Cycling back home this evening I found myself laughing with pleasure. Some of this was no doubt provoked by the brilliant slip road off the bridge - there's no street lighting, so unless there are cars somewhere you're pretty much zooming along in the dark, but the best thing is it used to be riddled with potholes and they recently resurfaced it, so it's a brilliantly smooth ride, and the feeling of successfully rounding the corner at the bottom, having failed to hit anything vital or fall off the edge, generally provokes a feeling of joy. However the giggling persisted, and I realised that this wasn't particularly unusual. I quite often cycle home and find myself laughing. So thinking about it, either they are sneakily infusing the water supply here with Ecstasy or something, or I am thoroughly enjoying many of my evenings out. (Well yes OK it could have a little to do with the marvellous wine too, but given that you can lose your driving licence here for being under the influence whilst riding a bike, probably not so much.)
No, the thing is, I have met, and continue to meet, such wonderful people, and have great conversations, which leave me feeling thankful to the point of grinning all the way home. I think a lot of it has to do with being an expat. I was discussing this with a friend tonight. Sociologically speaking, we're programmed deep inside to get on better with "people like us". And moving away from one's home automatically shifts the boundaries of who gets defined (I'm speaking of the subconscious here, obviously) as "people like us". Over here in Germany, well it now includes anyone I socialise with who has English as their mother tongue. Birthplace, accent, social status - all the things which divide us amongst ourselves - here become irrelevant. And I feel all the better for it. I have wonderful friends now who I probably would never have met to talk to seriously had we all been in an English-speaking country. Oddly enough, I think I have almost learned more about how other people's brains work differently (so fascinating!) from interactions with other expats than from socialising with the natives of whichever land I happen to be living in. Obviously not always; I enjoy hugely the experience of gradually mastering a language, and have done my fair share of return-journey laughter from the sheer joy of having communicated properly with people in a new language. But I am thoroughly grateful for this experience, and maybe it has permanently broadened my mind.
Certainly makes cycling back home a lot more fun!