A reflection on challenging stereotypes, embracing the new and reconnecting with one’s culture
It’s hot. Really hot. The scorching sun traps the city in an ever- increasing, what feels like neverending heat that makes you want to submerge yourself into a cold, clear river and never come back out again. The small city of Bamberg, with its long twisted cobbled streets, its baroque-like towers, small, with ivy overgrown, nooks and tiny alleyways toppled over each other in a chaotic, disarranged and yet somehow astoundingly charming way, is nevertheless beaming with life. It is summer.
The old city, across one of the many stone bridges, is where I often wander. Where I stroll, with no map or purpose, with no expectations or hopes, but get sucked into the carelessness, the freedom and simple happiness that is glimmering at every corner, beaming from every spontaneous street-concert or romantic candle-lit terrace. The people here are known to be harsh, humourless, efficient, and not much for embracing the playful effortlessness of life itself. Throughout my time here, this deeply ingrained idea of what it’s like to be German, my own stereotype, is proven wrong over and over, every time over-rolling me with the playful, summery lightness that surrounds the city and, most importantly, the people itself.
I am only here for four months. It’s the first time I have been back in my country, where I speak at ease without worrying about mispronouncing the next word or not knowing another cultural reference. It is the first time, in many years where I am not a foreigner, not talked to differently, not seen as part of another culture or another group. So why does it feel like I am seeing my country for the first time?
Why does it feel like, for the first time I don’t understand my decision to leave Germany anymore?
The people I have met here have embraced me with a kind-heartiness, so open and gentle, so full of good intentions only. They have dragged me to parties, where I would fall into bed afterwards exhausted from the long conversations, the hours of laughter and the sincerity of people simply enjoying each other’s company. They have brought me along on adventures where around every corner another new spontaneous decision would await us only for it to be embraced without another doubt. Long swims in the river, pleasant afternoons out on the balcony, music, culture, or art wherever you look, spontaneous get-togethers with friends and strangers alike – Here they are simply part of a life where living itself has become the end rather than the mean.
So, to Bamberg I send my love. I send my gratitude for allowing me to appreciate my culture, for showing me my hidden biases and superficial views and for making me fall in love with the new, the unexpected and, put simply, the everlasting happiness that seems to light up this city.