Reverse culture shock, or rockin’ the suburbs

I’m struggling quite a bit with the new life lately. To quote a blogging friend of mine, I have a Leipzig-shaped “hole in my heart”. I know I complained quite a bit about the language barrier, the climate, the homesickness and the lack of Tim Tams, but in truth there was much about life in Germany that has spoiled me. I’ve been doing lots of thinking and I’ve decided my maladjustment has less to do with moving from Germany to Australia and more with moving from city to suburbs. 

Leipzig is a city in the truest sense. Apart from the lovely streets lined with Gründerzeit buildings, the first thing I noticed was how compact it is. One can drive across the city in a matter of minutes, no suburbs clamoring around it, no feeling of endless sprawl. Living in a proper city was a whole new experience for me. I could walk to the city center, enjoy its markets, museums and wonderfully inexpensive cafes. Living in a small flat (like everyone else), we by necessity had less stuff. A car was unnecessary thanks to public transport that would make any Sydneysider sigh, but whether you’re eight weeks or eighty years old, the way to travel in Leipzig is by bike. Another aspect of city life I loved was parks. Not CBD parks, where joggers and businessmen mingle, or suburban parks where a few kids play on the Astroturf. I mean parks that are the garden of the city. On a warm day in summer, everyone is there. Communal spaces are necessary when everyone lives in a flat.

Coming back to suburban Australia has been just a little deflating. It seems a strange, unnatural life. Firstly, there’s the temptation to have stuff. Suburbia is perfectly designed to turn us all into little consumers. We don’t share things. Instead, we all buy our own. We are left to imagine what life is like on the other side of the fence and we try to keep up with the Jones’. We drive to get around. We commute to work.  We love the idea of farmers’ markets and local economies, but the capitalist system drives us towards the cheapest option: the shopping centers and supermarkets.

Suburbia can be a very lonely place for full time mum in a new town. While I do love the freedom of a patch of grass to play on and a Hills Hoist in the sun, the price can seem quite high, sometimes. Of course, the answer lies in finding ways around the isolating, consumer-oriented ways of the suburbs. Stay tuned.


5 Responses to “Reverse culture shock, or rockin’ the suburbs”

  1. 1 margareteaudrey June 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Nice post! I think every day in the suburb will make it easier and there must be other mums out there. If you want to meet new people, you shouldn’t take Theodore, though, he is SO adorable that every other mum will turn away jealous!

  2. 2 Lizzie June 27, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Hello again,

    Funny my husband and I live in the outermost suburbs, on a small acreage block and I am always nagging at him that I want to move close to the city (it’s a debate he somehow wins with irrational responses to my reasons why we should move ?!?!) never the less and quite oddley, I feel compelled to point out some of the redeeming features of suburbia

    Veggie gardens – there’s something primal and so satisfying about eating food you grew yourself

    Herb gardens – now I know they make those tiny little window box herb gardens for people in smal spaces but if you have a “yard” you can grow loads of different kinds of herbs and dry and keep the excess. Plus Queensland is such a great climate for growing so many things.

    Chooks – they make such great pets for kids, eat all your scraps (there are plenty of those when you have kids) and they leave you a perfect little present full of nutrition and culinary potential almost every day ! Oh and bonus – their poo will give your veggie and herb gardens a boost PS : you can rescue battery hens at the end of their commercial life but with plenty of egg laying chickenny awesomeness left in them

    You kids can have swings, or a sand pit or a tree house or all of those things

    Bar Be Ques Baby !! With friends on the week end…. Or a great way to make some – invite your neighbors ! Or even a mid-week outside steak and salad or potato bake AND…… The BBQ is such a man-y thing your husband is almost guaranteed to do the cooking, AND….. there’s less washing up after)

    and maybe ….. Dare I say …… A …. PUPPY …?!?

    And as for the lonely/isolated -ness – why don’t you think about running some basic sewing classes for mummy’s -y’know make some basic homey/mummy kinda projects … You make such lovely things I’m sure if you put a flyer up somewhere local you’d get loads of mummy’s interestd, I have searched high and low and can’t find any classes for beginner sewers 🙂 – make the new friends come to you I say !

    Hope this makes you feel a little more optimistic ….. I think I’m even convincing myself !

    X Lizzie

    PS. I forgot to mention the gold and sunshine coasts ! (not a suburbia thing but a great brisbane thing) Perfect for a week end or day trip !

    • 3 mavisandfrank June 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Lizzie, you are SO right and have pipped me at about five posts. Everything you have mentioned is on “the list” (except perhaps for the puppy). Having limited space to grow things is certainly one of the biggest drawbacks of city life. I love the idea of sewing classes, and if I wasn’t so bloody sleep-deprived I’d do it tomorrow. Perhaps I could put that on “the list” as well and save it up. Are you on the Northside or Southside?

  3. 4 Amanda July 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Hi Ally,

    I completely agree! We’ve been back from Leipzig for about 8 weeks now and I am struggling in the same way! I’m sort of glad that I’m not the only one 🙂 The only place to go around here seems to be the damn shopping centre and once there I feel a strange urge to buy stuff…for Emma you understand.

    I hope you’re all keeping well.


    • 5 mavisandfrank July 16, 2012 at 4:49 am

      So nice to hear from you! Glad I’m not the only disgruntled ex-expat around. Lovely Leipzig is so hard to leave. I’d live there in a heartbeat were it not so far from the loved ones.

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A girl with a camera, a toddler and a sewing machine. Making sense of Germany... and life in general.

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