What I love about Sydney – 1
(I am finally allowed to quote wikipedia!) Mercer’s 2015 Quality of Living Ranking , Munich is number 4 of the worlds most liveable cities. Sydney is only number 10. However, Monocle’s Quality of Life Survey of 2015 ranks Sydney number 5 and Munich number 9! So in average, Sydney and Munich are roughly on the same level of quality of life. But what do these rankings really tell us? Only that both cities are great to live at for the average person. Who is the average person though? Probably not a single person amongst the millions of inhabitants of both cities combined. Everybody has their own unique personality that comes with individual preferences.
For me, Munich is my home and it always will be. Although I am seriously concerned about what happens if I move back to Munich one day. Will I still be able to handle the grumpiness, directness and general arrogance of Bavarians? (Not that I judge or mind it. Not at all.) On the other hand, will I ever get used to the open and friendly, unpretentious, “laid-back-no-worries” mentality of Australians? Probably not. I’m not somebody who melts in easily, I’m stubborn, I don’t adjust, and I don’t bend. Never. Ever. That’s the grumpy arrogant Bavarian in me.
… But this is not about choosing one city over another. Munich versus Sydney. No:
When I first visited Sydney, my English was far from perfect and I felt awkward and scared most of the time when speaking to other people. I was able to have a face-to-face conversation with one person at the time, but I couldn’t speak in front of a group of three or more. We’re talking about standard socializing with a group of people at a pub here – for most of you this would be the most laid-back situation you could possibly imagine.
That changed when I volunteered to help with the federal election campaign in 2013 in Australia to gain experience in the field for my university degree. I had to engage strangers of all age, socioeconomic and ethnic groups into a conversation about politics -the most uncomfortable thing I ever had to do and I also came across some seriously scary Australians. After that experience, I certainly wasn’t too scared to talk to a bunch of friendly people in a pub anymore.
Don’t get this the wrong way: I’m not shy and I’m not insecure! I never had issues holding a presentation in front of a crowd or the like: In fact, I was always very passionate about acting in my high school drama group back in time. I just felt awkward in a group of people. I tended to overthink my words before saying them until the moment just passed.
So here is what I love about Sydney: I love how laid-back and unpretentious, yet respectful people here are. It is so much easier to talk to people here compared to Munich. Whenever I meet somebody, regardless of who they are, I always say: “Hi, how are you?” and “Nice to meet you!” and “I am Elisabeth”.
Well, it’s not that simple in Munich: If addressing somebody, depending on age, status and background of the person I am talking to, and the context of the situation, I have to decide carefully how to do that. I would say “Grüß Gott, wie geht es Ihnen?”, if I talk to someone older than me, higher in status, or somebody I meet in the context of an official business matter and who is from the countryside or comes across conservative, or if it’s the cashier in the supermarket. If I talk to somebody from the rest of Germany, I would say “Guten Tag, wie geht es Ihnen?” and if it’s somebody less conservative and probably a bit younger, I would say “Hallo, wie geht’s Ihnen?” If I talk to my friends I would say “Hi, wie geht’s?” and if I would go hiking or skiing in the alps (which is a very specific situation!) I would simply say “Grüß Gott, wie geht’s dir?” to everybody I meet. There are always exceptions to each of these rules of course and that was only the first part of the introduction. Depending on the variables mentioned above I now have to decide if I introduce myself as “Elisabeth” or “Frau (Mrs.) Stein”.
As you can imagine, all this can create a serious barricade when meeting new people.
That barricade doesn’t exist in Australia. It is incredible how much easier I am able to connect with people now. Networking is fun all of the sudden. One of the reasons I love being a photographer is meeting wonderful people everywhere and all the time.
The awkward feeling is almost gone. The grumpy Bavarian in me is stubborn – but I taught it how to open up and establish connection to the world. I combined two cultures within myself without adjusting or bending. From that perspective I am a truly multicultural person – and therefore as Australian as it gets.