Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

"I'm leaving Las Vegas
And I won't be back
No I won't be back
Not this time."
-Sheryl Crow*

For a long time I thought America had its claws in me. Lured in by brights lights and kept there with free drinks and the promise of a comped hotel room, I thought I would never get it together and actually leave. I thought for sure that I would live and die and never experience my dream of being a true expat living abroad.

Now that I am, it's amazing how quickly my brain seems to be wiping away traces of my American self and cozying up to a new Euro-version of me. I noticed this the other day in Danish class, the way my brain would revert to other European languages when faced with difficult translations or inability to come up with a word. Sometimes when I can't think of the correct phrase in Danish, the French-I-learned-in-grade-school version pops into my head.

France, je t'aime!

Then there was the day where the phrase, "La escuela es rojo," got stuck on mental repeat, even though I don't speak any Spanish, nor have I ever studied it. I think it got lodged in there back in the seventh grade when all my friends were taking the "useful language", while I studied French so I could go eat crepes and croissants on a future school exchange to La Rochelle.

Despite kicking myself years later when I moved to Colorado with no knowledge of Spanish, it was an amazing trip of a lifetime. (And that French came in super-handy when my host family ran over my foot with their voiture on my first day there!) Now, in response to my recent life change, the linguistic region of my brain has switched to "foreign" mode, and I'm waiting to see which other languages I don't know make an appearance.

Another example: last week, we learned that the Danish word "lækker" can be used to describe food that is delicious, but also someone who is good-looking. Of course this led to a discussion of who was "lækker" in the world of entertainment and pop culture and my mind began wandering. Clive Owen... British! Vincent Cassel... French! David Beckham... argh, British again! Hard to blame my brain, given George and McDreamy's laughable recent cameos in my life. And lest you think the US was lacking in representation in this conversation, I did deliver a stern lecture to a German classmate on why the words "lækker" and "David Hasselhoff" should never appear together in a sentence.

With more and more American references and influences disappearing each day, my brain cannot seem to keep itself anchored in an American mindset. I've stopped jaywalking all the time and now religiously obey pedestrian signals. I'm no longer quite so disturbed by Jude Law's (unexpected!) hairy-ness - I think it's actually a European thing. I am the proud owner of three scarves, a closet full of skinny jeans and a set of wool long undies I wouldn't trade for all the creamy peanut butter in the world.

Someone who ate one too
many freedom fries on his
last trip to the States?
Am I "integrating" as the Danes would say? Maybe not as much as controversial Minister for Refugees, Immigrants and Integration Søren Pind would like. Though I don't think someone who believes multiculturalism is "deceitful" would ever fully approve of this blogger's American or Euro-versions of self.

And while I know that someday in the not so distant future, my American self will come knocking, wanting to be let back in, I will be glad that I left Las Vegas, even for a little while.

[* Apologies to my husband for lifting these lyrics from his least favorite recording artist. He still can't forgive her for covering Sweet Child of Mine, which, in his book, is about as un-American as you can get.]