Loonie and Twonie

Now, what’s that all about? It was a question a nice person asked me last week, i.e. whether I knew about the loonie and the twonie with regard to my plans to go to Canada. At first, I thought she was kidding me, but having come to know her as a polite and gentle person, I had to rule that thought out. The person I’m talking about is the founder of The English Stop, a non-profit learning centre in Munich, which opened January 9th and is open to all who want to do something about their English language skills. I had stopped by for the grand opening and to drop off some English books, which I gave her for the lending library.

As I was early, there was just her and me and we had a nice conversation about her project, about mine and – yeah well, about the loonie and twonie. I learnt that these are the colloquial expressions for the one and two dollar coins. The loonie is a Canadian bird, frequently found at open waters, e.g. lakes. It is engraved on the reverse of the 1-$ coin. The twonie or sometimes spelt “twoonie”, however, is representative of the 2-$ coin, with a polar bear engraved on the reverse. The obverse of both coins sports Queen Elizabeth II., of course, as Canada is – however more symbolically – still considered a Commonwealth Realm.

On a different note, we also talked about mentality, how it is different from that of the U.S., for example, or Germany, with particular regard as to how you make encounters and friends. Jackie pointed out that having lived in Germany now for some years, she finds it hard to break into the “inner circle” of friends, who have known each other for long. But once you’ve managed, you’re accepted for good. I held a strong point against it, as I – despite having tried as best I could – cannot confirm this experience. But I’m not all sure, whether that is only my personal perception, which may have suffered in the aftermath of my divorce. Anyway, I think it’s virtually impossible to meet people on your own. You’re best advised to e.g. subscribe to a sports club or any other organisation or club focussing on a particular hobby or subject. And you take it from there. I have never experienced that you walk into a club, discotheque or bar around here and do more than exchange a few set phrases. I can’t see, how I could possibly experience s.th. like e.g. a year ago at Macworld, San Francisco: I was “off duty”, but didn’t feel like spending the evening with my company’s colleages (or bosses, to be exact). So I hung around the hotel pool for a while (getting quite a few looks as it was winter and I insisted on using the outdoor pool atop a hotel complex), relaxed in front of the TV for a while and felt like heading downtown later on to have a decent meal of seafood somewhere around Fisherman’s Wharf. I was prepared to be doing that all on my own as I find myself doing most of my spare time activities all on my own. I’m not saying it’s always fun, but at least it’s convenient. So I took the bus to Union Square and the famous Cable Car to Fisherman’ Wharf. Before long I found myself constantly chatting with tourists on the bus, at the Cable Car stop and during the ride to the Wharf. It felt warm, easy, uncomplicated and just like a good time. I couldn’t imagine anything similar to happen around here and I’m generally being described as an open, non-reclusive personality.

Another colleage of mine, a British guy, confirmed that impression by telling me about his trip home over the holidays. His family lives an hour west of London. Now, in order to fully live up to his vivid account of his holiday experience, I have to elaborate a bit: The guy’s our system admin and in this function, I frankly couldn’t imagine anyone being more brilliant than him. I mean, let’s face it, he configures the most complex systems from the command line and overcomes faulty manuals or non-existant documentation. I’d say he’s the hell of a bright guy. Contrary to that description and doing his apprenticeship, naturally he doesn’t get the recognition (yet) that he’d deserve in my view. So I found myself often feeling sorry for the guy, for his excessive workload, his health suffering from that, some bad luck to go along with it and a bit of an ill-fated charisma to round it all off. Well, I hope I’m not doing him injustice and if so, I apologize in advance. I’m trying to make a point towards him leaving a general impression of unhappiness on me.

The change in his posture couldn’t have been any more dramatic: The same guy, who I found skulking around the office and mostly shut away from our eyes, sitting next to the server rack, entangled in miles of network cable and electric gear, was leaping and bouncing around me like a kitten shortly after New Year’s. Excuse me, what was I missing? It turns out, it had just taken him to get a break from our cold, focussed, straight forward and “let’s not waste a minute”, all so German kind of way of dealing with each other. He went on about how easy and welcoming everyone was, be it at home with his relatives or when “hitting town” and making their stops at bars, discotheques and other venues. No strange looks along the lines of “Oh, you’re not dressed according to this place” or “You don’t look familiar”, or “Are you from around here?” or anything you’d get on any given weekend in Munich. They’d walk into the place, order their drinks and were treated as if they’d always been there and just part of it all.

And that very much confirms, what I’ve been finding about my fellow countrymen. I mean, face it: I am at the open air movie theatre “Seebühne Westpark” last summer and rather find myself talking to a Canadian lady and her friends than to Germans. OK, you might argue that my entire “window of attention” has shifted from the German language to anything sounding “foreign” and preferrably English. Granted. Nonetheless, anytime I would have gone out by myself in an attempt to make (new) friends and meet people, most often – if not always, that is – at the end of the night I found myself right where I was before: Heading home alone, not even having had a conversation. Zero. Nothing. Which has slowly led me to just give up on those attempts and not go out any more, at all. And if so, then just by myself.

Well, according to Jackie, volunteering is the magic tool to meet people in Canada. I will remember that. I have high hopes to encounter a much different mentality there, and by all accounts that’s very likely, too. Around here, I could have a heart attack and rot away in my appartment unnoticed until the stench from my deceased body would eventually evaporate from my flat. Pretty crass, I know, but apparently no longer just my personal take on the “socialising business” around here….

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