Viewpoints

Sambal On The Side

Published: Monday April 7, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday April 7, 2014 MYT 8:04:32 AM

Auf wiedersehen Germany

After almost six and a half years of staying put in one place, our columnist is now packing up for yet another intercontinental move, but not before bidding farewell to Frankfurt.

IT’S THAT time again to consult our Mega Move Mind Map.

Having done so almost biannually ever since I’d tied the knot, it did seem a little weird when the two-year mark passed us by back in 2011. Both my husband and I had each felt that unexplainable tug for an adventure, a change of scene, an alien culture, even the madness that accompanies a big move. It hit us then that we both shared a serious case of wanderlust.

But to go a-wandering doesn’t mean simply upping and leaving. While we all strive to place “job satisfaction” first on our list of professional priorities, reality dictates that we cannot dismiss cultural or even monetary considerations when pondering a possible move abroad.

We had received offers ranging from countries awaiting sovereign status to those in which I’d have to cover my head and travel only in the company of my husband, both of which we politely declined.

Then came a toss up between Bolivia and our next destination. The mention of Bolivia had me envisioning sunshine, heliconia bushes, macaws, banana trees, more sunshine and me swanning about in slippers and floaty cotton clothes, with nary a snowflake in sight.

Then my husband clarified that the capital La Paz, is located at an elevation of roughly 3,650m above sea level. The prospect of suffering altitude sickness did prick a teeny, tiny hole in my bubble, but I nevertheless rejoiced at the prospect of being physically closer to the equator.

But then came the other destination and offer, which ticked almost all priority boxes, and that put paid to my jaunt in the tropics.

So now, here I am in a flurry of meeting final deadlines, spring cleaning (a mammoth task indeed!) as well as attending farewell parties, which to me is the most painful part of uprooting.

This got me thinking of what I will and will not miss about Frankfurt, with the latter somewhat helping to numb the pain of the former. So first off, what I will not miss:

> Militant cyclists: Given that it is now spring and sunnier, cyclists, garbed as if they took a detour from the Tour de France, zip all over the place, seemingly intent to run down anyone or anything that dare stray into their lanes. Yet for a tribe that so fiercely protects their turf, they have no qualms about running red lights or whooshing past your face when you’re on a zebra crossing. Yelling at them doesn’t help because they travel at the speed of sound, or hear no sound thanks to the oversized neon headphones firmly clapped over their ears.

> Freaks: Yes, I am sometimes forced to refer to my adopted city as “Freakfurt” because of this peculiar group. These typically range from those who violently push you aside as you’re boarding a train just so that they can get the seat that they always sit on; those who think nothing of relieving themselves on or from the train; those who drop ice cream on the floor of a train and think nothing of scooping it up with their fingers and licking it off. Come to the think of it, maybe I should say that I won’t miss the public trains. Too much wackiness on board.

> Surly service staff: I believe this is a facet of life in Germany that I will never, ever miss. To be fair, there are those who eventually deign to smile at you when they see you often enough and have realised that your bid to make small talk is simply to lighten the mood and not worm your way into their very private circle of trusted friends whom they’ve known from the sandpit. However, by and large, you’ll have to develop a very thick skin when dealing with dour service personnel who treat you as if you are an irritating interloper who’s forced them to serve you.

Among the things that I will miss:

> Bread: Yes, the very food item that I suspect contributed to my resembling the Pilsbury doughboy. I had always wondered why my husband would drive all the way to a German bakery in Johannesburg (when I first moved to South Africa post-marriage), just to get a loaf of bread. I was sold after sampling it. You haven’t tasted bread until you’ve had German bread. Kicking a carb addiction becomes that much harder.

> Forests and parks: Also another wonder for someone who initially avoided too much greenery for fear of creeps and creepy crawlies. But I truly started enjoying nature here mainly because it is free of snakes, leeches and other tropical fauna – and the occasional pervert. True, there is the possibility of encountering wild boar but thus far all I’ve ever had were Disney-like encounters with deer, rabbits and squirrels. Yes, I will miss the forests!

> Environmental friendliness: While strictly regimented rubbish separation was once a thorn in my side, I now find myself automatically taking ring binders apart – one pile for paper product recycling and the other for metals. My stay here has ingrained in me the importance of leaving as little of my carbon footprint as possible and I am grateful for this invaluable lesson.

It also goes without saying that I will sorely miss the friends that I’ve made on this leg of my journey. However, I often say that the world is round and we’re bound to bump into each other at some bend. Meanwhile, there’s always WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype. Despite the distance, the world has become that bit smaller through technology.

I remain no further than a click away.

Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian who will soon be moving out of Frankfurt, Germany. She’ll reveal her future destination in the next installment.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Lifestyle, brenda benedict

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