During my trip to Germany, I noticed something which really should have been obvious to me years ago. Europeans who come and live in America for a while become rather perky, a quality that sets them off from their native countrymen. It’s not that they stop being German or Dutch or English or French, but rather that they’re suddenly more outgoing and cheerful, kind of maniac, but in a good way. On the other hand, Americans who live in western Europe (let’s say north-western Europe to be more specific) seem to take on an air of weariness, as if they’ve witnessed the woes of the world which they now stoically endure.
From an objective standpoint, it shouldn’t be the case that living in America is that easy, or that living in (north-western) Europe is that hard. In both places, you can pretty much expect running water, easily heated lodging, fresh and varied food, and the freedom to walk around without being hassled for being an unescorted female or thrown into jail (or being tortured) at the whim of someone in power. Believe me, it sounds like nothing, but I’ve been (briefly) in places where this is not the case, and it is a major drag. In contrast, America and Western Europe rock!
But there is something indefinable about each culture that makes its residents perky (yes, Americans are naturally perky, but Americanized Europeans seem super-perky) or weary (and the weariness is particularly noticable on a young American who used to be perky, like our friend Kai.) It’s not a permanent change either: repatriated Americans will lose the weariness within a few months, and repatriated Europeans go back to their downtrodden mein. But unless I go live in Europe for an extended period of time, I don’t think I’ll know why there is such a change in personality in living in either civilized and decent place.