E.J. Graff of the American prospect relates the story of a German expat who's settled into the U.S. and why:
"Why do you stay in the U.S., then?" I asked the German-born historian whose last professional job in Germany [actually, I think this is supposed to say the U.S.] ended two years ago. Since then, she has been doing piecemeal work and relying on a much thinner social safety net in the U.S. than she would have in her country of origin. There, she'd have her family, health care, lower housing costs, and other social and economic guarantees. She had just told me how much Germany had come to life since her youth: instead of "don't walk on the grass" signs, there's a lively public culture; instead of beige houses, there's an explosion of color; instead of the grim and clenched authoritarian culture for which Germany was once famous, there's playfulness. So why stay in the U.S.?
I wasn't challenging her; I was genuinely curious. It takes a certain kind of person to leave your culture behind and be unfamiliar with everything forever after. No matter how long she's been here, she can never be part of certain shared cultural conversations, which we refer to by particular markers: the Brady Bunch, or Seinfeld, or what Ellen's "puppy episode" meant to lesbians at the time....
She had two answers, both which interested me. The first was that, having been an expat for more than a decade, she would never again be fully at home in Germany; she was Americanized now, to some degree, and would be out of place there. I've heard that before from Americans who've lived abroad for some extended period. ... So I wasn't surprised by the historian's answer. But why would that keep her here? Because, she explained, here her accent marks her as foreign; it reveals her reason for being a little different, a little unfamiliar with ordinary cultural habits. But in Germany, where she is unmarked as a foreigner, her different-ness irritates people. Aha! That made sense.
But there's a second reason she likes the U.S., and it surprised me: Because of our famous "can do" attitude. She used the phrase with the air quotes, of course—but she meant it. She can't stand it, she said, that Germans whine all the time. They complain about what the government isn't doing. Americans, she said, just fix it. Even the whiners do something about whatever it is they dislike.
The German word for this phenomenon is Jammertal, roughly, the Valley of Whining. I can sympathize with the expat here: the whining is probably the unloveliest of German personality traits, which is why I'm going to simply point it out but not whine about it.