'I was born in Heidelburg,' the postal worker enthusiastically told me as I spread out a few postcards to be sent to Switzerland before her. I repeated the city's name correctly out of habit as if I were teaching German 101 to students at uni. 'Ah, Heidelberg!' I said with a smile on my lips lest the woman sitting behind the counter take some sort of offense at being corrected, or, in fact, realize she was being corrected at all. 'No, Heidelburg,' she said again. I dropped it. If a woman 'from Germany' (she left the Fatherland at eight months of age) wants to show off her German skills to me, then I should just let her.
There was one thing that folk said to me during my recent trip back home to California that I could not let pass and that was this: So, how's life in Germany treating you? One of my favorite responses to this well-meaning, yet off-the-mark query was: As far as I know, life in Germany is great, but I live in Switzerland (cue tension-diffusing smile here).
My realigning one's geographic challenges was never meant with ill intent. I just really wanted to remind folk that the city of Zurich is within the country of Switzerland. I live in Switzerland, and, yes, the part of Switzerland in which I live is relatively close to the German border. The German city of Konstanz is about an hour train ride from Zurich. When I was home, I drove well over an hour to have dinner with an old friend one evening and I never left my home state let alone my country in order to do so.
After facing the third 'how's Germany' question in under two weeks, I began to wonder if my years of studying German and multiple visits to Germany had predisposed people into thinking that, of course, a 'German-o-phile' like me would wind up in Deutschland. Fair enough, I had always hoped I would find myself living in Germany, preferably the Southwestern region, too. As it stands, I am now living due south of Swabia, and close enough, a train ride away in fact, to visit regularly. So, really, when asked by people how Germany is I could honestly answer that it is indeed fine. (-except, of course, I don't live there.)