October 18th, 2013
Since I left Canada at 17 years old, I have been an avid journal keeper. It’s a habit I am rather proud of, one of those habits that I never explicitly decided to continue doing, but that seemed to remain by itself, a necessity in my lonely life as an expatriate.
About six weeks ago I was about to board a flight at Copenhagen airport, but the security staff were on strike so it was impossible to check in. There were literally thousands and thousands of people jammed like sardines in this tiny airport; but what struck me, hard, was how amazingly calm and unpanicked people were, even compared to a typical non-calamity day at Tegel airport in Berlin. Here’s a little excerpt from my journal on that morning.
“It’s funny how in the end my life has been more or less the same everywhere I lived. Food, sleep, music, friends, boys, bills, public transport… of course all one-on-one communication is impossible to generalise, but what has really made my life so different in each country has been what IS general, and generalisable; how people act when they aren’t around people that they already know. Anyways the concept of countries themselves IS generalisation, nationality itself is a generalisation. People are all unique, just like everyone else… but what makes you feel “Germany” or “Holland” or “Denmark” is, inescapably, an absolute stereotype. It’s the smell of fear, or anger, or calm, in the people’s eyes as they stare off into an inoffensive distance. It’s the tones of people voices; the tones of people’s silences. There just seems to be so much less violence here in Denmark than in Germany. And it feels really, really good.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am not out especially to criticise Germany; these are merely private observations for my own intellctual interest in the functioning of different societies. The only thing I know for sure is that there are great things and horrible things about every country in the world. And obviously since I live in Berlin there are many, many things I love about it. And on this trip to Scandinavia I realised that I can (almost) easily live with the German tendency toward stress and panic, as long as I don’t have to live with this Law of Jante crap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante). As much as I absolutely love Copenhagen’s mellow vibe (and especially long for it when Berlin’s lonely intensity grows too much for me), I am far too much of an individual to ever survive in such a society for long.
Trade-offs, trade-offs… life is all about trade-offs, isn’t it.