If you have followed the blog over the last couple of months or have joined one of my social media channels you may have noticed that I was getting pretty excited about a big trip to Europe.
The plan that we had schemed was to first travel to Germany, my home country, to drop off the kids at grandma’s place, a smart move which allowed us to turbo charge our Europe roundtrip experience without the kids slowing us down. We wanted to experience Europe as tourists, not as expats coming back to their country for an endless array of family reunions. Don’t get me wrong, we love our families. But we also wanted to do something new.
And this is exactly what happened.
In three weeks we managed to visit 7 countries (not counting Germany) using a variety of transport options. We climbed the Eiffel Tower and went underground to explore the crypt in the Pantheon; we experienced one of the last operating sleeper train services in Western Europe; we lost ourselves in the maze that makes up Venice and ate traditional Venetian dishes such as pan-fried liver and spaghetti with clams; we discovered the familiar backdrops from Game of Thrones scenes and stumbled upon an old derelict church from the 10th century, hidden somewhere in the Montenegro countryside. We watched first hand the current economic collapse in Greece, and entered one of the most spectacular and completely underrated churches – the Co-Cathedral of St. John which is covered in gold from top to bottom.
We also visited the smallest country in the world and survived a ride with a Roman taxi driver. In short, we have come back to Australia with a bag full of stories and, of course, 100’s and 100’s of beautiful photos which I cannot wait to share with you in the coming weeks.
But beside all the adventure and the exotic it is always a special experience to go back to the place where you originate. In my case, this is Germany. Since the people close to us have moved it’s not exactly the place where I grew up, but close-by. Which doesn’t really make a trip to Germany a trip down memory lane, because it lacks the familiar places and faces from my childhood. Who would have thought that most of my friends and family would now live abroad or in other cities?
Yes, it felt good to be back, even though going back to Germany is like entering a world that is comfortable and familiar yet also strange and foreign.
Let me explain this to you a bit further. For example, the language changed so significantly within a decade that I notice it now that I only visit temporarily. Within just 10 years, the German that is used today is becoming more and more informal. New words are being introduced constantly, as are phrases and catchphrases. Cultural references can be completely lost on me as I am no longer in touch with the latest TV shows, pop stars and current affairs.
This is just a tiny aspect of my stay in Germany when going back, yet it makes a big difference in the way I experience the country, the culture and its people. I am an outsider the very minute I start a conversation.
I think the biggest difference to Australia, one that annoys me most, is the way people in Germany deal with each other. There’s such a striking lack of friendliness and courtesy, even in the service industry, that can really darken your mood. You would think that a smile is cheap currency, and that small talk goes a long way, but from my experience people don’t seem to bother. They seem to hate their jobs and they don’t mind showing it. Some people might call it down-to-earth, I call it blunt and aggressive. I guess I always knew that this was the German way, but this time around, it really put me off.
Besides that, Germany is a wonderfully clean and orderly country. I love the way the roads are well maintained, and you have to experience a German autobahn interchange to understand how brilliant these people are at engineering and planning. Imagine a power socket that makes your life really easy – one that lets the plug slide in easily, without any sparks and brutal force!
I particularly love the lush countryside around this time of year and the deep green colours along the sides of the roads. The multitude of flowers in pots, pretty much everywhere. Such a joy to look at! Have a look here at my post about the Old Village of Westerholt and the take note of the lovely flowers everywhere!
And nobody will ever be able to serve up a better breakfast than the Germans. For Germans, breakfast is not just a quick meal to satisfy your needs before you dash off to work, it is a celebration of flavours and textures. We like it not just sweet but also savoury, so the best way to enjoy a German breakfast is by trying a good old bread roll, crispy on the outside, fluffy and compact on the inside, together with some fresh mortadella sausage, liver pate, Dutch cheese or even creamy poultry salad. Yes, we really like to eat these things for breakfast.
However, during the current heatwave things turned rather sour. Australia clearly is the better place for hotter temperatures. You just don’t get air-conditioning and pools in Germany, and most people live far away from a beach. Everybody else needs to cool down at the local pool which will be overcrowded by noon with 100% certainty.
As time goes by, my relationship with Germany grows more and more distant. It is still my home country and it will have a place in my heart forever but at the same time I cannot associate myself with it anymore. When thinking in terms of “them” and “us” then Germany is “them” and not “us”. Australia has become my new home and I am creating memories with every minute that passes. I will always want to go back for a holiday, but Australia is the place where I want to spend the rest of my life.
Yes, it’s good to be back in Australia.
What about you – are you a child of two countries? How do you experience your life away from the culture and the people you once grew up with? Let me know in the comments below!