Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A little goes a long way

I won't lie, in the almost two months that I've been living in Hamburg, I haven't really got to know my neighbours too much. Maybe it's because the vast majority of them seem to be several decades older than us, and I doubt my bonding abilities stretch far enough to random 70s and 80s German references that would go right over my head. If the residents in this apartment block aren't hold, then they're a young family. At least, I'm assuming they're a young family based on the fact that there's a pram at the bottom of the stairs and I can occasionally see a baby if I'm sat on the balcony and peering down to see where the crying is coming from. It's the baby. It's always the baby.

The extent of my getting to know the neighbours predominantly came when we didn't have internet in the flat and I asked a couple of neighbours if they knew of an internet cafe nearby. While one lady actually asked me what an internet cafe was and another merely told me of a cafe just off Hamburger Stra├če (try the carrot cake, it's fantastic), I got lucky with the neighbour on the right hand side of our floor. She said there was one a short train ride away, but also that we could borrow her internet connection if we needed access....and that came in more than useful in the three weeks of not having internet since it meant that I could occasionally log on and get Doctor Who on iPlayer or stock up on podcasts for listening to during the week.

I think Vejuna has mentioned that she's bumped into neighbours once or twice and had very brief conversations which from her retelling of them seem to consist largely of "Oh, so you're one of the English students living here?" and then not a lot more besides that. 

Aside from that, seeing neighbours has been predominantly limited to seeing people as I'm coming or going from the flat at various points through the day. I'm always friendly/polite and say hello to them or hold the front door open if someone is behind me. 

It's a bit strange really. When you get into a pattern every day of journeying to and from work, you quickly see the same people. There's the old guy who sits outside the bakery downstairs every morning drinking his coffee and reading the morning newspaper, the same people I see at the bus stop every day (when I get the bus), the same people I see waiting for and getting on the same train as me and the same people riding the bus from the train station to work. Life quickly drops into a pattern of familiarity...which is why I occasionally mix things up of a morning by getting the train instead of the bus and even then, I can go from one of two stations. It's just about enough to keep me sane (though that moment may have passed a long time ago).

Anyway, when I got back from work this afternoon, a woman was just in front of me and struggling to get a bike and several bags of shopping along the hallway. So after she'd let me go past to check my mailbox (where I got Iron Maiden tickets and a book of German slang, wooo!), she went to let me go past on the other side again so I could go up the stairs to my flat. I thought I'd ask if she needed any help and offered to take some bags upstairs for her. What does it matter if I live on the third floor and you live on the fourth? I can take that extra flight of stairs...it won't kill me. So I took some stuff up for her and then after letting myself into the flat to drop my jacket off, I heard her slowly making her way up the stairs. Again, I just asked if she wanted any more help and took another couple of bags up the rest of the way for her. 

Nothing to it, just being friendly and helping someone out. I'd like to think that if I were struggling to get up the stairs with something, someone would help me out if they spotted me.

As I dropped her bag off, she reached into one of her bags and after moving some cat food (at least I know who has the cat now), she gave me some ice tea as a way of saying thank you. I wasn't in it for the gifts and said that, but she seemed quite insistent and said some nice things, so it felt a bit wrong to refuse it. That's now sat in my fridge and will no doubt be consumed in the very near future. Probably just after I've posted this.

In short, I just wrote a blog to tell you I got a free carton of lemon flavoured iced tea for doing something good. Break from the routine, say hi to someone you don't know and help someone else out. Even if you don't get a free beverage, they'll appreciate it and you'll feel good.

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