One year ago today I said goodbye to my friends and family and boarded a 24-hour flight destined for my new home over the next year. The whole day was spent saying goodbye to the people I love, pinching myself in disbelief that my dream of the past two years was finally coming true, and trying not to think about how shit scared I was to move over the other side of the world (to a country I had never even visited) to start a completely new job, and a completely new life.
At the time, I remember how a year seemed like such an inordinate period of time. I wondered how I could possibly bear being away from home for that long – wouldn’t I miss my friends and family, my favourite places in Melbourne, my life in Australia?
As it turns out, a year is a very, very short period of time. Certainly not long enough for me to miss home, especially when (as I often say) it feels as if Australia has come to me this year, with a guest from back home pretty much every other month (Note: I am CERTAINLY not complaining about this, and I hope it continues next year!).
On the 19th December I am flying home for Christmas, and (although I am so so so looking forward to seeing my wonderful friends and family) to be honest I am a little hesitant about the whole thing. Will it be the same? Will it have changed? Which would I rather? Will it still feel like home? Will I be homesick for Munich? Where is my home anyway? Do I even have one anymore?
I guess when you move overseas you fall into thinking that home is just as you left it, some sort of comforting memory suspended in time that you can always go back to. But of course things change, places change, and people change. The Melbourne I said goodbye to a year ago doesn’t exist anymore. I expect my return will be a bit like running into an ex-boyfriend after a year apart. Either it will be weird, and I will be nostalgic for the lost pleasure of the past, or else I will fall in love all over again only to have my heart broken a second time.
My one year anniversary in Munich just happened to coincide with the opening of the Christmas Markets, so my friends and I decided (actually I decided, they were forced) to celebrate the occasion at my favourite Christmas Market at Weissenburger Platz (you don’t need to go to Nuremburg, people, the best Christmas Market in the world is actually 800 meters from my apartment!).
The one-year anniversary was also a chance to compare my birth city with my adopted city. After twelve months in Munich there are things about Melbourne that I have really missed. But equally there are things about Munich that I have come to love, and will surely miss when I am back in Melbourne over Christmas.
Things I have missed about Melbourne
Shopping on Sunday – this topic has already been well documented, and I will not waste any more time on it here.
J-walking – Real Bavarians wait for the green man. Even if there is nothing coming in either direction. If the traffic lights ever stopped working (this would never happen, Bavaria is in Germany after all) I’m pretty sure the city would literally grind to a halt.
English – Small talk. Billboard advertising. Eavesdropping. These are all things that are much easier in your native language.
You can buy drugs – no I’m not talking recreational drugs, although I am that these would be much more readily available in Melbourne also. No, I’m talking antibiotics for a cold, paracetamol at the supermarket, cough lollies at the petrol station for God sake! When I went to London at the start of the year I smuggled back a 50 pack of Strepsils. I mean, who says that?
I can drive – We drive on the RIGHT side of the road in Australia (and by right, I mean left ;)). Automatic cars are plentiful. Reverse parking is not a necessity.
Melbourne food – OK, Munich, you do a lot of things better than Melbourne but food is not one of them. You might be closer to Italy than us, and therefore your Italian restaurants are really quite exceptional. But when it comes to Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian – and contemporary cuisine in general – Melbourne has you covered. Sorry.
Credit cards – I don’t need to carry around wads of cash with me in Melbourne. I can whip out my card in shops without getting starred at (and waiting ten minutes for them to figure out how to use the machine which always happens in my local grocery store). Online shopping is a thing.
Things I will miss about Munich
You can open the window – I used to think I liked air conditioning (and believe me, if the temperature rises above 35 degree while I’m in Melbourne, I will LOVE it) but in Munich, when it’s warm you can just open up a window (in fact, even if it is FREEZING COLD you can open up a window – just ask my colleagues). In Munich you can open a window and the fresh breeze is enough to cool you down (and you do not get swarmed by bugs).
Public transport – In Melbourne, if I missed a train I would be up for a wait of at least 20 minutes. In Munich, I have become such a pampered public transport princess that I will throw a hissy fit if I need to wait any longer than 6. True story.
My apartment – I love my apartment. I love living by myself, and all the selfish and anti-social indulgences that entails. Way too much.
Everything works – Here’s an embarrassing fact. No matter where I am travelling to, I always secretly look forward to returning to Munich airport, where the plane always cruises straight in to the gate, where there is never a wait to collect your bags (probably because the baggage control technology is Siemens ;)) and the Ostbahnhof is only a 20 minute train trip away.
Münchners – I have grown so fond of Germans (or at least the Munich variety, which I have gained the most exposure to): their cushy labour laws, their quaintly regimented lifestyles (work at 9.00 am, lunch at 12.00 pm, home at 5.00 pm, Ruhezeit at 10.30 pm) and their oddly racist comments (not in the aggressively offensive way that Australians are racist, but in a confounding “and…”-inducing kind of way). But here’s the thing about Germans: they may notice if you cross the road on a red light and throw dirty looks your way, but equally, they will notice if you are struggling to get out of the U-Bahn and will help to part the crowd to let you pass. Also, Germans may not be as friendly or open (or anyway near as gregarious) as Australians when you first meet them, but once you get to know them the friendliness develops, and it comes from a much more genuine and constant place, in my opinion. I think I’ve always had a bit of German in me, and I think I am becoming a little more German every day I spend here. Fun!
My friends – You know who you are. I have met some RIDICULOUSLY awesome individuals this year, and it will be truly bizarre to feel like I am at home at the same time as knowing you are on the other side of the world :(
For those familiar with German culture - is there anything I have missed? How do you think German culture is different from any other??