fly the seven seas

Observations of a Sydney girl rocking Germany


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Playing dress ups

Our firm hosted a ‘sales and marketing day’ last week for the all employees in the Munich office to ‘promote talent and opportunities across service lines’ – i.e. a means to justify a large celebration.
Lured by a night out for a pre-Oktoberfest party (and informative workshops of course)  I accepted the invitation. In preparation for the event, the invitation described:

Dresscode           
Dre Dresscode sowohl für die Tages – als auch die Abendveranstaltung ist Tracht, bayerischer Landhausstil oder Casual.
(The dresscode for both the day-time and evening event is Tracht (Dirndl / Lederhosen), Bavarian country estate style or casual).

Putting aside my Greek heritage and the multiple, annual events I (forcefully) participated in as a child*, the notion of an official national ‘costume’ as an Australian – let a lone wearing it in the work environment – is definitely something new to me.

Being who I am (Australian, Greek, and a little stubborn), I don’t find it easy to thrown on my Dirndl at all occasions (e.g. work festivities) and act like I’m one of the locals. My colleagues on the otherhand were excited to know that they could mix things up a little from the ‘contemporary businesswear’ that is usually required.

While having a national costume is common to many cultures around the world what I see here is an evident enthusiasm to dress in traditional costume. Dressing in Tracht isn’t restricted to Oktoberfest / Volksfest celebrations; in Bavaria Tracht is often worn at parties, weddings, to church, by waitstaff in traditional restaurants, on Sunday picnics and also accepted in the workplace. Enthusiasm is also seen through the desire to have the latest Tracht accessories, hairstyles to match and even Karl Lagerfeld’s latest 2013 leather Dirndl styles. Continue reading

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Lost in translation

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After more than a week now of temperatures below 16 degrees here in Munich, I have sadly let go of summer for the year and have revived the autumn collection from the wardrobe.

Despite the days where (apparently) Sydney’s winter days were warmer than Munich’s summer days – I am impressed with Germany’s summer performance this year. We were blessed with some solid weeks of warm weather, sunshine to make up for the abysmal winter and a mild heatwave that tested the boundaries of ‘office appropriate outfits’, as air-conditioning is not the norm. Those that weren’t on holidays therefore generally knocked-off from work early and many, many evenings were spent in the city’s many, many Biergartens. (Lucky for me many lunches were also spent in the biergarten – only 200m from the office).

The experience of the infamous ‘European summer’ is often on the to-do list of many Australians, as it had been on mine. Here too it revolves around taking holidays; school children are generally off between July – September and businesses throughout Europe also take a summer pause. This generally means over-priced travel rates, unbearable traffic on the Autobahns and crowds everywhere.

Sharing my summer adventure over coffee with a friend last week I asked her if she were able to take some time off.

Friend: Ja, wir haben drei Wochen Urlaub auf Balkonien verbracht. [We spent three weeks on the Balcony].

Me: Oh cool, where’s that?

Friend (with confused expression): Uhhhh, hier in Schwabing. [a district of Munich]. Continue reading


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The greeting game

Away on our recent summer travels in South Tyrol (Süd Tirol) we sat down at an alpine Hütte for an afternoon snack. The waitress brought us our dish, a selection of regional cheeses, breads and fruit and exclaimed a hearty ‘Mahlzeit!’ , before slipping away.

Normally an ‘enjoy your meal’, ‘Bon appetit’ or ‘Guten Appetit’ would be pleasantly received, the abrupt ‘Mahlzeit!!’ however caught me a little by surprise. But that was only the beginning. Over the next four days this phrase was belled in multiple instances before or during a meal – including walking towards a restaurant, in a hotel lobby and before every course that was served at a restaurant.

Upon returning to Munich it happened again. Having returned from lunch with colleagues, we passed by another colleague on the street about to head for a lunch break. While working towards her, my colleague shouted out ‘Mahlzeit!’ and continued walking. I was again a little shocked.

Personally it comes across a little strong but perhaps this is because I am considering it through the direct translation of the phrase, ‘meal’ or ‘meal time’. When said, it is often exclaimed, or hollered – rendering it somewhat commanding. Yes I am about to eat, there is no need to repeat the obvious.

After some light research and some friendly ‘prompting’ of my Germans the phrase is understood as ‘Enjoy your meal’, or even a ‘hello’ if said while passing someone by and is now often said in the office, university or factory environments across Germany and Austria. Originating from the longer greeting ‘gesegnete Mahlzeit’, (blessed meal time), it is believed to have been a form of announcement to guests when official or royal banquets were served. The phrase now shortened, appears to be backed with good intention, however when said with sarcasm it can be taken to imply something of disgust or irony.

I am not convinced. Its the tone of the greeting that gets me. Another (German) colleague agreed and also sees it a bit rough or barbaric. Perhaps I feel this way because I notice that other greetings are just too pleasant. Continue reading


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Number 1.

Hi.

It’s time. This has been a long time coming but I am now here to share a few stories with you.

To keep this sweet, my name is Alexandra and 19 months ago I packed up my belongings (including the >30 cookbooks) and left the safe shores of Australia to begin a new adventure in Germany. Through my stories I hope to impart upon you the intrigue, the challenges, the happiness and the discoveries of my experience.   

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences along the way, so please feel free to leave a comment.

This is going to be exciting, I can’t wait!

All the best,

Alexandra