Flying back to Germany

It has been a long 18 months since we left Germany. A lot of things have happened since we left, our Australian adventure has progressed so much that we now call Australia home. I am now on my way back to Germany for a quick trip that mixes pleasure, catching up with family and friends and business as I am going to an exhibition that I promised myself that I will visit next time.

I am sitting in an Etihad A340-600 at close to 40.000ft and we are fast approaching Abu Dhabi, this will be my first through the Arabian peninsula and this has been my longest flight, we have been flying for 13 1/2 hours and we have about one more hour to go. We have been flying into the night and thus this has been one of my longest nights too, albeit a sleepless one. I have very mixed feelings about going back, sure I am excited but how will I feel? Will it be as I remember it? The mind does very funny things and we shape our memories not always as what it really was but for we wanted it to be. It is not only subjective, it is influenced by many factors and it surely is different for anyone going through a similar experience.

People asked me if I am going home and I reply, one of my homes and I have at least four now. This will not change because my belongings are in Melbourne now, sure it is home but home for me is defined very different to how other people define it. I am a traveller and as any good traveller I have no fixed plans and I do not believe that I intent to ever arrive. What that really means I am not sure but I suspect that Melbourne may not be the last station, although friends recommend and people suggest that I eventually will have to as I will get older, mellow down and I also will have to think of my pension and such. Well there is 25+ years to go, that is more years, a lot more years than what I have behind me since I started working so I believe I will be all right.

Cultural Shock…

Philly Skyline

Philly Skyline

Ok, it seems that my blog has generated some discussions among our own friends, for good reason that is.  We have had mood swings, bewilderment, enthusiasm, borderline depression, an overwhelming feeling of everything being different, we have criticised and we have been criticised and much more.  There is a name for this… …it is called cultural shock!

Let me put it in perspective, most people I know, would not move to the other side of the town they live in.  Whether that is because it is not a place they know or it is far away from friends and family, it does not really matter.  It is foreign to them so they stick to what they know and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Well, we are about 16.000km away from where home used to be and nothing much is here that we can hold on – for better or worse – to insert some routine, some sanity into our daily lives.  Our values, our priorities, the things we know and what we consider common sense, the rules and regulations, they are all very different, they are foreign.  Certainly, the fact that we have moved 4 times within two states in Australia did not contribute to any routine being established.  We again moved this past weekend and we hope that this will be the last time for the next couple years.

Wuppertal-Panorama

Wuppertal-Panorama

So back to cultural shock, it is a normal condition and everyone that emigrates goes through at least some of the stages of cultural shock.  Even if one goes back to the country that he grew up after living in a different one will go through the shock, albeit a reverse cultural shock.  It is extremely important to get a routine in place and to be open to the new environment, to smile and keep positive and communicate with the new surrounding as much as possible.  It is one thing to say it and another to actually do it, it is a very difficult task but it is not insurmountable.

The Arch

The Gateway to the West

I remember the first one I went through back in 1990 in the St. Louis, a place that I know call home (one of many, more on this on another post) but one that I hated with all that I had for a couple months in the fall of 1990.  It has long turned into an eternal love affair.  There has been a few since and it always has turned all right.  I was not keen to move to Germany and now I miss it, I call it… you guessed it right… home!  I have always been a bit sentimental and as much as I look forward to exciting times I look back at fun times, I do though forget the pain along the way and that is fine by me.

So to our shock now. Culture shock is defined as a psychological disorientation that most people experience when living in a culture markedly different from one’s own. Culture shock occurs when our “…cultural clues, the signs and symbols which guide social interaction, are stripped away. …A difficult part of this process for adults is the experience of feeling like children again, of not knowing instinctively the ‘right’ thing to do.” (Piet-Pelon & Hornby, 1992, p.2).  In general there are four phases to a cultural shock: Honeymoon, Adjustment, Negotiation and Mastery.  Everyone experiences it in different ways and so it is for us.  We are between the negotiation and the adjustment phase, had it not been for the four moves within Australia we would probably be ahead of that.  We are building a routine, we have started friendships, Ben has started with Kinder and so it goes.  We will be reaching the mastery phase in the next few months and while that does not necessarily  mean that we will totally assimilate it means that we will feel at home and as we have many homes by now this will be another one that we will come to love.

So long…

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Another home in St. Louis, MO

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Packed and on the move

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Entertaining Ben at Bordertown on the way to Adelaide

Ben in an airport and on the move again...

Ben in an airport and on the move again…

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Ben will start learning to fly, it will be easier to be on the move

Our view…

Our views have been shaped by the experiences that have brought us to this point in our life.  In principal this is not very different to the other immigrants to Australia, what makes it unique in its own way are the nuances of these experiences and that is our view.

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Sunset in Hallet Cove, South Australia

I cannot talk about these views without putting them in context and speaking a bit about our last station, Germany.  I have lived in four different countries and Germany is by far the one place that comes close to perfection more than any other and it is the place where I have lived the longest.  The efficiencies, the frugality, the thoroughness and a global conscience  that is the collective German way of life has developed over the past 6 decades is unprecedented.  A good friend of mine from Russia described it as a very boring place because everything works and it is near automatic, isn’t it ironic as it sounds a no worries kind of place yet it so far from it on daily basis as Germans are overall very formal, distant and constantly unsatisfied and then Germany has that terrible weather.

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Footy!

Australia is a great place in many ways, life is for some reason just easy-going and the mild weather makes for an excellent outdoor lifestyle.  In our view though it is far from perfect and that maybe the curse of just knowing to many homes.  Things are made unnecessary complicated  in more ways than we could have imagined when we arrived.  Simple things like setting up and proving your 100 points of id as they do in Oz so you can get basic services takes time, patience and above all it costs nerves.  The surprise is that one would have thought that there would be someone who can or should tell you what you will have to do and how to do it, the onus is on the newcomer.  In a country that welcomes so many thousands of immigrants you would have thought there would be more to it.  That is not the case and while it is not rocket science per se, it is made more difficult by the incompetence, the lack of systems and of processes for new arrivals in the country.  Beyond that even matters that one would believe is common sense are relative complicated, such as trying to get decent broadband, a matter that is trivial anywhere in urban Europe, US or Japan, has cost us at least a couple thousand dollars and countless hours on the phone with providers, as well a broken lease and countless hours on the matter of leasing properties, our rights and obligations.  It is amazing that in 2013 this is an issue, I would understand it if I was in Alice Springs or some other place in the outback or the countryside.

Ben in Melbourne

I am not going to compare here every little aspect but suffice to say that having moved between four countries over the past twenty years, I have never had as many issues, not even when I moved back to Greece in 1996 from the US and had to deal with the incompetent civil servants.  Unexpected because Australia is a modern society and it is one of the most urbanized nations on the planet, the envy of many and the place where many people dream to be able to get a chance at calling it home.

I am not, in any way, saying that this is an awful place, quite the contrary, despite our tribulations and the various costs both monetary and otherwise we are looking forward to the next 12 months with renewed confidence that things will be better, they will improve and we will finally be able to get more out of the Aussie lifestyle.  It is not a post of despair nor is it one of disappointment.  It is merely our experiences and while there certainly have been difficult times we have had luck with family and friends that have supported us all along.

 

It has been a year!


In a few weeks it will be 12 months since our arrival in this beautiful country.

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So many things have happened, so many changes and more is to come in the next few weeks.  Anyone, that sees my FB page would thing it was easy and in many ways it was but it is still hard in different ways as well.  Any new beginning is hard, the heartache for your friends and your home – our old home – is ever-present, we miss our old ways and we miss being in place that is familiar and where things make sense.

We are now in a new home, it bears a German name -Altona North- Altona is a borough in the city of Hamburg in the north of Germany.  Altona North is a suburb to the west of Melbourne.  It is about 15 min drive to Federation Square and the Southbank, it is a 10 minute drive to Altona and Williamstown beach and more importantly it is within 10-15 minutes drive from either Beth’s and my workplace.

Nevertheless, after almost 12 months it is still a place where we often struggle to make sense of things.  The biggest issue and the one we are currently facing again is our dwellings.  We just signed the 4th lease in about 7 months and besides the 1st one where we disputed the lease on account of false claims about the property it has always been involuntary.  The new property, we are picking the keys up on the 22nd, will hopefully be the last place we will have to move for at least a couple of years.  They are telling us it is a good time to buy but it is not yet time for us.  We will want to try it out for another couple of years and make sure that this is home.

In the past 12 months a lot of the misconceptions have been cleared, loads of new views and opinions have been formed, this Lucky Country certainly does not lack surprises… ….more on that in subsequent posts…

The view of the heads protecting the harbour in Sydney from the Sydney Harbour National Park

Australia

It has been two years since we were on that trip to Australia.  I have been meaning to write this post ever since we got back from Oz but so many things have happened and so much has changed that I have taken my time with it.  I have refreshed and updated the look of the blog and I mean to do regular updates on the subject of Australia, on our imminent move to the Lucky Country and in general my thoughts on some of the more interesting (to me) current events.

Australia had been a dream for a very long time, it has taken us a long time to finally make it and what we saw, what we experienced is difficult to put into words.  It was an experience extraordinaire, a life changing experience in certain ways.  We saw so much of Australia and yet only a very small part of this huge land, what we saw we liked… …a lot!  We liked it so much that we actually started thinking seriously of moving there permanently.  After our return home and my decision to leave my employer the way opened and it was mostly a matter of time.

English: Orthographic map of Australia centere...

It so far from everything! Image via Wikipedia

I have not come across one person that was not enthusiastic or at least positive towards that far away island nation.  I have travelled a lot and lived in different places, I believe that I am not naive.  I know that there are, there must be, things that are not as perfect as they seem in Australia.  I will find out in due time as I am going to spend the rest of my life there.  That of course does not mean that I will go hunting to find the negatives but it goes to show you that Australia is seemingly a very exciting place with a positive outlook on life in general.  That is in stark contrast to Germany, the quality of life here is at the highest level, yet the people seem to be more on the negative side of things, more on that though in a different post.

So here I go again, I will be again posting regularly hope you will enjoy and follow my posts.