Thank You

So, Germany. This is it for a while. I’m flying home tomorrow night and even though it was what I desperately wanted when I booked my ticket, even though it is what I desperately need, I can feel my toes digging in. I want to leave you and I don’t at the same time and I think this contradiction will be inherent throughout our entire relationship. But we’ll learn to live with that, just like we learnt to live with my jaywalking ways and your thing with rules and wurst. And your terrible television. Just like we learnt to live with a lot of things.

I have to say, Germany, you were a bit distant at first, a bit aloof. You don’t make it easy, you know, with your grey skies and clipped conversation. You can be a bit unyielding sometimes, a bit quietly disapproving. God my face burned every time I made a mistake on the buses or didn’t understand something. I found it – you –  really hard to begin with, I felt a bit like you didn’t really want to get to know me, you weren’t particularly fussed either way. You don’t show a lot of emotion Germany, you can be a little brisk. And I missed the sun, I missed ‘how you going?’ tacked onto the end of every ‘hello’. I missed strangers making conversation because they happened to be in the same place at the same time and silences can get a bit uncomfortable. Some people say you’re cold and unfriendly. But I figured it out eventually – you just have to look a little harder for the warmer, more welcoming pockets. And once you’re in them, the embrace is tight and unending.

But God, your bureaucracy. Your love of paperwork. What is with that? And that scary man at the Foreigner’s Office with his rapid-fire speech and big stamp. The bundle of papers and photos and copies and contracts and signatures to get a visa extension, the ‘go away and come back’, the ‘you need this, make another appointment tomorrow’. I am pretty sure they were all just having coffee while a room full of people waited nervously for the big stamp. You don’t make things simple. And this thing with different Sparkasse banks and not being able to deposit in Weiden if my account was opened in Münster. The fact everything has to be a hard copy, your wariness of emails, the reams of paper and letters required to change or cancel health insurance. Paper, paper, paper.

Remember our first Winter together? What a laugh that was! Not. I hated it. No, that’s wrong. I loved it for a week. I wore knitted hats and boots and drank glühwein and marvelled at actual snow, falling outside my bedroom window, making everything white. It was like something out of a movie, my movie. Then I fell over, on my arse, in front of the entire bus stop and had to be hauled to my feet, slipping and sliding on the ice. Then I hated it. I hated the darkness, the relentless cold, I hated always being wet, my toes always being cold. I hated wearing so many clothes to run across the road and get some milk. I wised up for the next winter, though, didn’t I. I discovered H&M online and lived in Ugg boot things and got one of those big jackets with a hood lined with fake-fur. It wasn’t such a shock to the system when the temperatures went below zero. Dark mornings on the bus, watching the day slowly dawn from a classroom at 8.30am and darken once more at 4.30pm became somewhat normal. Although -20 degrees in February was a bit much, don’t you think?

You showed me, though, that a long, hard, dark Winter makes Spring that little bit sweeter. You showed me that snow and ice and black mornings make you feel like you’ve earned Spring. Remember I sat in that park in Weiden marvelling at the rich smell of blossoms and wet grass. At the fat little bumblebees. At the feeling of the sun on my skin. While we’re on the topic of Weiden, remember how hard I found it, at first? How lonely I was, how dispirited about work. How much I missed my friends and family. How hard it was to reconcile it all with the fact I loved living with SG, just not here. But things got better. I didn’t find work, but I found parks and little alleyways and lakes and the days grew longer and warmer and there was ice cream and football games and we took little day trips to Rothenburg and Regensburg and Flossenbürg. And Weiden began to feel like home, like Münster did before it. 

Remember our time spent together in the hospital in Münster? That was fun. Sort of. We muddled our way through, even though I spent most of it utterly confused and unsure as to why I was actually there. Remember the nurse who would slip into my room to ask me questions about the Australian visa system, on behalf of his sister who was living there. The same nurse who was the only one who could explain what was going on in English, and squeezed my blocked IV drip so there was a crisp pop as the liquid flowed into my veins again. Remember my room mates? They had at least 60 years on me. Shrewd would perch on her bed in her tiny lemon nightdress and we would converse, falteringly, about breakfast or audio books.

I could talk about the people, obviously, the friends I made while we were together. But you and I both know what you gave me. They know too. A kindred spirit of a flatmate. My German brother. My German parents. The warmest and widest of hearts, the go-to friend with an endless coffee pot and comforting couch. Like minds and saving graces at work. A loud, loving soul who loves British pubs as much as I do.

Love.

Remember how much I struggled with homesickness? Those times it would hit, suddenly, like a cold or a stomach cramp, then crawl away, back to where it came from, to wait a while before it struck afresh. You weren’t there, but in the black cab that pulled away from my parents, that time I visited them in London, I cried like a baby the whole way to the station. I missed my home, horribly. I missed its space and skies, my Mum, my dog, my friends. I missed not being a foreigner, not having to try so hard to do the smallest of things. I felt like things were happening back home that I should have been there for. I compared you, then, Germany, I compared you unfavourably to Australia and I resented you. It sounds so stupid, I was the one who chose you, I was the one who came to you. And I’m sorry. But I was tired. I wasn’t seeing clearly. I needed someone to blame for the grey skies and the loneliness and you were there. But we found our way back again. Spring helped. Sunshine always does.

And after we found our way back, remember how hard it was to make the choice I had to leave you?

It has been a big two years, Germany. Or, more accurately, 20 months. The other five were in Greece and they were big months too. But this isn’t about Greece, of course, it’s about you. You and me. Doesn’t it feel like it has been longer than 20 months? Doesn’t it feel like we have known each other for 20 years? So much has happened, we have done so much together, fit so much into our short relationship. Doctors and hospitals, weekends away, road trips across borders, visiting your neighbours. A wedding, birthdays, Christmases and Easters, visiting friends and families. Three jobs. Moving trucks and big cardboard boxes, packing up a much loved apartment. Limbos. A white Christmas. A cross-country move. Hamburg. Dresden. Berlin. Frankfurt. München. Kiel. A lot of train trips. Singing and dancing until 4.30 in the morning in our tiny kitchen on that tree-lined avenue in Münster. Winding our way through your tiny, Medieval Bavarian towns. Flying in and out, to London or Dublin or Santorini.

But I always came home to you, Germany. And I will again, I promise. We fell in love sometime a year or so ago. Real love. The kind of love that takes time and arguments and misunderstandings to reach a point of solidity and solidarity. You have a big piece of me and a lot of my clothes. And my tea cups. And a lot of my books. And my love, you have him too, and probably always will. So of course I will be back, this isn’t goodbye.

It’s just goodbye for now. And thank you. Thank you for everything.

23 thoughts on “Thank You

  1. This is such a beautiful and lovely thing to read in the morning! Good luck with returning home and returning back to your home in Germany eventually.

  2. What a most wonderful story: I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And, as a German, I must congratulate you for having depicted our indiosyncrasies so absolutely correct and, at the same time, with so much warmth four us. Thank you!
    As to the German bureaucracy: I think you’re right. But then, the US bureaucracy is even “better”, I think. From my experiences with getting a green card etc., I used to say that the US learned from Prussian bureaucracy and then “refined” that system a whole lot. 😉
    I wish you a safe trip home,
    Pit

  3. You got the point; Love. Even love needs some distance every once in a while. As a very small part of germany, i’m proud of your affection for this country. Farewell, i’m looking forward to your writings from australia!

  4. My blonde headed beauty,
    I have stayed in the background, (which many would not expect), but I have followed your (BIG) life with great interest and awe. Call it a “healthy” stalker stage I`m going through, but you are one of the very few people I have met along my way that I can`t and will never forget.
    If I had never met you and only came across your writings by chance I would have had to giggle, feel happy and be tremendously inspired….. but having had the pleasure of getting to know you, even for the short duration, makes it sooooooo special.
    You have a very special talent my fair beauty and I wish you all the love and luck in this BIG world.
    Your Raven headed Carms

  5. Ahhh you’ve been well and truly bitten. What you say is so true: “Some people say you’re cold and unfriendly. But I figured it out eventually – you just have to look a little harder for the warmer, more welcoming pockets. And once you’re in them, the embrace is tight and unending.”
    You’ve said it so beautifully. Over a decade on, I still have not been released from that embrace. I hope you will really be back. Australia is so far away and life may take other unexpected turns in your big adventure, but I can see you also will carry a little bit of Germany wherever you go from now on. Keep adventuring on – happy travels back “home” and make sure you keep writing 🙂

  6. LOVE THIS. Love this line: “Real love. The kind of love that takes time and arguments and misunderstandings to reach a point of solidity and solidarity.” 🙂 Awesome piece, Liv!

  7. LOVE THE PIECE. And this line: “Real love. The kind of love that takes time and arguments and misunderstandings to reach a point of solidity and solidarity.” 🙂 all the best for your move.

  8. Liv, you brought me to tears. This is so poignant for me as I am currently on week three of my first journey living abroad. I look forward to making the same kinds of memories and getting through the same kinds of challenges you did. Safe travels!

  9. So beautifully expressed. You write with a courageous honesty that I greatly admire. Keep writing, about whatever you are doing. You will find the meaning, and in sharing that experience we will share in your discovery, as if we were there. And that is your gift, and your art. May God Bless You and Keep You Always.

  10. Dear Liv,

    first I hope I’m allowed to call you Liv as we got to know each other over the last years. Second: You’re always welcome.

    I’m terribly sorry that I gave you a hard time at the beginning. You know: Although I’m always curious about foreigners I’m also a littlebit shy. I need time to get accustomed to strangers. That may appear to other people like uncomfortable aloofness; but it’s just a different way of living. I appreciate straightforwardness and don’t feel comfortable with unnecessary conversations. To be honest: Sometimes I wish I could be a little bit like my Anglo-American and Australian friends. But that doesn’t seem to work for me.

    So… I’m happy that it worked out quite fine after a while. I had a great time with you staying here. With me. To tell you the truth: I also had a hard time as you found another love. I’m really not good in sharing feelings like that. It hurt. But deep inside I knew: You love both of us. Him and me. And as he is part of me anyway I guess your one and only true love belongs to me anyway. These thoughts calm me down.

    Thanks for staying here. Thanks for coming back. And please: Keep on writing.

  11. Dear Liv,

    first I hope I’m allowed to call you Liv as we got to know each other over the last years. Second: You’re always welcome.

    I’m terribly sorry that I gave you a hard time at the beginning. You know: Although I’m always curious about foreigners I’m also a littlebit shy. I need time to get accustomed to strangers. That may appear to other people like uncomfortable aloofness; but it’s just a different way of living. I appreciate straightforwardness and don’t feel comfortable with unnecessary conversations. To be honest: Sometimes I wish I could be a little bit like my Anglo-American and Australian friends. But that doesn’t seem to work for me.

    So… I’m happy that it worked out quite fine after a while. I had a great time with you staying here. With me. To tell you the truth: I also had a hard time as you found another love. I’m really not good in sharing feelings like that. It hurt. But deep inside I knew: You love both of us. Him and me. And as he is part of me anyway I guess your one and only true love belongs to me anyway. These thoughts calm me down.

    Thanks for staying here. Thanks for coming back. And please: Keep on writing.

    Yours sincerely,

    Germany

  12. To all of you who left such beautiful, meaningful comments, thank you. And thank you for being such wonderful readers who write to me, comment on posts and tweet with me. Here’s to the next part of the journey – a different part, no doubt – and I cannot wait to be back in Germany again.

  13. This is so important, to be able to have the point of view switched to a persona, with emotional content and real, responsive feelings. This Blog is an example of the digital age being used to the highest value. Quality of the discourse is of the highest order.

    Thank You, Kindly.

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