The oddity of coming home

How did the sky look when I left Germany in March 2013? Grey. How did it look when I came home ten months later? Grey. That was expectable. However, coming home was not exactly as I had expected. In some way, coming home is still part of the journey, and as the rest of the trip, full of surprises.

Mid of January, I got on an airplane in Rio, sweating although it was already midnight, sipping from an ice-cold drink. 17 hours later, my family picked me up in ice-cold Germany.

Expectation: To hug everyone, then go to a restaurant, sharing delicious food, drinks, stories and laughters.
Reality: I hug everyone, we agree to go to a restaurant, then my mother refuses the first restaurant option because it plays loud bass music. The second restaurant does not work for my brother: he is a vegan, while the traditional food in our region is… uhm, quite meat-based. In the third one, an old men’s choir is having reunion: private function. We turn around and end up drinking beer in the meat-based restaurant which by then already closed the kitchen so that no one gets food, so that, fair enough, my vegan brother is not the only one who stays hungry.

Conclusion: It is good to be back, yet not easy.

Family reunited

Happy family reunion,  just with slight differences regarding tan and dinner preferences

The next days and weeks are a rush. I visit several parts of my (patchwork) family in several cities; besides, I have to find a new room for my last semester in my university town. There, I meet people I haven’t seen or not even talked to for one year, I have reunion with professors, I do language tests (and pass with success), I try to make a good impression in flatmate castings.

Two weeks later, I drive directly from my grandma’s 80th birthday party to Berlin, where I do an internship in a German TV station for one month.
My home country’s capital leads me to reflect about the differences between Germany and the countries I visited during the last year. Berlin is a big, pulsing city, yet very different to what I have experienced in one year in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Lima and other Latin American cities. And with the weeks passing by, I collect more and more „key moments“ which make me realize that I am really and truly back to Germany.

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They do not only reveal things about Germany, but also about Latin America: I notice these things only because they don’t exist/work another way/etc. in the regions that I visited in 2013. Before knowing Latin America, none of them had raised my attention.

So let me share some of them with you. Whether you are German, Latin American or an interested reader of another part of the world: you may find yourself in some of them and add some more.

I realized I was back to Germany when… 

  • …the second bus I got in was driven by a  blonde young woman
  • … people didn’t touch me, as physical contact happens only between really close people and not like in Rio, at every corner
  • …my mom sent me documents from Bavaria to Berlin and they arrived within a day
  • … I purchased products online and they arrived within a day
  • … no one offered me to help me to carry my (heavy) luggage upstairs at the train station, to put it up into the storage space, etc.
  • … streets were not crowded but organized, people almost never pushed me around or hit me by accident when walking by, and if they did, they always apologized politely
  • … I struggled with Berlin’s public transportation system because suddenly at some point it just seemed too complex for me: Train, S-train, tram, subway, and buses, a map looking like a labyrinth. To compare: Rio’s subway system consists of line 1 and line 2.
  • … any supermarket I entered had a storage with vegetarian and vegan substitute products and there were plenty of wholly organic supermarkets
  • … cabs I took were a) expensive b) Mercedes or Audi and c) several times driven by a woman
  • … I carried my reflex camera all around in a camera bag, not wrapped up in “pareos” hidden in some beach bag
  • … street musicians didn’t play Samba or romantic Latin songs but Bob Dylan and The Beatles, or self-made techno beats.
  • … no one danced on the streets although the techno guy was making quite danceable stuff
  • … at a Salsa party in Leipzig, everyone danced in quite accurate steps, however without moving their hips at all.

To be continued… but I still found out something else.

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3 Antworten zu The oddity of coming home

  1. Ian Linck schreibt:

    Yay, it’s not the end! Keep writing, and I promise to keep reading :) As for the topic of the text, I find it hard to say whether the stereotypes about germans being cold and all are true or not, brazilians (and latin americans in general) can also be quite cold and rude. We just happen to be a lot louder :P

    • Rena Föhr schreibt:

      Perfect! Yes, keep reading and, above all, keep commenting ;)
      „Also rude […] just a lot louder“ Hehe, laughed a lot about that formulation! Well, obviously tendencies of rudeness vary by country, by region, by person ;)…
      Personally, I had kind of paradox observations about German/Brazilian kindness in public places: On the one hand, I noticed Brazilians way more helpful regarding things like helping to carry my luggage, etc. They were way more attentive in that point. But on the other hand, still in Brazil, I was surprised of a lack of attention by people walking by: Sometimes they didn’t look if something/ somebody was in the way, pushed me around or hit me (not on purpose, of course), and just passed by without apologizing.
      Have you had the same experience?
      And how do you feel about that physical contact issue? I personally like physical contact, but I know Latins who consider it something positive in Germany that strangers do not touch them on the street and complain about of lack of distance in their home countries.

      • Ian Linck schreibt:

        I don’t know, honestly. I’m not a guy who touches people a lot, I guess I’m kind of cold for latin american standards, I don’t know. I would say that streets in Brazil, specially in the downtown areas of bigger cities, are quite full, chaotic and loud, and that may lead to people being reckless while walking on the street,

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