The Languages of Love

            One of the first words I better understood while studying in Berlin was the German translation for a universal emotion: Liebe. Or, as unilingual English-speakers recognize it as, love. I say “better understood” because I already knew the German translation for love long before I flew across the Atlantic to Deutschland, but it wasn’t until one discussion in my Experiential Beginning German class that I learned the difference between how Germans and Americans treat the word “love” (at least, according to Maike, my o so patient instructor).

            In that day’s lesson, Maike taught the class the difference between the sayings “Ich mag dich” (“I like you”) and “Ich liebe dich” (“I love you”). Okay, so it makes sense that two different sayings would have two different translations (and meanings), but her explanation of the way that they’re used in the two countries is what struck my classmates and me.

            Maike: German teenagers make fun of the way you Americans easily say, “I love you.” You say it for everything. {Laughs}

            Classmate #1: Really?

            Maike: {nods} They think it’s funny how you Americans declare love for everything. They mock you, saying, “Oh, I love French fries! I love my friends!” You won’t hear Germans saying that. If we really like something, we would say something like, “Ich mag es sehr” or, for people we like, “Ich mag dich.” The word “love” is more intimate for Germans, reserved for lovers.

            Class: {silent in contemplation}

            Well, that was the gist of it anyway.

            Since Valentine’s Day is today and it has been months since my stay in Deutschland, it’s a no-brainer that my mind would wander to this conversation on Liebe. But it’s now that I’m really reflecting on this. What does our (Americans’) casual declaration of love for anything and everything say about the way we treat such a powerful, serious emotion? Of course, this is a generalization, but it certainly applies to us. Think about the way we say we love something inanimate and emotionless, like a smartphone or a car. One definition Merriam-Webster has for “love” is “warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion.” We don’t really feel passion towards our iPhones…right?

            But before you or I think that maybe we Americans don’t really know what love is, the (hopeful) critical thinker and blogger Norbert Haupt does think we got one thing right: our frequent declaration to the people dear to us.

            I agree with Norbert when he says, “We tell each other ‘I love you’ a lot and it means much to us. Our culture is built on those few words.” It’s true—I say “I love you” to my mami when I greet her in the morning and to my daddy when I kiss him goodnight; I say “I love you” to my sisters before I lull off to sleep and to my brothers when I act like a playful punk; I say “I love you” to my best friends when we part after a long night of games and pastries; and I continue to say “I love you” to my loved ones. Not all the time, but I should.

            Norbert, then, would agree with Maike; in his description of his German upbringing, he states, “I have never said ‘ich liebe dich’ to my parents, or to a girlfriend, or to anyone else for that matter. Germans will say ‘ich mag dich’ or ‘ich hab’ dich gern.’” But he goes on to say something that my language instructor didn’t mention: “Those things are greatly watered down from the impact of ‘I love you’ and mean something to the effect of ‘I like you’ or ‘I kind of like you.’” So does that mean that it’s Germans don’t really know what love is?

            Mmm, don’t think so.

            On this holiday of love, I, an American who has lived in Germany for several months, contemplate Maike’s and Norbert’s accounts on the German and American usage of “I love you” and think this: we all feel love (or, at least, I hope we all do), and we have our own ways of expressing it. No matter our cultural upbringing, we know what it feels like for our heart to swell at the sensation of someone or something we possess a deep affection for. And, hopefully, we’re lovingly expressing that love, may it be with a declaration or a gesture.

            No matter if you do or do not celebrate Valentine’s Day, this is a day of love because, really, all days should be. Take this day to really think about who or what you love. Then, in your own unique and loving language, express your love.

-Gen Rabbit


Dream Boards: Visualizing Your Attainable Reality

Happy, happy New Year!

The year may now be a few weeks old, but it’s still a fresh new start for each of us. After all, we don’t need the dropping of a glittery ball, the disposal of calendars, or the automatic update of our digital clocks to dictate when you’re allowed a new beginning.

But the start of a new year is a good place to start. To motivate me to pursue my goals for the year, my lovely older sister and I had a crafts day and created our own dream boards (also known as ‘vision boards’). My best friend created one a few years ago, and she credits it for helping her stay on track with her fitness goals. So here is a preview of mine~!

A corner of my vision board!

Moonlight Muse blogger Allurynn Daugherty defines dream boards as “powerful tool[s] to enable you to manifest your dreams into reality” (you can read more about dream boards and see Daugherty’s example in this blog post). Literally put, they are collages consisting of words and images relating to goals you wish to attain. The popular media to create one are a poster board and magazine cutouts, but if you’re not a fan of glue and scissors, I would suggest using Pinterest or any other mess-free digital tool.

Dream boards are great motivational tools for tackling that increasing list of New Year’s resolutions. They can help you visualize whatever it is you want to achieve. Stick it in a spot you’re forced to see every day (like the wall by your bed, the bathroom mirror, or, if you go with a digital one, your cell phone or computer background), and you will (hopefully) be reminded of the changes you wish to make.

I envision myself becoming a more active blogger. And, well, here’s a start.

Cheers to an active, healthy, rich, spiritual, vibrant, happy new year to you and me.

-Gen Rabbit