Am American In Europe - What It MeansOften I am asked, 'Why don't you just leave your husband and move back to the States?'
Well, although I could try that avenue (although legally it would be tricky since we have a little girl and the Hague Convention prohibits removing children from one country to another without the approval of both parents), I actually do not want to.
For my fellow Americans who have never worked over here, I will start with what it means to an American, regardless of family status.
First, when you work here in Germany, you get 5 to 6 weeks of vacation per year. Can you imagine what that means for your own personal development, private life and freedom? Even if you do not have children, you can use that time to visit family back home in the States, or travel to wherever you like, or just use that time to do something for yourself, education-wise, or intensely focus on your hobbies, and so forth. Because I do have a child, it means that I can take lots of time to do memorable things with her. Second, I perceive here, unlike in the States, very little pressure to become this career power-woman, or to make it into management. Working society here in Germany is quite happy for you to become a subject matter expert instead, which is wonderful because career-wise, I would like to do something a little unconventional with my career and become knowledgeable about international tax.
And third, if you lose your job here, you do not lose your healthcare coverage.
I remember my 15 years of working in the United States, at a Fortune 500 company, and do not care to be back in that environment. I learned a lot, but in general corporate America is a much better environment for kids just out of the university who have no outside life and no responsibilities, or for older single people who do not mind working 10 to 12 hour workdays.
Now I move on to the factors that make this country better for raising children than the United States. First, the school system. Bavaria has the best public school system in all of Germany, and the German school system is superior to America's in general (not making this up, check out the stats). As a parent, I will never have to fret whether my daughter is learning what she should learn or whether there are gangs and drugs in her schools, and try to make enough money to send her to private schools, as I probably would in the U.S. (I also think the superiority of the German school system here is related to Germany's very strong apprenticeship programs, whereby teenagers work and study during the same time period, but this is another topic to delve into). Second, there are so many parks, programs, and workshops for children here that my daughter would never want for enrichment. Third, by growing up here, she will become fully and fluently bilingual, with no accent in either language.
So do I want to leave my husband? Not really or at least not badly enough to deal with the chaos separation and divorce would bring. Do I want to move back to the States, if I were in fact to leave him? Definitely not.