Archive for the 'life in Germany' Category

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.

Last year

Last year on New Year’s Eve, I was pregnant without knowing. I had my suspicions though. Kate and Liz were here with me. Along with the rest of Germany, we lit fireworks outside our house in the snow, and tried not to get blown up.

2011 was much more than I bargained for. I got depressed when the snow melted. I hated Germany, for a while. I went home to Australia, hugged my mum, and learned that not everything is better there.

I discovered Spring in Germany. I fell in love with the city I live in, it’s beautiful streets, it’s parks and canals, it’s horrific and glorious history.

Rose had her first hair cut, and made her first real friend. I found a fleamarket beyond my wildest dreams. I’m not going to say any more about it. I ate lots and lots of ice cream. Some I made with egg yolks and double cream. I wish I still had time.

I found out I was having a boy, and cried for several days. I did a lot of thinking, about men. I went to England, my favourite place. I slept in a tent with my daughter beside me. I ate pork pie and damson jam.

I experienced labour, it was crazy. I fell in love with my son. I waited and waited for summer to come. It did, the day I went into hospital. For three days it was 30 degrees. When I came out, it was raining.

I cried a lot. Theodore cried more than me. Rose cried a little, and Tony not at all. I watched two seasons of Downtown Abbey, twice. I started to sense my time in Germany was running out.

And now it’s time for us to go home. In just a few short weeks, we’ll be back in Australia, home to see family and friends, then off to live in a new place. I’ve never been to Brisbane. I hear it’s nice. But there are snakes, and floods, and no one I can call a friend. But that’s where I started here, so recently. And now here I am, thinking of the loved ones I’ll miss, and the wonderful times I’ve had here.

But enough of that, for now.

Herbst

These days may well be our last Autumn days in Germany. The glory is all but passed now, just a few spots of yellow left clinging, like fairy lights in a Christmas tree. We’re left with a thick carpet of crinkly leaves just perfect for swishing and tossing. And just enough sun for a late autumn eis. 

Reformation Day

Like almost every other blogger, today I’m writing about a holiday. But it’s not Halloween. Today is Reformation Day in five German states, including mine. According to his friend Philipp Melanchthon, October 31st 1517 was the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, not far from where I live. Reformation Day was first brought to my attention when I noticed these strange and beautiful new cakes in the window of every bakery. Apparently the four little diamonds represent the bishop’s hat. Are they a cousin of the Hot Cross Bun?

Luther didn’t intend his handyman job to directly challenge the Pope’s authority. At that early stage he was mainly interested in debate and the church door was something of a 16th century blog space. His actions would change the course of history. But waiting in a queue that lead out the bakery door today, I wondered how many of my fellow queuers had considered the message contained in his ninety-five blog posts. As one reads through them it’s hard to miss the wrenching desire for truth to triumph over power. Luther had been reading his bible, he knew where God’s forgiveness could alone be found. Not in the Pope’s pardon, bought for money which went to Rome, but only in the cross of Jesus Christ. Five hundred years later it’s no less true for us.

An open letter to the German weather

Dear German weather,

I want us to be friends. I know we’ve had our differences, our share of ups and downs. I wont pretend I wasn’t angry after some of the things you did last winter. But I feel I owe you an apology. I may have been a little harsh, a little too quick to judge. I didn’t realise what you were planning, in fact, I’d forgotten what you were capable of. Spring was some of your finest work. May was nothing short of a masterpiece. I was sorry I ever doubted you. But see, I’d hate for things to go backwards again. And now, while Americans complain of the “heatwave”, German friends tell me they’ve never had a July like this.

So, I ask you, where is the sunshine? Where are the balmy evenings? It’s been weeks. You’ve had your fun. But please, enough is enough. There’s still time for August. I believe you can do hot, even here. So let’s see it.

Deal?

ps Thanks all for the birthday cards and Tim Tams, 28 isn’t so bad.

pps Yes I did knit that. Ravelry notes here.

ppps Apologies for the gratuitous polaroids. The app makes a cute sound.

Spring and secrets

I don’t remember spring having nearly such an impact in Australia. Come late August, I’d just be getting tired of the short, chilly days when suddenly a particularly warm one would make me think “Oh, sweet! Summer again!” In Germany, spring is a phenomenon. The effect of the change can be seen and felt everywhere. The bulbs appear, followed by the daisies, then the dandelions which give way to perfect hemispheres of wish-procuring fluff. Leipzig has woken from its slumber and come alive with bikes, canoes, cafes and BBQs. The market stalls are heavy with asparagus, radishes, rhubarb and strawberries. Life is very, very good, and the idea is to enjoy it now.

With all this new growth and renewal, it seems as good a time as any to let you all in on the biggest piece of news in MavisandFrank history. All things being well, baby number two will join us this September. As you’ll notice, I’ve been cooking up this particular secret for many months now. Rest assured my body is boldly displaying the fertile, fleshy joy of being not one, but two. In the process I’ve gained entry into the wonderful world of the frauenarzt and hebamme. Perhaps I’ll share these delights with you sometime soon. In the meantime, it’s time for ein eis.

#10 Pack away your santas

Funny thing about Christmas in Germany: seems it’s over before it begins. With three days to go, it was a little disconcerting to watch the Weihnachtsmarkt being packed away before our eyes as we gulped our last feuersangenbowle. Perhaps it’s because Germans have been diligently noting the days of advent, marking each Sunday with successively lit candles, doing their elving early and often. Perhaps it’s a recognition of the need to actually spend time with family, as well as buy for them. Many friends have left for their various hometowns in the past day or two, preparing for intense festivities. It was a sad feeling to watch trees being undressed, schwibbogen packed into boxes and lights being switched off, while a month’s worth of snow lay around in muddy creeks and icy mounds. Meanwhile, we’re celebrating the arrival of Tim; a friend who has known us both since aged 12. As the time draws nearer, it’s slowly becoming real that we won’t be in Australia for December 25th. I know this is painful for our families in particular, and perhaps it’s been easier to gloss over this rather than acknowledge it. I encourage you to read this post by my Aussie friend Rachael, whose reflections after five years of living in Leipzig are invaluable. Perhaps I’ll take a leaf out of the book of German Christmas, and spend the three remaining days with family, immediate and otherwise.

 


About Me

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

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