Compass

Fresh Perspectives You Can Use.

Horizons Journal – Remembering Our Roots

Adventskranz“Half a meter of Bratwurst for 3 Euro!” The signboard at the foodstall on this German Christmas market refuses to be ignored. The delicious smells of food, Glühwein and sweets mix with seasonal music : sausages are a part of German culture – and I love them, too.

After 22 years in South Africa, we’ve been back home in Europe for almost a month now – for good, not just visiting. Christmas markets are everywhere, and we’ve seen quite a few already. If there was one thing we could never get used to, it was Christmas in summer in the southern hemisphere. It’s just not the same.

Everyone keeps telling us that it’s mild for this time of the year, but they are all lying : it’s cold! And dark – if the sun shows up at all, it is very low on the horizon. Days are short, but that’s when the Glühwein kicks in.

OK, there’s no snow yet; that makes it easier to practice driving on the other side of the road again. Traffic is crowded, roads are narrow and the highways have no speed limit. Germans are busy, they don’t waste time – until they look for parking space.

We had forgotten how pleasant it is to live in a really efficient society : things work here. Plenty of rules and regulations, but bureaucracy is nowhere near as bad as we remember it – we had compulsory registration, new ID docs and drivers licences out of the way in no time. If you stick to the rules they work for, not against you.

For us, keeping an open mind is important at the moment – we have new eyes and still see Germany from an outside perspective, consciously approach situations and people in a friendly and unbiased way.

And the Law of Attraction never fails to produce the desired results : we found the car we wanted at the first dealer we approached, for example; other things we need fall into our laps without effort.

Not without cost, mind you : Europe is expensive if you compare it to living in South Africa, but you get what you pay for – the choices of products and services are absolutely overwhelming! Everything is available in many different varieties, so it takes time to sort the wheat from the chaff and find what you want at a discount.

Everybody is chasing that ‘Schnäppchen’ – finding the lowest price is a national pastime, especially at this time of the year. Most towns have turned their main shopping districts into pedestrian zones and the crowds shuffle all over the place, interrupted only by foodstalls, beautifully decorated Christmas trees and travelling musicians.

It is Christmas in Germany, we recognize the spirit – and it feels good. We remember our roots – reconnecting with friends and family is a joyful experience, we treasure the kinship that has survived the separation of life on different continents for such a long time.

People, not things define what you call ‘home’ but the culture we grow up in provides the common background that remains a special bond for life. As much as we love the people and the country, we have known for a long time that we would never be South African.

Is it the language? Our mother tongue is an important part of our culture, but I write and even dream in English these days – hearing the latest German idioms is a lot of fun but takes some adjusting on our part.

We’ll find out soon enough : before this year ends we’ll be in Austria where they speak a very different dialect to our northern German accent. We have our eyes on settling there for the next chapter in our lives and hope that we can ring in the new year with a lot of snow.

Until then, may I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2007 – may it bring all you expect and dream of for your life :

Berend

Saturday, 16 December 2006 - Posted by | 1. COMPASS eNewsletter, 7. Horizons Journal

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