fly the seven seas

Observations of a Sydney girl rocking Germany


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Shades of grey

It’s officially here. I don’t have to look past the long faces on the train passengers every mornings to know that its that time of year again. That time where, everyone would happily donate every woolly jumper in aid for some small hint of warmth.

After the excitement of Christmas has worn out and a few days on the slopes have been enjoyed, the sight of snow is just bleh. The once-dreamy, romantic and festive love of snow is replaced with awkward-looking piles of icy mounds on the side of the road.

The days of sunshine here and there are too easily missed when most days are just plain grey. The nights’ frost draws a silver grey outline on trees. Street pollution paints the unmelted snow on the roads with a dirty grey. Frost and snowfall shadow cars in a dark grey. Look around at the train station and you’ll notice the sea of blacks, browns and greys (with the odd fur trim) of coats and scarves – this grey is contagious. And simply just endless. (I’m not going to dare post any photos of this bleak grey – no thank you!)

This feeling is not just because I’m a “displaced” aussie unaccustomed to the endless winter – with every third person down with the flu, or simply just over it – its quite obvious that if a petition to end winter now were created, we’d be seeing the buds of the crocus’ popping out of the grass next week. Sadly we know this just isn’t going to happen. It also doesn’t help to see the latest spring fashion flood all shop windows, knowing that anything new bought will sit in the cupboards for at least another 5 weeks.

Now I agree, this post is far from being cheery – and rightfully so – what I wouldn’t give to be sitting on the balcony in a loose singlet, listening to the hum of bees sucking the nectar from the parade of lavender, while the sun beats on my cheeks causing sweat beads to drip down my arms. Much better than shielding my eyes from chaotic snow flakes. So – what do I do when I know that such days are simply out of reach? I dream. Of sunny days. Of endless blue. Of shorts and flip-flops. Of sticky nights. Of days by the lake. Of sand-covered ankles. Of mango smoothies by the pool. I dream. And it helps.

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I also like listening to these guys.

Join me – let’s fight this grey.

Cheers,

Alex


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Of pot plants, golf balls and beer…

It has been a little quiet around here. I apologise.

My mind has been working on over-drive lately – pondering, processing questions and hypotheticals and making big decisions.

There have been moments i have wished I was sitting cross-legged on my favourite strip of Sydney sand, hoping for that aha! moment to appear before me.

There have been other moments where I see the beauty around me, realise the things I have achieved in Germany and the family and friends that have enriched my life here, and for that moment, its all ok again.

Its a little more than just being ‘home sick’ (when will they introduce the express-route to Sydney?) – this is something that will always linger around but likes to make an extra appearance when things get a little ‘tough’. 

In perfect timing, this short story landed in front of me – and helped me put things back into perspective. Its surprising that a friendly reminder is sometimes all we need to realise that the issues we create mountains of in our mind are simply molehills when considering the real problems of the world. OK, enough metaphoring…

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Entertaining germanisms

Every Wednesday morning, I walk out of the apartment on my way to the station, to be greeted by the bright orange rubbish truck that slowly rumbles its way along the street. It’s fun to watch the routine of the brigade of orange-clad men as they hang off the back of the truck, hopping off in unison and dispersing to various houses.
Although I try to avoid walking past the truck (nothing like the waft of rubbish to kill any sense of a fresh morning) it is often the case that two of said trucks are making their rounds on both potential routes out of my street, making the pass-by unavoidable. Each time I walk past the orange brigade (with my breath held of course), I receive the most cheery ‘Guten Morgen!’ from all of them (such a greeting you would gladly welcome at the city’s local authorities office i.e. das Kreisverwaltungsreferat). I’m proud to say that I’ve put aside my cold Sydney ways and return the greeting with a smile and the pleasant reminder of unfamiliar friendliness. This is what I like about the Germans – they love to greet.

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A spring guide to Paris

I was lucky enough to reign in May with a weekend in Paris. Following on from my previous post, I thought I would continue the theme of springtime in the city with some tips for enjoying Paris in the spring.

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It goes without saying however that Paris is a beautiful city any  time of year. Inspired by my own weekend getaway, here are my suggestions:

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Taking a moment.

I recently celebrated my birthday – something we are all lucky to have each year.

Over the last two years I have noticed a change in my feelings towards my birthday and getting older in general. The lead-up now plays out a little differently.

With 20 I was more than excited to say that I’d be turning 21 – this was a time for the constant parade of the ‘new’ – new people, experiences, travels, concepts, ways of thinking, excuses for missing out on class, hairstyles, wisdom – and all the while having no idea about what would be around the corner.

A few years later and I still don’t know what will be around the corner (really, who ever does?), but I’m a little more certain it will be filled with a little less nonsense, carefree/rash decisions or Saturday nights spent in unknown locations.

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Behind the wheel

You wouldn’t believe it. Or perhaps you may, but I am still finding it hard to believe. I have been driving.

Why do I find this so hard to believe? Because I have been a bit of a wuss /  gutless wonder / excuse maker since moving here. When living in Sydney, I would’ve driven almost every day. I knew back-street routes, the one-way streets in the city and even the free parking spots that surrounded popular spots. I enjoyed driving and, after mastering manual after a few mandatory tantrums as a learner, I was a confident driver.

This all changed when I moved to Germany.

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Its been a while since my last post – summer, holidays, old friends and road trips means I tend to steer away from technology. Alex and I also just finished a 4,500km road trip across the south coast of Australia – there will be more about this in my next posts. But here I am, finding it hard to realise that the 31st of December has rolled around once again – but nevertheless excited for the days ahead.

Being the last day of 2013, I think a recap is duly in order. I always enjoy looking back on the year that was – what I achieved, the milestones, the many places I was able to see, the people I met…

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Making sweeping statements.

Over the past 22 months I have had the pleasure to immerse myself in many aspects of German life – daily life, culture, behaviours, trends, traditions, work habits, events –  to be able to formulate some observations and generalisations*.

Here is what I have so far:

  1. Germans like to greet – with many variations of the basic form of hello.
  2. Germans have guidelines for communicating with others on a formal basis (Sie – siezen) or an informal basis (Du – duzen) and are intrigued when the guidelines are not followed, ‘Did you notice, he offered me the Du!’
  3. Germans are punctual and appreciate punctuality.
  4. On that note, lunch time is 12pm. Sharp.
  5. Coffee and cake hour runs between 3pm and 5pm. Fighting with pensioners to secure a table in a cafe during this time is highly likely. (I am surpised at how many people regularly enjoy a slice of cake or sweet treat).
  6. Despite the obesity epidemic (most probably fuelled by the cake eating) – the Germany I see is active, with walkers and runners seen in streets, parks, around lakes, at all times of the day and throughout the year.
  7. Many of said walkers, as well as hikers, are often seen with two ski-pole-like walking sticks in their hands. The Nordic Walking trend is big among the German folk.
  8. Germans like to wear activity-specific clothing. Yes, we understand that one must wear appropriate clothing when skiing for example, but is it really necessary to wear the summer equivalent of ski pants for your hiking/trail-walking/stick-walking/wandern activities? Outfit ‘sets’ made in light weight ‘breathable’  fabrics and matching sweat-bands are often seen. Continue reading


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Opening my eyes

Some times things get a little too much – I begin to dwell on things and often forget to breath. I am having one of those weeks.

Without getting into too much detail, this week has involved a lot of personal reflection – career-wise. There may have been a mini-meltdown, a heavy migraine and the phrase ‘it’s too much’ replaying over and over in my head.

As a much welcomed relief, I have found peace in appreciating the beauty all around me.

Autumn, herbst – my favourite season – has slowly revealed its beauty with;

crisp mornings,

golden, afternoon light,

blankets of fallen leaves on footpaths,

multi-patterned pumpkins stacked in open fields, and

skylines of change –  green, yellow, orange, red and brown.

Just walking through this natural beauty brings wonders to the soul. In my neighbourhood houses have begun preparing for the winter – some with piles of firewood stacked in yards, some having already warmed their fireplaces.

Drinking my morning coffee from the balcony I smiled as I saw the squirrels return – chasing each other along the tree branches, their golden coats often camouflaged amongst the leaves as they gather the tree’s delights.

It is the season of foraging and storing, wearing scarves, roasting chestnuts, holding onto light and appreciating the gradual slow-down of life. Continue reading


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Questionning efficiency

It is definitely not a secret that Germany and efficiency go hand in hand.

Stemming from the ideology of rationalisation, the notion of efficiency is often related to German technology, design and manufacturing but is also extended to the character of the German native.

Partnered with notions such as reliability, punctuality and bureaucracy, efficiency is more than just a ‘notion’ however – efficiency is present all around…

For example:

When a meeting is set for 10am, one can be assured that all participants are ready for the meeting to begin at 10am. Knowing that the meeting starts on time means things are moving along in order to move onto the next tasks. Making such a meeting with our Greek fellows, however, if you’re lucky the participants would start rolling in 30 minutes after the agreed time.

A (native) German teacher I had for the last language course I took turned up to class sick two days in a row and held the class without a voice, for the reason that a substitute teacher was not available. While the class wasn’t really that productive, she knew that if a paid class was cancelled, the group would be behind the course schedule and thus not have extra days to prepare for the final exam. Laryngitis obviously does not trump efficiency. For warrant of any embarrassment, I will not comment on the number of classes throughout my school and university education that were left without teachers.. Continue reading