My German friend and I got to know each other and spent a lot of time with each other in between classes. Unfortunately, her U.S. visa was only valid for three months rather than the typical year that high school exchange students spend abroad, and she was back to Germany in December.

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Feeling questionable about posting this photo on WordPress, as it was taken at the tail end of my awkward years, but here it is: A German and American in 2007

We managed to keep in touch in spite of what we both viewed as her premature departure from the U.S. This was before I had a Facebook (that came later on during my Freshman year, and we did connect there eventually), but we e-mailed each other and had each other’s street addresses. We both had (and still have) an affinity for letter writing, and we would send letters and postcards to each other. She sent me multiple postcards from her travels around Europe, and once a big box of German Chocolates. When I started college, I sent her a pair of mittens with my university’s logo emblazoned on them. We even had an opportunity to see each other, albeit briefly, when I toured Germany with my high school band in 2011.

In college, we lost touch, as sometimes happens. Yet, we we’re still connected on Facebook.

— — — —

Last year, my brother happened to move to her hometown in Germany for an internship. When my family decided to visit him last summer, the perfect opportunity to reach out to her surfaced. After all, I couldn’t travel to her hometown without trying to see her. She was delighted at the prospect of meeting me on her home turf, and we made plans. On a day that my family took a day trip to a site I had already seen on my high school trip to Germany, I took the opportunity to spend the day with her. The last time we had seen each other was in 2011, and it was so special to reunite. She took me around and showed me sites off the beaten path, and I marveled at being able to view the places she had grown up around through her eyes.

Since then, we’ve managed to keep in touch more frequently. When she brought up the possibility of traveling to the U.S. over her spring holiday, I jumped at the opportunity to join her. We hadn’t been in the U.S. together since she left Minnesota in 2007, and if she was coming over, this was the perfect opportunity to make plans together. Because I was still substitute teaching in May when she was planning to visit, we opted to stay closer to my home for this trip. She had also never been to the East Coast, so this was a perfect opportunity for her to see a lot of new places. We met in Baltimore and spent the weekend there, came back to DC for the week so I could get some subbing in, and headed to New York City for a long weekend.

What a joy it was to explore the East Coast with her. We had a wonderful time in each place. I hadn’t been to Baltimore in years, but wasn’t expecting much from it–it was more a convenient place to meet when she flew into Baltimore-Washington International Airport than anything. We ended up both being delightfully surprised by Baltimore. Our AirBnb host was phenomenal with giving out insider tips, and we had a lot of fun exploring it. Coming back to DC was such a treat, too–I love showing people around my adopted city, and showing her around was nothing short of fantastic. Furthermore, I had never been to New York City before–the city was new to both of us, and we revelled in doing as many touristy things as possible in our short time there. We had two full days there, which is NOT enough time to see all of New York. We made the most of the time we had, though, including a full set of touristy selfies on the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

I remain forever grateful to have such a wonderful cross-cultural friendship. I learn something new every time I’m with her, and I love expanding my sometimes unintentionally Americentric perspective with her.

She expressed to me that one of her biggest regrets was not staying a full year in Minnesota back in 2007. While it would have been so wonderful to spend more time together back then, something pretty incredible grew out of the three months we spent in Spanish class as it is.

Living on different continents certainly makes seeing each other more difficult, but it also makes it more meaningful. I cherish those moments with my German friend all the more, because I know they’re not my everyday. Despite that, we do hope to make our visits to each other and travels with each other a bit more frequent than we have in the past decade. I’m looking forward to more travels and adventures together down the road. Cheers to friendships that span the globe, and to the new perspectives and experiences that come with them.

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6 Replies to “On Cross-Cultural (and Continent) Friendships”

  1. Wow, Britta, how great to not only make a friend in high school who was only there a short time, but to be able to visit and reconnect years later in person! I too had a high school friend from Germany my senior year, she was a tall redhead like me–we even hung out on the track team together! She was so much more mature and wise than the average high school student (this was in Southern California in 1977). We did not have FB in those days (heck we barely had computers) so we eventually lost touch even though we both wrote for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quie special. I’m thankful social media has allowed me to keep up our friendship with such ease! That’s special that you were able to keep up your friendship with your German friend for a little bit. I love that exchange programs allow us to meet people from across the globe at relatively young ages. Even if you eventually lose contact, there’s still so much to learn in a friendship like that! Being a youth in Post WWII Germany must have been a lot to grapple with, so perhaps her maturity and wisdom came from growing up in that atomsphere. Who knows! It’s still cool you had that friendship!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful story! When I was following the IG updates of your travels, I had no idea of the backstory behind it. I am delighted you could reconnect and have such an enjoyable time together. To many more happy times.

    PS. That coming of age photograph is just awesome! I don’t know if I would have the guts to put one of my own on my blog, but yours is just adorable!

    Like

    1. I’m glad you were able to read the backstory, Lisa! I’m glad you enjoyed reading about it. To many more happy times, indeed!

      p.s. “Adorable” is not the word I’d use to describe my fourteen year old self, but thanks for the compliment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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