Bicultural Urbanite Luke
You Can Take the Boy Out of the Climate…
Being an Australian living in Germany who doesn’t really identify with anything quintessentially Aussie can lead to some rather trying conversations with strangers. No, I don’t surf. And no, I don’t have a lengthy mane of dirty-blond hair (very astutely observed, though). No, sorry, I don’t play cricket or footy. And nope, I don’t wear flip-flops (has humanity ever committed a more heinous crime against aesthetics?). And frankly, no, I personally don’t think it’s all that crazy that I’m not really into drinking beer—at least no less shocking than the fact I never rode kangaroos to school in modern metropolitan Melbourne (facepalm).
To be fair, it must be a disenchanting experience for the unsuspecting local or tourist in a Berlin bar to stumble upon me—a pathetic excuse for an Aussie—being so obstinately un-Australian.
My street in Prenzlauer Berg. | © Luke Troynar On some nights, I suddenly find myself briefly hamming up a twangy, indecipherable Australian accent to squawk out some ridiculous colloquialisms (“No bloody worries cobber digger, hooroo and shout out to the missus matey!”). This rarely fails to extract a contended German grin of boozy vindication. On other occasions, if I happen to have plied myself with enough long drinks and find myself feeling particularly charitable, I may just go out of my way to assuage the disillusionment more substantially by playing my Aussie expat ace: a confession of my very Australian dread of Berlin winters.
The cold is not my friendAnd it’s true. The cold is definitely not my friend. Truth be known, I can’t stand it. And my yearly bills of excess heating costs are painful evidence of the fact. Granted, a couple of months of brisk temperatures at the tail end of autumn and through winter’s inauguration can be endearing—especially if the weather man serves up a white Christmas with all that majestic phosphoresce shimmering around. There is a particular kind of crisp, fresh December day in Berlin, where the cobalt blue skies and delicate snowflakes circling gently overhead can make even the frostiest of grinches coo with glee.
Christmas ambiance in Prenzlauer Berg. | © Luke Troynar But then the holiday season ends—the winter doesn’t. The New Year rolls around with all its new challenges and the bitter forecast carries on. All that fluffy white snow melts to sloppy, dirty sludge; festive smiles fade to festering grimaces before gradually curdling into more resigned winter frowns. Stiff and achy commuters cram their numb and aching bodies into overheated trains: teeth gritted, stares fixed firmly on the floor. Eye contact is avoided at all costs. Darkness descends on the city not long after lunch each day. Melatonin levels soar while serotonin plummets. Half the city shuts down and retreats into hibernation. Meanwhile, pictures of my friends in Melbourne grazing cheerfully on sunny lawns and beaches flood my social media platforms. Outside my window, the TV tower remains immersed in a heavy, pervasive, mind-fogging grey.
I would love to tell you this dark cloud of a Berlin winter portrait finishes with a happy silver lining, but in reality it usually ends with me cancelling plans to stay inside and hug heaters—working diligently on that next utilities bill and planning a balmy holiday escape. So there you have it: despite having a Polish-born mother, a Russian/Ukrainian-born father, plus that perverse unconscious drive to be everything your homeland is not that is exclusive to the expat psyche, it turns out I’m a little bit Aussie after all. Apparently you can take the boy out of the climate, but you can’t take the climate out of the boy.