It was a Wednesday night and we were discussing the differences in mentality and temperament between various German speaking countries. We: an Australian who had lived in the UK, Germany, and Austria, and had settled in London. We: a Swiss person who repeatedly expressed regret, confusion, despair about his country's referendum on migration. We: me, quietly amused because I felt like I had had similar conversations with a wide range of people before. When German-speakers meet, they will analyse each other. Endlessly. Their perceived national characteristics. When German-speakers meet in the UK, there is an implicit understanding that we are more alike here than we will ever be at home - at home, where we often feel like we have nothing in common. Until we find ourselves in a beautiful flat in London on a Wednesday night, and realise that, as much as we wish it weren't so, countries do shape mentalities and sparkling wine loosens the tongue. (I don't drink sparkling wine.)
Where were we? In a beautiful flat near the Barbican which belongs to a cultural attaché who had invited us for an intimate networking dinner. "Intimate" "networking" "dinners" are precisely as odious as the words suggest and I'm still not sure how I got invited to one. At this one, however, I ended up at a table with people I knew and liked, and it felt more like having dinner with people who exist in that strange no man's land that I find impossible to navigate, somewhere between casual acquaintance, work contact, and almost friend. My shoulders relaxed slightly as I sat down.
A little later the violist who sat next to me would turn to me and say, 'I know it's ridiculous, but I only wear APC jeans' and I'd raise my eyebrows and laugh. A little later, I'd walk to the tube stop with a composer who, slightly tipsy, held a brief and touching, very earnest monologue on the merits and inherent timelessness of classical music.