When Americans vacation in foreign countries, they look forward to experiencing everything they can’t see and do at home. They enjoy learning about new cultures, how the natives of that country live, the food they eat, their style of dress, entertainment and leisure time activities.
But what about when they come here? I have a wonderful uncle who lives in Germany. He’s only a few years older than me, so he’s more like the brother I never had. A few years ago, he came to visit my family in Fenton with his adult daughter, my cousin. They loved it here, but were surprised by a few things.
One thing we wanted to do during their visit was take them to Frankenmuth. I think everyone is excited about doing this with their German visitors. Don’t get me wrong – I love Frankenmuth; but when we pointed out all the German fare on the restaurant menu, my uncle politely declined and ordered a steak and baked potato. “I eat German food at home every day,” he explained. The same was true for everything else there – the music, gift shop offerings. They did think it was a “cute” town, though.
We took them to several attractions, which they loved, including the Detroit Zoo. We offered to take them to places up north, like the bridge and the island. They opted to stick around Fenton, however, and see how we live.
One of the things they enjoyed was our local classic car shows. At the cruise to Battle Alley in Holly, my cousin literally drooled over a Shelby Mustang. She was over the moon when the owner (a cute young guy about her age) asked if she wanted a photo of the two of them standing by his car. I’ve never seen cheeks so red!
They enjoyed concerts in the park, and several trips to area lakes and parks. But what they really liked the most was shopping – shopping at the malls, Birch Run Outlets, many local mom-and-pop shops … and Walmart. They have Walmart in Germany, but not like the super-huge stores we have here.
One day, my husband said he was “kidnapping” my uncle. They were gone for hours. I was worried, because my husband spoke zero German, and my uncle only knew a little English. They spent those hours at Home Depot – my uncle loved it! He could not get over that there was such a store. I still can’t figure out how they bonded and communicated so well. Even though my husband is gone now, my uncle still calls him his “best friend in America.”
At the end of each day after dinner, my uncle and cousin set out to enjoy another favorite activity, spazieren (a leisurely walk) in Fenton. They live in a country of castles, cathedrals, homes and other structures that are hundreds of years old, but were in awe of the historic homes in and around Dibbleville. They took hundreds of photos home with them.
Traveling to faraway places is great, but seeing all that we have right here through my European family’s eyes reminded me that there really is no place like home.