August 5th will bring my 435th consecutive day in Europe and my last day in Germany. Throughout the past year I have had some amazing experiences. I have learned a lot about myself, the German culture and have improved my language skills. The time has flown by. As my time here here trickles to an end, my thoughts and questions are flowing like the Nile.
If there is one thing I learned while being in Germany, it’s that no matter where you are in the world, people are the same. Whether you’re from Africa, Asia, Europe, Mars, the USA or any other country or continent, you’re language might vary from mine, but you have the same needs and wants that I do. You want to be treated with respect, have friends, be part of a family, celebrate life’s achievements, get an education, go on vacation and enjoy that occasional vanilla ice cream when it’s blazing hot outside. Now it might be customary to eat your ice cream with ants on top and to me that might be completely inappropriate, but the point isn’t the fact that our cultures have taught us different ways to eat the “standard” vanilla ice cream. The point is that we all enjoy ice cream!
This talk about how different Germans are from Americans just isn’t true (and I’m sure if my German friends are reading this they are shouting at the screen). Sure, there are some cultural differences that lay on the surface and the Germans are definitely proud of their “Germanness” (if there is still such a thing in Germany today). But aren’t Americans proud to be Americans? During my time here I found it much easier to get to know the locals by by-passing these stereotypes we all have in our heads. I started seeing people not as citizens of a particular country but part of something bigger; a sort of global community. And it was after I started seeing Germany and the world in this way, that all barriers were broken down and I was given some wonderful opportunities to get to know some great people and start to understand what it is that makes us all tick. In today’s world it’s not just about you, or me, or our respective countries. It’s about bridging the cultural gap and digging deeper to find that common thread. The thing that makes us all the same yet unique at the same time. As soon as we all start seeing the world as a global community full of people equal to ourselves, the world becomes our oyster and the opportunities for cooperation, technological advancement, political progress and great friendships are endless.
In closing I would like to thank all of my friends here in Europe for a great time and showing me what life is all about. I will miss all of you very much and look forward to my return to Europe. As for my friends in the States: It’s been over 450 days since the last time I’ve seen most of you. For some it’s been well over two years. I hope that you will all take the time to get back in touch with me and share with me what’s happened in your life since then. I look forward to seeing you very soon.