So, four months have already passed. My efforts to update the site are constant, but I’m trying to not put pressure on me to move faster. I already have a plan for the next few posts, I have a rough idea what they should be about, but I need some time to put everything in writing, especially because I always need at least a week for a less biased review, time that I am most willing to spend. Also, this site was intended to be a place where I write to relax, not as a stressful area in my life, so I’m going to allow myself the time I need between posts if I’ll feel I need more.
The first people we were in contact with here were our landlords. She’s Swiss, around 60 years old (or so she claims, I cannot see that in her, she looks 50 tops), and she’s a very creative person with a highly developed spiritual side. I cannot fully explain her job, it’s something in the SF area of online marketing and web design, but she also has a day-to-day job that provides a constant income, apart from the freelance payments.
She has also lived in India for 12 years, I didn’t ask her why, but she’s an extremely charming presence, full of life stories that one can learn from her. Anyway, compared to other 60-year-olds that we know, a freelancer in web design is pretty close to an alien in my world.
He’s from the US and he lives in Switzerland for some time now, but he still doesn’t speak the language. We even registered to language classes together, hoping we could help each other in the long run. His passion goes deeply into the area of economic and socio-politic analysis, him being involved in various projects in this field.
They both are very interesting people, open and hospitable. We sometimes get dinner together and we always find out new and interesting things from them. They have traveled a lot and they come from two very different cultures, and talking with them is always a challenge.
We have discussed almost everything, from religion to politics, from economics and discrimination, basically all subjects that the rules of common sense tell us to not discuss. We feel comfortable doing this with them because we feel like any talk is about “knowing”, not about “judging”. We just exchange visions and opinions, without making anyone uncomfortable.
While we were having dinner one time we met a very nice lady that was introduced to us as the mother of Monika’s best friend (so the lady was probably in her 80s). This lady was born in Florence and, later on, she moved to Switzerland. She could fluently speak Italian, German and English (and maybe also French, who knows?).
She was the one that has sent Monika to her first yoga class, while she was a teenager, and she was also the one that recommended these ladies to read the great philosophers, even if they weren’t interested in social sciences at all. I know it maybe sounds hypocritical of me, but it has been a while since I had a similar pleasure of just chatting with people that I can learn so much from, especially when it comes to diversity and how can we embrace it.
At the office, we have an impressive list of people and their nationalities. Putting aside the Germans that work in our office, we also have an American, a Scottish, a French, an Austrian, a Spanish, and an Australian. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? Well, you have to also add in an external team located in Bulgaria and we’ll have the most diverse crowd possible. So, let’s begin.
The American guy is married to a Romanian with Hungarian heritage, from Brașov; they lived in Saint Louis, Missouri for some time and have moved to Germany for lots of reasons, one of them being that he was tired of the panic he felt every time he was hearing an ambulance, wondering if it was a shooting at the school where his children were studying.
He speaks a very good Romanian, some Hungarian which he’s trying to improve, and he also has a very good German, so he is very gifted with languages, a quality that is unfair for the rest of us. His children speak English, Hungarian (which they have learned from their mother) and German, and I’m not even mentioning the languages that they learn in school.
At home, they speak English with the children and Romanian only when they have secrets, but the little ones still speak Hungarian with their grandmother, so they don’t have a chance in forgetting what they have learned from their mother. He also lived in Romania a few years ago, he taught English at a private school and in private lessons, which was pretty cool for the children, being able to practice with a native speaker.
He knows the concept of bribe from Romania, he knows about the horrible traffic in Bucharest, he remembers the ugliest trains in Romania and also every Romanian’s pet peeve: getting sick from staying between two open windows.
Another colleague is German, but his first years he spent in Taiwan, where his parents were missionaries. So he speaks the language in Taiwan, but also German, and his English is out of this world; he also teaches his kids English, by using it exclusively when they’re around, and his wife uses only German, so their kids are bilingual at the age of 3. This same approach is used by another colleague of ours, and apparently, this is a very spread trend around here.
Another colleague is French and has a daily commute that crosses the border from a pretty close-by town. He graduated in Zurich and has a very good German, so for him speaking English is a challenge, since it’s his third language already.
Our Spanish colleague, who’s married to a Mexican lady he knows he has to keep happy (like he says, “Happy wife, happy life!”), speaks English and Portuguese. He tried to learn German, he registered for classes and he went there for some time, but in the end, he gave up and says that English is enough for now.
For an external collaboration, the connecting point is a lady born in Switzerland, but her parents are from Sri Lanka, and her future husband is from Kenya. I can’t wait to ask her everything about both places since we have them on our bucket list with a high priority.
Another colleague is German and his wife is Romanian. They recently got married and we were invited to join the festivities. His wife was very nice, even if she was a little bit surprised when we congratulated her in Romanian since she didn’t understand who we were and why are we speaking Romanian since all Romanian speaking people around were her relatives.
This wedding was a very good occasion to see our colleagues with their wives and children. As I could see, people don’t have any problems bringing their children to events. It’s true, they were very well behaved in the church, only at the end we heard a little girl’s voice that was implying her patience was at the end, but I’m sure they learn how to behave exactly because they are exposed to events since early childhood.
Our colleagues from Bulgaria are very similar to us. Balkan heritage is what makes us feel the same. We got along immediately after we met in person, especially me with the girls (since I work in a technical field, I rarely have girls by my side), and now we feel comfortable to speak almost anything on Skype.
At a company dinner, because apparently, this is how team-buildings look like in here, I found out the following: they drink at parties as much as we do, if people come in Bulgaria for work there’s an automatic beer meeting scheduled, Plovdiv is a very cool place to visit, and Tel Aviv has a very cool atmosphere, something like Berlin with a beach.
I also found out their opinion about the usual Romania-Bulgaria comparison: neither of us is better; the same corruption, the same old ideas, the same Balkan way of doing things. What more can one wish from a dinner with the team?
Our colleagues are very family-oriented. Even though they work a lot, they have great respect for their private life, and they try to spend as much time as possible with their loved ones. They are very relaxed with their children like they understand that the kid will have no problem whatsoever if s/he will get dirty, they are also very aware of everything that happens with the children, but still try to remain also humans, not only parents.
For this reason, people are very early birds, a thing we have gotten used to over time; they’d just rather spend their afternoon at home with the family instead of at the office. In the beginning, we were arriving at work at around 9 AM, which was already earlier than what we did in Romania.
But we felt like such losers when everyone left the office at 17:00, so we had to get used to coming earlier. Anyway, being home at 17:30 is something very new to us, and sometimes we still don’t know what to do with almost half a day at the end of the workday.
People on the streets seem very relaxed. They’re in a hurry and very focused on what they have to do, and they work a lot instead of just wasting time at the office, but they do a pretty good job of separating their private life and their professional one. Also, I think they’re doing a good job when it comes to relaxing.
Weekends are not used for doing chores, but for walks and relaxation. Either they choose to go camping or to just hang out near the Rhine, or even in the Rhine (they have some sort of a buoyant device that keeps their things dry and they can use it to swim in the river), people here always find a way to relax.
Probably the fact that almost all stores are closed on Sundays helps since almost everyone has the day off and can spend it with the family. It took us some time to get used to not being able to go shopping any time, but now we find it easy to take care of us during the week-ends and to do the chores during weekdays.
Every day life
We find elderly people to be very active and they have an attitude that says: “Life has just begun!”. Apart from not having the look of people without any will to live left, as we can see at elderly people in Romania, retired people here have lots of activities: they hike, they bike, they register to different clubs, they’re part of cultural and social activities.
They dress nicely, not like “wearing Gucci all over” but like wearing tasteful outfits that don’t look old but don’t try to desperately look younger either. In a way, they think every age has its charm and they don’t live outside the present, no matter how that present looks like right now. Honestly, we don’t know their income, since I assume a large part of this attitude comes from wealthiness, but most of their activities are, in fact, free of charge.
We have not met, until now, a person that doesn’t want to help us. Even though not everyone speaks English, everyone tries to help in some way. For example, I was once in a supermarket and was looking for yeast. Of course, not everyone knows this English word, and I tried to explain to an employee that I want something to put in my bread to make it rise. The guy couldn’t understand a thing I was saying, but he just took me and sent me to a colleague of his that knew some English and could help me. I thought it was sweet, he could have just left.
Of course, we also met people that have an annoyingly good English, something that sounds like they were educated at Cambridge, and in places where one would not expect it: an older lady that helped us with information about a park, a waiter at a restaurant (small family business) where our landlords have taken us, a nice waitress at the restaurant in Germany where we often go, the cashier from the supermarket or the hairdresser that made my hair look nice for my vacation.