How Germany changed me from a Republican to a Democrat

by Christina Geyer on March 19, 2010 · 49 comments

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Before I moved to Germany in May 2002, I was a lifelong Republican.  I came from a family of political conservatives.  I participated in Young Republican activities in high school and college.  As soon as I turned 18, I registered as a member of the Republican Party of Virginia.  I voted for Bob Dole over Clinton in the 1996 US Presidential election.  I voted for George Bush over Al Gore in the 2000 election.  But by 2004, I had left the Republican party, registered as independent, and began my journey towards becoming an extreme left wing liberal (at least by US standards), or as one Facebook quiz put my political views, “Practically in Marx’s backyard.”  How did this happen?

First, I should probably start by saying I wasn’t the “stereotypical” Republican, many Republicans are, in fact, not “stereotypical”, to be fair.  My beliefs mainly boiled down to “Less Federal Government is Better.”  I thought most government belonged on a local level and the federal government should only be responsible for things that absolutely had to be done on a national level, like safety standards and the military.

I thought local jurisdictions could better decide how money needed to be distributed and would have better insight into the unique problems they faced.  I felt taxes should mostly be local.  As a resident of rich northern Virginia, I resented seeing the beautiful, wide roads in Richmond paid for by my parent’s and neighbors taxes, while the northern Virginia roads were (and still are) woefully inadequate.

However, I was also socially liberal.  I believed in gay rights, gay marriage, and was pro-choice.  I was also pro-gun rights.  If you wanted to have a gun, as long as you didn’t use it to commit crimes, you should be allowed to.  I thought the government had no business interfering in the private lives of its citizens.  This was part of the whole, smaller, less intrusive federal government idea.

I disagreed with government-sponsored social programs to support the poor, mainly because I thought they just threw money at the issue without looking at the root problems.   While I wanted to end welfare and medicaid type programs, I also thought every American had a personal responsibility to look after the less fortunate.  I felt Americans should donate what they could (not just what they wanted to) to well-run local, national, and international charities.  This included donating time.  I participated in countless fundraisers in high school and tutored underprivileged children.  I helped collect food and deliver Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents to poor families in the area.  In college, I joined a service fraternity, APO, where I regularly volunteered around 300 hours a year of community service.

I had plenty of liberal friends in college, but I stood firm in my beliefs, I was not to be swayed.  So what happened?  How did Germany change all that?

When I moved to Germany, I found a job with a company located in one of the poorer, predominantly Turkish sections of Berlin.  I wanted to get an apartment in the neighborhood, since rents were super low and we could get a nice apartment then, but my husband refused to even consider it.  He thought it wasn’t safe.  By American standards, it was not in any way a dangerous neighborhood.

In Richmond, while in my freshman year in college, a corner a block from my dorm was said to be the spot with the most drive-by shootings in the United States the previous year.  We’d dare each other to stand on the corner for five minutes at a time.  Later, I lived in the nearby Oregon Hill neighborhood, where unemployment was sky high and alcoholism and social problems were rampant.  Hearing gun shots wasn’t unusual and we had homeless living behind our house.  If I left the math department after dark, I would call campus security to drive me the five blocks home.  Berlin-Wedding seemed like a paradise in comparison.

We lived in Berlin-Mitte, the center of Berlin, and I felt completely safe walking around Berlin, alone, at 3am.

I think that’s how it all started.  I realized the strict gun control and social programs of Germany were the reason for the safe streets.  I also, from the beginning, saw through all the WMD crap the Bush administration was feeding the public to get Americans to support the invasion of Iraq.  I knew they just wanted to invade Iraq, and out of the three “Axis of Evil” countries, Iraq would be the easiest to invade and was, in fact, the least likely of the three to actually be a threat.  This soured me to the Bush administration and helped me choose to vote for Kerry in 2004.

In Potsdam, we lived in a neighborhood located next to a large government housing complex.  I ended up joining a large dog walking group made up entirely of unemployed, welfare recipients.  They were the ones who had the time to take their dogs on a two hour walk every day through the local woods.  While the upper-middle class Germans in our neighborhood looked down on me (for being foreign) and occasionally gave me a hard time, my dog walking buddies and their friends were completely accepting.

I saw they weren’t just sitting on their butts collecting a check.  Their children were studying hard, in college, some were doctors, another an engineer.  They just had the bad luck of having been residents of the former East Germany and didn’t have up-to-date skills to allow them to find a job in the new Germany.  The social system was working for their families.  Their children were or would soon be highly contributing members of society.  Sure, there were families where the children were not doing as well, but I didn’t see that as a failure of the system, more just the nature of human beings.  I saw that the hard-working, down-on-their-luck people should not be penalized because of a few people who were happy to take advantage of the system.

All my arguments against social programs were defeated.  I saw that government programs could be successful on a federal level.  Maybe they aren’t all successful in the US, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up on them.  I hear Americans say all the time, “Well, the idea is great, but our government is too corrupt to implement it.”  Okay, so we should just give up and not try?  What about trying to have the social systems and fighting the corruption instead of just accepting it as an inevitable  part of the system?

I also felt that the free market would correct problems, so deregulation of industries was needed.  However, as I got older and time went by, I realized that leaving problems to be solved by the free market assumes that consumers force corporations to comply to certain ethical standards or that the stockholders and board members make choices based not solely on profits, but on moral values as well.  Unfortunately, the bottom line seems to win out most of the time.  The majority of consumers want the best products and services for the cheapest prices, so of course jobs need to leave the US to find a cheaper workforce elsewhere.  Stockholders want high profits.  It’s not enough to make A profit every year, a company needs to make larger and larger profits.  In order to achieve lower prices and higher profits, corners need to be cut somewhere.  This has proven, to me, over time to not usually be in favor of the American public.  I guess this part wasn’t affected by move to Germany, however.

Taxes are higher here, but I don’t see anyone suffering under too high taxes.  Plus I don’t think taxes are really that much higher when you factor in the cost of health insurance in the US and the cost of college tuition there (college tuition is paid for by taxes here, students only pay fees).

So that’s where I stand now.  I am fully behind implementing a strong social system in the US, and I think it can be done.  We just need to cut a LOT of the fat in government.  I like the idea of candidates getting tax money for campaigning and cutting out donations by corporations, interest groups, and individuals completely.  I want earmark reform.  I think these things would clean up a lot of unneeded spending and give America the ability to pay down the debt AND have strong social programs that support the needy.

Has living or traveling abroad changed any of your political beliefs?  (I’m a little curious to see if any of my German or European readers have become more conservative upon traveling to the US too!)

  • http://www.piecesofmymind.com Maria

    Great post Christina!
    .-= Maria´s last blog ..Friday Feature: Peltor Earmuffs =-.

  • Michele J

    I can totally relate to this. However, I should apparently write the counterpart post how Germany changed me from a bleeding-heart liberal to something… well, slightly more conservative. Still left by American standards but probably center-right in DE. I wonder if Europe generally has a centering effect on both sides – we probably meet somewhere in the middle now :)

  • http://www.elmada.com/ tqe | Adam

    Interesting–I read this post before I went for a long walk this afternoon and I have to confess that I was already pretty far left before I arrived in Europe and I think I’m now even further left. I’m in favor of hiking (US) gas taxes to the point where it costs $4 or $5 a gallon so that (a) roads can be maintained and (b) driving is discouraged. I’m in favor of increasing income taxes because I sure pay a lot here, but the government also provides a lot of high quality services. I am more and more irritated with voices in the US that whine about being over taxed… they’re not. They’re undertaxed.

    I think I’m ranting now…
    .-= tqe | Adam´s last blog ..General John Sheehan is an ignorant fool. =-.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @maria: Thanks :)

    @michele: Wow, interesting. I always thought living in Germany would always move people left, I never thought it would move them right. Thanks for that insight. But while I would now be considered extremely left in the US, Rainer laughs if I call myself liberal. He says I am nowhere near a liberal by German standards.

    @adam: I agree with everything you said. In fact, a few years back northern Virginia voted on raising their sales tax from 4.5% to a whopping 5%, with the increase in revenue going to fund roads and public transportation. People were up in arms. It got me so angry. I voted for the hike but it failed. That was not that long after Germany raised its sales tax from 16% to 19%, and while Germans were not enthusiastic about it, they accepted it. Okay, I better stop before I start ranting 😉

  • sherah

    Wow, this is a great post. I can really identify with it. I was never really swaying toward a political party when I was in the States. My parents were Republicans, one still is and the other voted for Obama in the last election. I never looked into matters too much and didn’t form more opinions about social matters until I moved overseas. I felt that I “should” be republican because my parents were and because I grew up in a Christian community where 90% of people are republicans because they only look at one issue when they vote (abortion) – that’s a whole other can of worms though. It bothered me that people were so shallow as to only look at one issue, but I never bothered to form my own opinion, perhaps because I was afraid it would be different that my family and many of my peers. Although I never formed any opinions on my political stance, I never thought that I would freely call myself a Socialist or that my husband would tease me by calling me a red. That did seem too far for me.

    So, when I was 23, I moved to Israel. I began to find myself on the left side of the spectrum on political issues in Israel. The first 4 years I was there, I was only a student, so I really didn’t have any status or rights, so I wasn’t really concerned with the Socialized aspects of the government. The change really happened after I married my husband. He is Israeli, so that meant that I was staying in Israel and that I suddenly had rights to all the social benefits there are in Israel. I also then had the responsibility to pay my taxes and my national insurance (bituach leumi).

    It was amazing to me that I would contribute my taxes and the government would take care of me. I felt like I was doing my part for the government and the government was doing its part for me. For me, that just meant that my health insurance was at a reasonable rate that I could afford and that I always have a right to, that my births were covered and that the government gives me a little bit of my taxes back for each child I have (I have three) to help cover the extra costs of raising that child. For my husband, it also meant that when he has to go away each year to serve in the military, the government supplements his income for that time. For others, it means that they can receive unemployment, or retirement money, or money for disablilties that cause them not to be able to work.

    I really don’t mind paying my taxes so that other people can live a fair life, even if they are not physically capable or if they are out of work. It makes me feel like I am part of a whole and not just an individual throwing money at a corrupt group of people.

    I really appreciate Israel and its government. I may not agree with all of their decisions, but I have definitely become a Socialist because I see that it can work and that it can be beneficial to all involved.

    For the next few years we are in Germany while my husband has a research position at one of the Universities here. I am actually glad that we didn’t get a position in the States. Here I know that I am not on my own, but a part of a larger society, one that takes care of its citizens.

  • http://cndrnh.blogspot.com CN Heidelberg

    Interesting!
    I’ve always tended to the left as long as I’ve had any political awareness. Living in Germany has probably pushed me further to the left, mostly by showing me that a lot of doubts we have about lefty stuff that we have in the US are unfounded.

  • GermanintheUS

    First of all I would like to say that this is a great post. I think it is interesting to see how moving to another country can change ones beliefs and ideas about life.

    I have been living in the United States for more than 6 years and I really love my life here. Did living here change me? Yes, absolutely. My political beliefs have always been more on the left side. I believe that it is highly important to help people that are weak and in need of help. I do not like how many people always complain about lazy people who just want to get a welfare check and sleep all day. I experienced these discussions in both countries. Sure, there are lazy people who do not intend to work. However, I do not feel jealous. You don’t live a wonderful life just on welfare. I just feel sorry for people who don’t want to work because they are missing out on opportunities. My political beliefs did not change much.

    I never believed that there were WMD’s in Iraq. The whole charade the Bush administration played could have been rather hilarious under different circumstances. I know some people here who still believe Iraq still has or had WMD’s. When inquiring about that more they just say that Saddam sneaked them out of the country or they are still hidden somewhere. Evidence? By the way, a lot of people forgot or never knew that the U.S. supported Saddam in the 80’s.

    I think it is much easier to approach and meet people. This changed me in a lot of ways. I am sure you know that Germans seem to be more weary of strangers. I enjoy that it is easy to talk to people and make new friends. After 6 years, I consider myself to be a more open minded person. I love meeting new people and the USA is a good place to do that. Back in Germany it always felt harder to make new friends. Also, if you have good friends in Germany and you do not always have the time to hang out, some people can feel really offended and they will tell you about it. Did you experience that, Christina?

    I also love the diversity in America. There are so many people who came from different origins and countries. I love to hear about different cultures. Most people are curious and they love to hear from my culture. People are impressed when I tell them that I am from Germany. Most of the times, I had highly positive experiences regarding my origins.

    The whole small government thing is annoying me a lot. I strongly believe that we need to cut the deficit but we cannot only trust in the free market. Sure, capitalism created jobs but I am under the impression that the middle class is not as strong as it used to be. Companies lay off workers so that they can have higher profits. A lot of times, those companies do not pay any or only little taxes. Billions of Dollars are lost that way but people get more upset about homeless people who might get a dollar they did not work for. It is YOUR responsibility to find a job. Sure, but companies should have responsibilities too. I do not know why they seem excluded from that.

    I have always been a strong supporter of environmental protection. German children learn that in Kindergarten. Now that I am in the States I support that idea even more. America needs to learn more about that (I do not want to lecture anyone) but it has been getting better in the last years. I try to live as organic as possible.

    Oh, and I also learned to love baseball. A great game!!! I cannot wait to go to the ballpark this season again.

    This is all I can think of for now. This is an interesting discussion.

    Greetings

  • Michael

    This is really impressive to me. I was just talking to a friend about a discussion last night with Gen. Merrill McPeak, former chief of staff of the air force, who thinks gays shouldn’t be allowed in the military (he’s not too happy about women, either) and my friend said neither side convinced the other. I said I had learned in my long life that no one ever changes their opinion; people just use rational argument to justify what they already think. But you proved me wrong.

  • sherah

    @GermanintheUS – I love that you mentioned that it is a lot easier to make friends in the States. I totally agree with that. I have been here in Germany since October and when I go to the park with my kids I start conversations with immigrants, mostly Arabs or Turkish immigrants. This is funny, since I am coming from Israel and many of them are supposed to be my political enemies. The Germans in the parks are not open to me or other foreigners, they stand around with sour faces and it seems like they may be even judging me. It’s sad because they are actually missing out on a lot of great friendships and experiences. There are so many immigrants in Germany now and they have such rich cultures, but those things are not being integrated into life here. I really hope that they will not always be seen as outsiders, but they will be accepted as a part of mainstream society.

    I really appreciate that about the US and about Israel. Both places are more accepting of immigrants and people in general are more open to meeting people outside of their current social circle.

    That leads to something else that I have noticed. It was much easier for me to learn Hebrew when I first came to Israel, because people were open to talking to me and didn’t mind letting me stutter over my Hebrew. Here people are not open to talking to you first of all, and second of all, they are really impatient with you if you don’t speak perfect German.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @sherah: I really resonated with your statement about feeling part of a whole. I like that here everyone is looking out for everyone else, even if Germans might not be so open and friendly. Like you said, Americans are easy to make friends with, but I find many write off the poor or unfortunate. I had contact with welfare recipients living in government housing in the US too, and while the German welfare recipients were mostly just normal (actually, quite friendly, although sometimes a little depressed at their lot in life) Germans, I found most Americans in this situation to be almost completely hopeless and defeated. Most didn’t feel accepted by society and had given up on life. They didn’t see a way out of the cycle of poverty, no matter how hard they worked. I find it at odds that so many Americans are open and friendly, and espouse Christian values, but like when I mentioned helping out the poor to a distant relative, his answer was, “Jesus never said life was no free ride.” Huh? I don’t like to get into arguments over religion or politics, so I dropped the subject, but I seriously had to wonder if he’d ever read the bible!

    Do you live in Berlin? You sound like I did when I lived there. I’ve found that there are regional differences in Germany. Before Bavaria, I’d only lived in the former East, so I’m not sure if it’s East/West, North/South, Bavaria/rest of Germany or what, but I find Germans pretty open here. They engage me in small talk regularly, even in Regensburg, and in my village I can’t go anywhere without having to make conversation. Normally it’s great, but when you just want to get in and out of the supermarket cause you really might puke any second and the meat counter lady wants to talk about your kids with you, it’s tough 😉

    @germanintheus: I never encountered Germans who were angry that I didn’t have time for them, but I also have moved frequently, 3 year in Bavaria now is the longest we’ve lived anywhere, and I find Germans are slow to make friends, so most of the Germans I have made friends with have lived abroad and are comfortable with the accelerated friendship style of Americans. Here, with people in the village, is the first time I’ve made friends with regular, average Germans, and I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I have time. They do call sometimes call or stop by if I miss a village activity, just to see how I’m doing and reassure me that I am wanted at these things, but it was never in an offended way.

    @michael: I think most of the time, people don’t change their opinions, and it’s never going to happen through arguing. I think only life experience can change someone’s beliefs, and they have to be open-minded enough to see and accept differences.

  • Ric

    @ sherah

    This absolutely depends on where you live. Think of Chicago or New York City and rethink if it was perfectly easy to turn strangers into friends within moments in the US 😉

    In Germany it is the same thing. First of all there is a huge difference in mentality between the regions. Bavarians for example are pretty easy going people, “folksy” so to speak. Northern germans are rather distanced and well… close as a clam, true. And people in the “Rheinland”, Cologne, are the total opposite, the other extreme. You can hardly sit alone in a bar in cologne for longer than a minute before someone joins you and starts talking.

    On the other hand, people you meet this way are mixing well, but not really becoming your friend (in the very meaning of that word) more easily than anywhere else. It’s just about cultural differences and misunderstandings, we too often try to apply our known standards on other people (body language, rituals,..). Especially in foreign environments, where we tend to cling to our past socialization to not feel totally lost and get some orientation.

    People all over the “western world” may look pretty alike, dress alike and such. But in fact they are just as different as anywhere else. I’ve made that experience over and over again. Once you really accepted that cultures/mentalities are just different, not generally “better” or “inferior”, it is getting alot easier to cope with it :-)

  • sherah

    @Christina – I totally see what you are saying with Americans writing off the poor and unfortunate. I think that people are starting to see this because more people are finding themselves on the poor and unfortunate side of society there. I grew up in Montana, so I didn’t see that much of the poor and unfortunate part of society. I agree with you that there is a lot of two faced-ness on the part of the religious mainstream. Many people are just not willing to go beyond themselves to help people in need, they are comfortable in what they have and I think they don’t want to feel guilty because of it. When you do reach out to the poor and unfortunate, you have to be able to see that you could very easily be in that same situation.

    @Christina and Ric – I am actually in the NWR. I should explain myself better. I do find that most people here are more friendly than what I have been told about Germans. Other mothers who are in my peer group have not been friendly toward me. I have had a fair amount of older people start conversations with me or make comments about my kids. The students that my husband works with are also very friendly. I do have to say though that they friendliest of all the students and my husbands coworkers are those who have immigrant parents or they themselves were born in another country.

    My daughter started Kindergarten in December and I have had only one conversation with another mother who is German, but I have had conversations with other the other “foreigners”. Being a foreigner does make for great common ground so I totally understand this, but I did notice that the German parents are not really open to being friendly with me or the other foreign parents. It doesn’t bother me because I have other friends and I can speak English with those other friends and not stumble in German. It is just something that I have been noticing and something that other foreign mothers that I know have noticed. It may be other factors that are interfering, like the fact that many people may not feel comfortable enough to speak English with me, or patient enough to listen to my German, or the fact that I look like I am 20, when I am really 32. They may think that I was a teenage mother and have nothing in common with them.
    In the beginning of my time here I went to a playgroup at a local church. The second time I went all the people there (except for the woman I went with, who is my German friend who has an American mother) were new to me and no one said a word to me, they didn’t introduce themselves to me, they didn’t ask what my kids are named, or how old they are. They just acted as if I wasn’t there the whole time. This even baffled my German friend, who has been conversing about this subject with me.

    It does make you feel a bit isolated sometimes. I do understand that there are cultural differences. I really don’t expect people to be like Americans because they are Westerners and I especially don’t expect them to be like Israelis. I did have a similar experience in Israel. We rented an apartment in a Yemenite farming village at one point. My daughter was also in a Kindergarten there and the other mothers also didn’t talk to me there either. There were a couple of Russian families in the same village and they were also treated the same way (My husband is Israeli, so he is not a foreigner, but still treated like an outsider). The village had grown together since the 1950’s and it was a very closed community.

    Anyway, this has just been my experience here so far. I don’t want it to sound like I am negative about Germans. I’m not, I understand that the culture here is different and I appreciate that.

  • sherah

    Sorry, NRW that should be. Sorry, I’m so longwinded. :-)

  • seliger weise

    I think my political attitudes became more leftist during the two years that I spent in the US. The main motivators: Poverty, violence (one murder every other day in our US hometown), and the incredibly expensive health care system.

    I must also say that I was really surprised about the degree of racial segregation in the large midwest city that we lived in, but that is a different story.

    To sherah:

    The gravity of the common ground of expats is enormous. Although I found my American colleagues (university too) in the US to be extremely friendly and welcoming, me and my wife ended mainly hanging out with Europeans. It just happened without intent.

    Moreover, Germans are a very complicated bunch of people, and I am convinced that a larger percentage of the oddities that you experience(d) is not specific to being foreign. I bet that many of these things would also happen to Germans among Germans. They certainly have happened to me.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @ric: Actually, I find Chicagoans pretty friendly, but apart from that, I’d agree with everything you said 😉

    @sherah: Okay, yeah, I see. I had that happen to me before, here in Bavaria even. The women in my Geburtsvorbereitungskurs completely ignored me. We met a couple times after the babies were born and nobody talked to me, they chatted away to each other and ignored me unless I asked a direct question (and my German, while accented, is pretty good, so it wasn’t a language thing). I have no idea what it’s about, but didn’t have that experience anywhere else. We did baby swimming and belong to the local playgroup and I’ve been accepted just fine. I think it’s just occasionally, by the luck of the draw, you get a group of people together who just don’t know how to deal with people different than them. That’s the only explanation I can think of.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @seliger weise: Good points. Even though it’s diverse, there is a large degree of racial segregation in the US. Also, most of my friends here are expats, just because we have so much in common. And I think you’re right about the German thing. I think it probably happens to Germans too. One neighbor here was telling us that she’s lived in the village since she married her husband 60 years ago and she’s still considered by some to be an outsider, and she came from a village about 15 km away.

  • sherah

    I feel better knowing that I am not the only one who has experienced some of these things. :-)

  • Ric

    My theory is that alot of germans got bitter due to their biography. Like an elder lady who was a little girl who did not understand why so many people she knew where dead, her hometown in ruins and there was no time to cry and mourn but only struggle for survival, not to starve or freeze to death, in the aftermath of the war. And back then things such as therapists, especially for children, were far from being a common thing.

    Or the people of east germany who’s entire world disappeared more or less overnight. Everything they took for certain, their life planning, their career, their values. It all was shattered and alot of them did not make it into the new reunified germany. They have been unemployed for years or they cannot be more than “working poor”, even with academic degrees or such, because their local economy is still at rock bottom. Often after decades of hard and dedicated work in the “old system”.

    So if someone is being grumpy or tight-lipped often that person doesn’t mean to be mean. They just can’t help it, they rather need help and someone that hugs them and tells them “everything is gonna be fine” – but their life teached them different and so they won’t believe it. Well maybe I am too sensitive of a person but I always try to understand what makes people tick.

  • GermanintheUS

    @Ric: You made some great points. I think that history is important if you want to understand how a nation and its culture functions. I know from stories my grandparents told that life was very hard after the war. The country was in ruins, then there was the holocaust and people had not time to mourn about their own victims. The guilt question was too much of a dominating factor.

    I also like what you said about the East Germans. When Germany was reunified I did not really understand at first why after a few years a lot of East Germans seemed depressed and were not really able to be integrated. Only later I understood that everything they knew (even if some of the things were highly unpleasant like the Stasi) was gone within days. The end of the GDR meant the end of the cold war which was fantastic but I can see that such a rough transition from one system to another can be dizzying. Like you said, there were many people with an academic degree who all of the sudden had to live below the poverty line. I would find that very frustrating.

    @Sherah: I am from NRW originally. The Westphalia part. I hope you will be able to integrate yourself and I hope you will make some more German friends. Sorry about the bad experiences you had with those other Kindergarten moms. It is always hard for me to comprehend such inconsideration when meeting ignorant people like that. When I was still living in Germany I never gave much thought to how difficult it must feel for immigrants to adjust to another country, language and culture. Even though I can say that I adjusted without too much trouble, I had my sad and depressed moments where I felt very lonely and longing for some familiarity (especially language wise). Now I understand better.

    @Christina: I think you are right. There are a lot of regional differences. I always thought too that Bavarians are much more gemütlich and easier to talk to. How well would you say have you adjusted to German or Bavarian culture?

  • exPATations

    very interesting comments! love reading your blog christina! now here´s food for thought…and @ric! youre on the right track and right up mine, in MY opinion anyway, with what you are saying about germans being formed by their past. (am a pennsylvania born american living here in germany since 74) i have also found myself often trying to see behind the hard german shells. the “forming” began years ago and has surely been passed on to younger generations. there is a “my and mine” mentality here that keeps all that seems to intrude in what you feel is intimate at an arms length. have you ever seen a single property without a fence or wall around it? doorbells with cameras and talk-function speakers not intended here for couch potatos, not to forget the holy automobile…the list goes on and on. another point to think about…look how this culture has excellerated from 0 to what it was just years after that devistating war? consider the initiative of those that lost all and had absolutely nothing besides the clothes they were wearing. in a short time everything had to be bigger and better with america as their ideal. it all just couldnt happen fast enough. later around the end of the 50s, the 60s and 70s…life as it was put a whole new meaning to the phrase “keeping up with the joneses”. it is still alot like that today.

    christina, you explain your situation very well. its easy for me to see backgrounds and i can follow you in every point. not every american comes here and seems as open minded. as for me, well i guess there was never a drawer i could have packed myself into and cant say i am only left, middle or right. i take time to see things from all sides. i conformed to life here without losing myself. dont EVER give up on yourself or in to things that just seem inevitable. germany isnt better or worse…it just different. so are the men but thats a different topic. i like obama. he has guts. no, we shouldnt accept things and give up trying for change. that man has a big job. (what an understatement!) cant expect him to wave his wand and straighten out in a flash what others have run into the ditch for years and years. he needs backing and i doubt he has it enough to get the job even started. so what if the government has its finger on medical care?! dont they have it on pretty much everything else? the medical care system works here and if anything, it certainly would be a help in the USofA. think about less riding around on ideals, more seeing the concept of the ideas of change. the responsible government, OUR government could help its infirm, respect its elderly, care for its veterans, restore its educational institutions, have a responsible media, regulate the impulses for greed in business and in government, encourage community service, counteract the onslaught of corporate ideology, wage peace instead of war, plainly said treat americans well…what a blast! and we can behold the first steps towards a new american prosperity…

    oops…who is ranting now?

    life in germany? yep, i adjusted. it took a long time to get over the feeling of being lost. i did everything to fit in. i even bought long-legged underdrawers because my german mother-in-law said i would need them. they were washed and ironed (!) and stayed folded neatly on that pile in my kleiderschrank until about 6 years later when they flew into the old clothes collection bag for the needy…if you wondered about the statement “dont lose yourself”, this may help you understand what i meant. sure i missed home, but i went home and even after the first year it just isnt what i remembered it to be. things change and so do people, with every day that passes. i miss the memories but found new ones and with time started to like it more and more and soon discovered i have changed, too.

  • Su

    First “hello” to everyone :)

    I am a German and live in a small town near Dortmund. I am really sorry to hear that some of you have made bad experiences with making friends here in Germany… Germans can be really stubborn sometimes. But this happens not only to foreigners, it happens also to Germans. I moved many times and it always was difficult for me to make new friends. I think many people here are just cautious for various reasons… I was always seen as an “outsider”, but maybe I should mention that I lived in smaller towns. In cities like Berlin, Frankfurt etc. it is a bit different.

    I was in the US a few times and I think it also has to do with the different life-style.
    I met many great people there. And they all were more open than people here. Even the “immigration officers” at the airport 😉

    @ Christina…. I think people who ignore you (or others) while chatting (this happened to me many, many times) are either insecure or ignorant in general (I don’t think it has something to do that you are an expat). I always try to find it out by participating in this chat. If they are insecure they just wait for something like that and will be more open, if they are ignorant they will not change their behavior…

    I made the experience that the more open I am, the more open people are (Germans and foreigners).

    When I was in the US I had a hard time. I did learn English at school (I am 45) but it is a difference if you write something or if you have to speak a foreign language – in this case English – in an English speaking country. I felt not really comfortable to speak, but well… I had to. There was no one who could speak German. I travelled alone, visiting friends (English-speaking friends)

    I heard many weird stories before, but as I mentioned above, I just met great, open-minded people.
    When I mentioned that I was from Germany, they had a lot of questions and I was happy to answer them (as far as I could)

    I really tried to avoid political discussions but in my hotel, there was a young soldier (22) who was in Iraq and his unit was one of the first that invaded the country. He asked me about the German military and if Germans are comfortable to let others make the “dirty work” for them and their freedom.

    Well, he really was cute… my son is in the same age and I had a great talk with him and his parents. He, as well as his parents were very, very conservative, but I really appreciated that they were curious to “know”…

    I am not sure if I could change my political opinion. I am pro-choice, against the death penalty, pro-regulations and transparency, pro gay marriage, pro-gun-control, pro-social-security, against war… yes, I am very “liberal” in regard to “US standards” and I don’t believe that this would change if I lived there.

    There are many, many things that I really love about the US, but I do appreciate the strict gun control that we have here and the social security.
    I was in Los Angeles and I did not feel safe to walk in the night, sometimes not even during the day… here I can do that whenever I want and wherever I am.
    I love the public transport system here and I missed it while I was in Los Angeles.

    All in all, I think the US is a great country that could do much better, but then… everything takes its time.
    Germany also could do better… there are many things that I don’t agree with, but well… no place is perfect.

    I hope I did not make to many grammar/spelling errors… I still struggle with my English 😉

  • Su

    “too many”… of course :)

  • http://www.allthingsgerman.net/blog/ Graham

    I guess as I can’t vote in my country of birth (UK), over the 15 years that I’ve lived in Germany I’ve become somewhat detached from their politics.

    I still follow what is going on and have my opinion, but I’ve become more neutral about it.

    But I can’t vote in Germany either in a national election, so it really does give you a different perspective. I have my opinions here as well, but they don’t count for much except in local elections. It makes me decide on a case-by-case basis, and not stick to any one particular party.
    .-= Graham´s last blog ..School uniform comes to Germany =-.

  • http://blog.daviddouglasbooks.com Dave

    I didn’t pay much attention to politics before I came to Germany. But lately I’ve become more attuned to it, especially now that I get most of my news from Stewart and Colbert ;-). My overall views haven’t changed much. Americans view guns like Germans view their unlimited Autobahn speed limits; though I think certain types of weapons should be severely limited or prohibited (who needs an automatic weapon, really?!).

    Very nice thoughts here! I agree with your current political standing in a lot of ways. Certain social programs could definitely be improved in the US, especially (dare I say the H-word) healthcare. I’m holding my breath for today’s House vote! While the current bill isn’t perfect, it could later be amended with further changes through the years. You have to start somewhere… and it seems to include what’s needed most. Including extending coverage to millions who probably would lose their home to hospital bills if they have a major health problem.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Porch Breakfast Season =-.

  • Suzanne

    Even though it isn’t the direct topic of this post, a few of you have mentioned this German thing about not introducing people (I think Sherah used it in the playgroup context?) This disturbed me when I first arrived but over time I have realised people aren’t always aware there is a different way of doing things, how can you do something if it is unknown to you. But one of the big advantages of being an Expat living here is that you are familiar with a different culture. So you can basically pick and choose from both cultures. If I am in a group where I don’t know names and people aren’ t offering them, I’ll ask, I don’t have to take on this cultural behaviour but I can tolerate it.

  • http://www.residentonearth.com/ Jen

    I confess to being a recovering Republican as well. Let’s just say I was raised by a VERY Christian and conservative mother (who, by the way, views my life in Germany and my political beliefs with unfettered consternation these days) and it took me some time to find my own way. In my late 20s I started really forming my own beliefs and now, at 35, am firmly liberal (though probably left-centrist, by German standards).

    Germany hasn’t changed my political leanings (but I’m still so new here, it’ll be interesting to see how I feel as time passes). Rather, it seems to “fit” much better what I already believe, and I’m very happy with my choice of a German man and subsequently, living in this country. If anything, it confirms what I already believe because I see how well things like social programs, protection of workers/workers rights, healthcare, and regulated capitalism can work here. It also confirms my belief that stronger members of society have a duty to take care of the weaker members, rather than the American model of “every man to himself” regardless of the consequences. In America so many times I felt so alone and scared – like if you lose your job, you lose everything, including your health coverage. No one is looking out for you. I worry about America’s sprawling infrastructure, which is designed around cars, and the all-around exorbitant energy consumption. And it sickens me to see corporations running unfettered while the people suffer.

    As far as German friendliness, or lack thereof, I guess it hasn’t really bothered me too much so far. I actually rather like the reserve with “strangers” – and the fact that people here seem to really respect your privacy and aren’t peppering you with all kinds of personal questions.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Book Review: My Life in France =-.

  • Devin

    I guess it would be worth it to pay the high taxes to live in a homogeneous country where everyone actually worked and they didn’t let people freeload. Hmmmm…

  • http://just-travelin-through.blogspot.com/ christine

    I used to be very much a Republican….a mormon Republican actually. I then moved to England and I’m close to being a liberal now. I know exactly what you are talking about though…..living abroad changes you.
    .-= christine´s last blog ..Monday =-.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @devin: It’s worth paying higher taxes to live in a country whose education system leaves one with passable reading comprehension skills as well, LOL.

    @everyone else: Wow, I’m so impressed with the awesome points you’ve all made. I would love to address each of you individually, but I’m afraid that would take hours to write and for you to read, I’d have so much to say (not to mention that yesterday and today have been very bad days, HG-wise). Some thoughts:

    – I’m reminded that reunification of Germany took place just over 20 years ago, and that while it strained the social system, Germany’s system has managed to adapt to supporting many more people, many of whom are dependent on the social system (I remember towns in the former East with 20% and higher unemployment rates). That is a pretty amazing feat.

    – I had trouble adjusting to the Prussian culture of the Berlin/Potsdam area, but Bavaria has been no problem. I even understand the local dialect just fine and feel fully accepted into village life here. On second thought though, I don’t think I really had a problem with the locals in Potsdam (Berlin’s a different story, I never got used to the Berliner Schnauze and it annoyed me to no end). In Potsdam, I had more problems with transplants (from the west) to the area who gave me a hard time for being foreign. Actually, I think that goes for all the former East. I lived there for five years (Berlin-Mitte, Rostock and Potsdam) and I don’t think I really had any problems with people who grew up there, but I did have (sometimes serious) problems with former West Germans who had moved to the area.

    – Dave made a good point about guns and the Autobahn that I’ve observed as well: Guns are to Americans what no speed limits are to Germans. Both can be dangerous, but they’re both equated, by a significant part of the population, with freedom.

    – As for being ignored, I do understand that some people are just shy or don’t know what to talk to you about. I’m fairly open and have no problem getting the conversation off to a start if the person seems game. But I have encountered on occasion, people who just have no interest in engaging me in conversation, that’s why I eventually quit meeting up with the women from my Geburtsvorbereitungskurs. I think I mentioned before that I participate in plenty of small talk down here. I don’t feel a lack of it in my life here in Bavaria.

    I think Bavarians are more open. I remember from northeast Germany how all the gardens were fenced (or shrubbed) and people seemed reluctant to be intimate, but I don’t get that same sense down here. I’d say something like 40% of the houses in my neighborhood aren’t fenced in, and if they are, most just have a very short fence surrounding the property.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    Oh, one more point, that addresses what Su brought up (you’re English is great, btw)… I think Germans don’t make friends as easily because they just don’t move around as much as Americans do. Americans move cities fairly easily and we’re descended from people who moved countries. Americans are a people who are accustomed to starting over and building up friendships from scratch. Moving about in Germany is a fairly new thing I think, and I think that the Germans who do move have as much trouble making new friends as expats do.

  • http://bleedingespresso.com Michelle | Bleeding Espresso

    Excellent post; sharing on FB now…also…we’re brothers! I was in APO at Duke 😀
    .-= Michelle | Bleeding Espresso´s last blog ..For All Goat News, Subscribe to Goat Berries! =-.

  • http://www.dackelprincess.com Maribeth

    What a great post and also great comments. Each and every one made me think!
    America used to boast of a great educational system, but I do not think it is so now. Being plugged into the German system, I think the kids are better educated all around.
    I was also a very conservative Republican from birth. In the last few years I began to think outside the box.
    I’m not a fan of Barack Obama. I’m not sure I like his politics at all, but if our Insurance Companies can be held accountable and those who have not been able to get care can be helped I am all for it. I have a preexisting condition, so the reforms will hopefully help me out in the future.
    I also switched my mind about Gay marriage and first trimester abortions. I think that it’s great and okay to love who you love and if you need an abortion in the first trimester then do it.
    I’m still against 3rd trimester abortion. Especially when I see people who are desperate to have their preemie live!
    So although I have moderated my views, my German best friend laughingly assures me I am still not a Liberal.
    She also tells me that I am way more open than any of her German girlfriends, and I think it is just part of the culture.
    Once again, Great post!
    .-= Maribeth´s last blog ..Springtime Colds =-.

  • http://theverges.blogspot.com/ Jennifer

    From the standpoint of an American recently returned to the US after 15 years in Italy, I can only agree with you. The demonization of the idea of socialized medicine in the US has no basis in reality, but only on heresay and ignorance. The World Health Organization ranks the health care system of the United States 37th, right between Costa Rica and Slovenia.
    Experience leads to knowledge and an open mind. Living abroad does indeed change you.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Finally =-.

  • http://www.creativestructures.blogspot.com diana strinati baur

    Some additional observations:
    Before moving to Germany in 1994 (Hamburg) I assumed that liberal = friendly, and also that open minded = friendly. But in HH I learned otherwise. I misjudged the Germans from the beginning, believing that the coolness I experienced also meant that they were not open. I could not have been more wrong. Hamburgers are probably among the most open minded people in Europe. I learned a ton about people and stereotypes in Germany. I was certainly stereotyped as an American, but I did a fair amount of stereotyping myself until I realized that Germans have a different way of looking at the world and its issues, as evidenced by some of the wonderful points made here.

    A thought about Germans and making friends. Germans are more direct and less into small talk and overt gestures of superficial friendliness. This makes moving there initially pretty uncomfortable for Americans in particular. I got used to it and learned not to take it personally. I don’t think friendships are easy for ANYONE — sure, we as Americans are maybe better equipped to make acquaintances, but friendships? They take as long for us as for any German, if we are honest with ourselves.

    I live in Italy now where the tendency is more toward easier, warmer communication at the outset when you meet people. But in reality, I have made only a couple of real friends here in six years. I still carry several very nice friendships with me from Germany — relationships where each party has something invested.

    I disagree that Bavarians are more open than Northern Germans. Just the opposite. It’s just that Bavarians are more friendly than Northern Germans, thus giving the appearance of openness. Bavarians are extremely conservative as a general rule and that friendliness beguiles the nature of life there. But as far as world views go, the hanseatic cities are much more open. Because they can be distant, Northern Germans are often mistaken as being closed – this was my first point. If you compare Munich to Hamburg, Munich is more provincial, by a long shot.

    Germans love their fences, whether it’s in the north, south or middle! I crack up when I go to my MIL – she lives in Mainz. A two year old could crawl over that fence but she has to buzz us in all the same!!

    Great post! I got here through my friend Michele Fabio, attorney extraordinaire and goat mother supreme.

  • Sabrina

    I just found your blog, and this was a fantastic first post to read!

    I went through something extremely similar, having been a Republican most of my life, turning Libertarian and eventually Democrat (not that that matters now as I permanently live in DE). Seeing how well everything works here, despite the system being clogged and abused, really changed my ideas on what government can/could/should be.

  • Stacie

    Hello All! I hope you don’t mind an american still living in the US to comment on your post. I think it was a great post, by the way. A little background on me…I was raised Republican and am a registered Republican. However, I do not vote based on party lines, I vote based on what the candidate stands for and how that coincides with what I believe. I knew the past election was a major one and I studied what each candidate stood for and choose two candidates (one democrat and one republican) based on my beliefs. Neither of these candidates made it to the Presendtial race though. Anyway, my husband was born in Germany to an American father and a German mother. It is always interesting when visiting with his family. I tend to try and avoid discussions pertaining to politics. We never see eye to eye. My husbands family (even those in the US) are to the left. My husband tends not to be (although he is a registered Democrat). I think it is easy for those outside the US to look at our political system and make judgements, but without knowing and/or experiencing for themselves, thats not fair. I know little about the German political system. From what I have learned and experienced through my husbands family, I tend to like and/or agree with. Do I think we need healthcare reform in the US? Yes, but do I think it will ever be at a level like Germany’s? No. Americans tend to want all the better things in life, but they don’t want to have to pay for it (I can include myself in this category at times). Would I mind paying hiring taxes to help out those that are less fortunate? Well for me, that is not a yes or no answer. My husband works in the worst part of town where I live. The things he witnesses on a day to day basis are enough to make anyone angry. The people living in this area don’t work, not because they can’t but because they choose not to. Our taxes pay for these people to survive. One woman even told my husband that her welfare check wasn’t big enough so she needed to have another kid to get more money. She wasn’t joking. Another person my husband came into contact with was a young 20-something year old. He had never worked a day in his life and he is drawing social security. There are women who live in this neighborhood that are paid to stay at home because they can’t afford daycare for their children. Is that fair? I do not want to pay more taxes to help out those who take advantage of the system, as so many do. I think that is part of the problem that isn’t being addressed. There are too many who take advantage of the system. In my job, I work with people who have recently lost their job and I try to get them into training/educational programs that will allow them to find another job. I have come into contact with so many people who are trying so hard, but just can’t seem to get anywhere. Their benfits are running out and they are losing everything they have worked so hard for, while those who take advantage sit back and keep collecting. It doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like, if you work and try hard, you are penalized. If you’re lazy and want to take advantage of the system, you are rewarded. I don’t think that because I have worked my entire life to make money in order to live, buy a house, buy a car, and have food on my table for my family that I should have to help provide for those who choose not to work. Well, I think I got off topic here. Thanks for letting me comment and I enjoy your blog!

  • Stacie

    I just re-read some of the comments and just wanted to make some observations. Having been exposed to German culture, I have changed my beliefs in some things.
    I totally agree with GermanintheUS on enviromental protection. I love that Germans have to seperate their trash and are required to recycle (this is what I know from my husband’s family…is it like this in all Germany?). I think it should be this way in the US as well. Most people here don’t recycle and there is so much waste! I think it should be the law here in the US.
    Someone mentioned the educational system in Germany. I work in the educational field and US schools are lacking way behind compared to most European countries. Even when I was in high school, I thought our educational system needed an overhaul. There is also too much difference between the educational systems in each state. I think requirements should be nationwide and not vary from state to state. I’m not an Obama fan, but he has proposed to overhaul our educational system and I am really hoping he can. I really like what I have seen in the German education system and wish the US could adopt a similar system. I’m also a huge advocate for global education, educating our young about different languages, cultures, etc. In some ways, this is catching on in the states, but I wish it was pushed more.
    Again, I do think we need Healthcare reform. I have friends who have jobs, but they can’t afford insurance and yet they make too much money to qualify for medicaid, so they go without insurance. Yes, something needs to be done about this. That being said, has anyone read the healthcare bill? There are some ridiculous things in the bill. A 10% tax on tanning because it causes cancer? Come on now. I don’t tan, but should those who choose to tan be penalized? Are we got to start taxing everything that causes cancer? I think that is the US answer to everything, put a tax on it! My state is promoting a health and wellness program. I have to say I am lucky and I have state insurance, but their new wellness plan is a little out there. Those who are obese or those who smoke are penalized and now have to pay more for insurance. I don’t agree with that. Also, do you think that by telling me a big Mac has 600 calories in it is going to stop me from eating it? If I want a big mac, I’m going to eat one regardless. LOL.

  • http://earthroamer21.blogspot.com/ Kim

    Interesting – but not surprising! The same thing happened to me, although I was just 15 the first time I moved to Europe (Germany, actually). By the time I was 30, I’d also lived in Italy, Austria and the UK. Like you, I saw the benefits of social democracy and thoroughly enjoyed the heightened quality of life it offers. I’m back in the US now, squirming at all the McCarthyism around the healthcare debate.

    I’m not sure I ever met a seasoned American expat who managed to hang on to conservative political views. There’s something about seeing social democracy first hand that forever alters your view of it.
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Testing the waters =-.

  • Claire

    Christina, this was extremely well-written and thoughtful! Well done!

    I have always been a Democrat and I do not feel that my political views have changed much since I have been here. For me going to graduate school was the moment that I felt my eyes “opened.” The more I read and studied politics the more I began to feel differently about things.

    One thing that bothers me now about the US is how people talk about the founding fathers and how they would be “disappointed” or “opposed” to the current system. As the American founding and federalism was my political theory specialty it makes me want to pound my head against a rock because some of these people have no idea what they are talking about!

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    Great comments, everyone!

    @stacie: Germans do recycle a lot, I have a post about getting used to it here in rural Bavaria.

    @claire: You sound surprised, LOL! I haven’t studied politics at all, but one of my favorite subjects to read about is early US history and I’ve read quite a bit on the founding fathers and agree that a lot of people making arguments about what the founding fathers would approve or disapprove of have no clue what they are talking about, especially when it comes to “Christian values” being made into law, etc.

  • http://www.euroangelsgermany.com Ruby

    such a nice story to read when a fellow expat shares her experiences..this is great..thanks for sharing Christina..
    Explore Germany..
    p.s. i love your blog..i live near regensburg..probably around an hour drive.

  • R.S.Link

    @ christine geyer:
    your artivcle shows how ill-informed you are about germany and the german political system. i grew up in germany and i could not more disagree with what you have written.
    if the US-government would take simple little steps in the right direction there would not be nearly as many problems as there are.
    the obama-care for instance is wrong because it FORCES people to buy somethung they do NOT want. if they do not buy healthcare the gov. comes and punishes them. that is AGAINST the constitution. all that really needs to be done is de-regulate and let insurance companies sell their policies all over the country and not be limited to any ons state.
    even the german gov. has realized that gov.-run healthcare is unsustainable. took “only” 140 to figure that out.
    government is NEVER the answer to all the problems. government IS the problem.
    look at all the money obama has wasted for all the bail-out crap and what has changed???? 17 consecutive months an unemployment rate around 10%, the national debt has risen from 1.3 trillion to now a staggering 13.7 trillion. that is governement in action. constantly ne rules, new regulations and government intrusion into the life of its citizens. liberalism of the finest.
    i left germany 30 years ago because i did not wanted to live my life in a socialistic society even though i used to be quit liberal. since i now live in the US i have become very conservativ. government needs to stay OUT of our life, needs to be smaller then it is instead of adding more and more jobs to its agencies, needs to stop this rediculous speending and most of all:
    GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO REALIZE THEY HAVE BEEN ELECTED TO SERVE AND NOT TO DICTATE that however is what liberals do best. please don’t tell me thats not so. i once was a liberal and i know how they think and act.
    i hope and pray that noivember 2010 will bring a chnage to washington and bring us back on the way the forefathers had in mind when they wrote the constitution. let freedom ring for ALL americans.

  • http://www.determinebabysex.com Anak Inya

    I love reading your story Christina. Thanks.
    .-= Anak Inya´s last blog ..Baby caring – choosing new clothes =-.

  • PaxRyan

    i see that this post is old, but i love it. i wish more Americans could be exposed to a view of the States from abroad. (Also fascinating were GermanLivinginAmerica’s comments:-) My favorite point that you made is that although taxes may be higher in Europe, total expenses to receive the same amount of services that are rendered in European countries may actually be higher in the States. In the States our biggest problem is that we are needed to fund not only our government but also the corporations and banks that direct our government;-)

  • Dan

    Such a great article. When I was 18 I visited a very well to do host family near Frankfurt and became good friends (at least in American fashion) with my host brother. His father owned a business in Austria and he raved about how America has its economic system right and the productive in Germany were “punished” by the government. It turns out my German host brother has been living in America for the last 7 years, and is one of the top salespeople at a car dealership selling German engineered cars. He is not conservative as much as I am but very conservative by US standards and he loves that he works just as hard here that he did in Germany but makes a WHOLE lot more money, pays a whole LOT LESS taxes and lives a higher standard of living. Many students he went to school with at the Gymnasium some 12 years ago, he told me, “live in America.” Sorry, but people vote with their feet, too.

  • http://www.nhafterhours.com Brent

    Great article to read! I am American also living in Germany, Karlsruhe to be exact. I’ve been here 5 years but I do have to say being here has NOT swayed me to the “left”. I’ve held onto my right leaning beliefs because I feel they’re right for me and it annoys me a tad that no one here thinks like a conservative, ha ha ha, truly alone! I wonder if it’s because I moved here when I was 36 and not a younger adult where my beliefs could have been in the “molding” phase so to speak. I don’t discuss my political beliefs unless asked directly and it usually still turns into a lengthy discussion. Still, I enjoyed reading this and I’m always on a quest to meet other Americans in and around where I live. I enjoy living here, it’s quiet and peaceful. I found it annoying (and still do) that stores close so early and that nothing is open on Sundays but those are minor complaints at this point.

  • LJR

    This was an interesting, well-written article, and I agree with some points. However, I think we ourselves should take care of our neighbors and friends directly, not government agencies, especially federal ones. If that happens, then we can more easily tell who is a lazy tub of lard working the system and who has actual legitimate need and take proper action. I think that instead of higher taxes, people could be required to support a private charity or poor family. They could investigate to find out which charity spends its money the best.
    I don’t like how the government is spending money, so it shouldn’t get any more. My brother was taking classes at a community college, and a professor said that there was not enough money for chalk; however, the college president was making over $200,000 a year. That’s why I vote down millages for the college and many other things; I have no confidence that my money would be spent on something worthwhile. Another example: In a nearby suburb, homeless and indigent residents can get a meal every Thursday. However, they serve pizzas that cost $12-$15 each. The families whose tax dollars pay for that don’t buy that pizza often because it is expensive. They should serve basic sandwiches and vegetable trays.
    As for me, I am going to investigate anything that requires money, and if I have any doubt, I will not give a cent, because I have very little money myself.
    I agree that health care needs reform. However, I disagree with Obama’s policy of mandating coverage. This would place a huge burden on doctors, nurses, and hospitals. To make the nation healthier, I would start with the food supply. I believe that GMO and food additives should be under more scrutiny, and perhaps some should be banned. I’m not sure how, but fresh veggies should be easier for inner city dwellers to buy. Once the diet is improved (fewer empty calories and HFCS), health would definitely improve.
    A few years ago, the local paper ran a profile on a heart surgeon originally from Britain. When he worked in Britain, he got paid the same rate no matter how many surgeries he did. I’m leery about more government involvement in health care; regulations require documentation, and documentation requires time and money. Since we’re short on nurses, and perhaps doctors, increased regulating would lead to less time with the actual patient. I think members of Congress should be required to buy their own insurance; health care would be reformed within weeks.
    I think some industries would benefit from increased government scrutiny, but I fear that they would pass the cost of regulation on to the consumer. Recovery is fragile, so I would prefer to err on the side of affordability.
    Guns aren’t evil (but you didn’t say that they were). The same features that make them convenient for miscreants also make them useful defense devices. Britain banned handguns in the ’90s, but people are still robbed at gunpoint there. Banning them entirely gives the bad guys the edge because they’re scofflaws.
    What effect does the social system of Germany have on business formation? My dad owns his own business and deals with regulations every day, and it can get frustrating even when dealing with local government. I remember reading a book about the French. Near the end, the author wrote that a French cheesemaker went through a great deal of expense to get his facilities up to modern code, but then the bacteria couldn’t ripen the cheese. At least he found that he could open the windows.
    I like your ideas for campaign finance reform.
    I don’t understand how anyone can have a child and still support abortion. Your son was your son from conception. He has the same genes as he had then. People should be judged worthy of life or death based on their actions, and that includes unborn people. If people don’t want kids, they shouldn’t have sex.
    I don’t like the idea of a bunch of government agencies giving money because they use that to control. You praise government, but you should consider how much control it has over those it pays. I for one would rather have people be trained to use self-control and self-government.
    I think the chief root of these problems is that especially in America, people subscribe to the belief that because they want to do something, they have a right to do it. Going hand in hand with that is the desire for freedom without responsibility for actions. I would like that to change, but that is going to take a huge effort of parents and teachers. It’s something that can’t be legislated.

  • LJR

    You write about cutting fat. What’s the fat you think should be cut? Everyone thinks their programs are meat. I would rather have social welfare programs cut for reasons below and work on making better roads, non-automotive transport, and cheaper alternative energy, which would have longer-lasting, farther-reaching benefits.
    The government has a right to take money from citizens via taxes, and so government-supported charities have an easier time when it comes to obtaining funds. Because it’s easier to get funds, it’s also easier to spend them. Private charities have to spend more wisely because they don’t have that right. Best of all is person to person because both parties know each other and can be assured that the money is being spent well. If charity goes through the government, money gets taken away for administrative costs.
    Furthermore, Americans give more to charities than Europeans do, but they don’t always deduct it from their taxes. I believe that the more socialistic economies of European countries are part of the explanation. Check out this article: http://www.american.com/archive/2008/march-april-magazine-contents/a-nation-of-givers
    Philanthropy is on the rise in Europe:
    http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/giving-europe-gets-the-bug

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @LJR: I am not in favor of abortions. I do not know a single pro-choice believer who is pro-abortion. I prefer to try to limit abortions through sex education, providing contraception, showing people their options, and providing support to mothers and families. I do not believe that a zygote is a child. I believe, that until a baby can survive outside of the woman’s body, it is still a part of her body.

    It is a fact that most pregnancies end in miscarriage, often without the women ever realizing she was pregnant. Women are given advice not to announce their pregnancies publicly until they are out of the first trimester because the chance of miscarriage is so high and it would be tough to have to go around and tell everyone that you were no longer pregnant. So deciding that a fertilized egg has rights makes no sense to me.

    Women who are raped are not choosing to have sex. A 13 year old who gets talked into having sex at a party by a friend of her 16 year old brother, who then passes her along to two other friends (I knew someone who went through this) shouldn’t be forced to go through a pregnancy if she does not want to go through with it. A girl whose uncle rapes her from the time that she is 2 until she is 18 (I know someone this happened to as well) should not have to carry the child that results when she was 14. Women who suffer from hyperemesis during pregnancy have very high abortion rates. I went through it and it was horrible and I don’t judge them at all for not being able to go through it themselves.

    What disturbs me most about most pro-life advocates that I have met, is that they don’t seem to care about the babies. It is NOT about saving babies for them. It is about punishing the women for DARING to have SEX. The woman must keep the baby because she should not get an “easy” way out of her mistake. As if getting an abortion is somehow easy.

    As for cutting the fat… I know a lot of people think there should be smaller government. The government has responded to this by cutting government jobs and using contract employees instead. Paying contractors costs more than if the government hired the people directly. It is putting a middle man into the equation, so more administration is needed (you need a supervisor on the government side and on the contractor side, plus upper management and CEOs), plus the contractor is a corporation that works for a profit. It costs more, but the government can boast how it has lowered the number of its employees this way.

    I don’t understand people who are so distrustful of the government, but think that a corporation is somehow better or more trustworthy. Corporations work for their shareholders, not for the people of the United States. Halliburton does work that the Defense Department used to do. This work should be put back in the hands of government employees.

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