The Longest Winter is in Germany

I hate winter, or should I admit it, I actually fear winter. When the autumn leaves start to fall, I sometimes don’t see the beauty of the colors of nature, I am dreading the winter cold and the snow that comes after..

It was not always a hate relationship with snow.

Way back in year 2005, my fervent wish when I landed in Germany was to see and touch snow, have myself photographed sitting on the snow, have the pictures sent to my family back in the Philippines and also have them posted in Friendster (Facebook was not yet the fad then) for my all my friends to see. I was able to do all of that.

My first winter did not disappoint me. It came to me like a dream. I came out of my student dormitory to buy some groceries and lo and behold- sprinkles of snow dropped from above and made the whole campus look like a Christmas postcard. I remember the feeling of touching it for the first time and holding it to my face.

Filipinos love snow

Filipinos find certain romanticism with snow. It is fascinating and wonderful. It is always shown during Christmas time on television or on romantic films. We might compare our fascination with snow to the European concept of romance. For example, in German television, a summer romance would be lying on a pristine sand near the beach with a beautiful lover and pina colada in one hand. It is the same as our concept of snow. We have been bombarded with romantic visions of gliding on ice, throwing snow balls to a beloved, drinking hot chocolate near the fireplace with white pine trees outside the window as background. There is even a song that tells of dreaming of a white Christmas.

Furthermore, our fixation with snow can be seen in shopping malls during Christmas when there is a big Christmas tree with sprinkles of white styrofoam. There is even a big entertainment park that showcases a place where you can enter and experience winter and even wear winter jackets. Oh, how the Filipinos love them.

Snow and its realities

However, after years of hard winter, reality starts to rub in. Snow is cold. It can make you sick. It can create accident and even kill.
Countless accidents happen on the streets and highways due to thick snow. Hospitals are crowded with people suffering from broken bones due to falling on the slippery pavements. There are delays in public transportation. Additionally, the German government has to spend a lot of money for maintenance of the streets compared to other seasons of the year. Homeless die on the streets due to hypothermia.

After my initial fascination, I started getting irritated whenever snow comes. Whenever I have to go out with my baby for a walk, I feel like a water buffalo plowing through the rice field, but this time pushing through thick snow. It is not easy to push a stroller in deep snow or even riding in and out of the bus. Imagine heaps of snow blocking a stroller coming out of the bus? Besides, I feel like I am a walking onion with loads of clothes, head cover and scarf.

The only thing that makes me feel good about winter is that it gives my complexion a rosy glow that would be the envy of all Eskinol users back in the Philippines. But then, the joy is gone after a few months, when skin becomes so dry, it actually screams for sun and warmth.

Snow and life in Germany

I used to joke that the reason why Germans produced a lot of scientists, inventors and writers. I attributed it to the long winter time where people can stay indoors and be introspective.

As a Filipino, who has been used to the warmth of my country and staying outdoors, I suddenly find having time to be philosophical or maybe creative. Nostalgia sets in, like missing  halo-halo during an afternoon snack after a long siesta, my family chatting around with the latest tsismis, the crowing of the roosters in the early mornings, the pandesal or taho man in the morning or just the neighbor calling and asking if you want to buy his fish catch.

The realities of being a foreigner in Germany may be compared to the snow. At first you look forward to everything new, and with a lot of expectations. But then, life can be hard in a foreign country. You need to learn their language, you adjust to the people and still your heart is left somewhere back in the Philippines.

You try to walk briskly like the Germans and even learn to be punctual—but deep inside you wish you could just forget your appointments and just slow down and smell the flowers.
Winter will always be magical for me. However, it can also be too long and too cold. I am already looking forward to spring and the first green sprouts from bare trees.

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