I finally bought my plane ticket to Peru. I’ll be leaving Stuttgart at the end of this month and, naturally, I have opposing feelings. Stuttgart hasn’t been nice to me, but there are things that I will miss. With this in mind, I decided to make a list of the differences between Stuttgart and Lima. Here’s what I will miss and what I will not.
- Healthcare: In Lima, I will have the option to have a ‘delivery’ doctor. Basically, there’s a number you can call when you feel sick but it’s not bad enough to go to the clinic (e.g. when you have a stomachache or something like that) and they send a doctor and medicines to your house or office! How great is that? Here in Stuttgart (or in Germany, I think) this option just doesn’t exist. You have to either go to the clinic and wait for hours or make an appointment for the next day or even week. An anecdote related to healthcare: I went to the doctor here in Stuttgart because of a skin rash in my leg. The doctor wouldn’t even bother to look at my rash!!! Got me two free tubes, which I have finished and haven’t helped. Now my rash is worse and I have to make a new appointment. This kind of things wouldn’t happen to me in Lima. I miss being treated like a normal human being!
- Client service: Lima doesn’t really fit the stereotype of Latin American warmness. However, if you go to an upscale restaurant/shop/whatever, they treat you extremely nicely. They greet you when you enter and they smile at you, even if you’re wearing ripped jeans like I normally do. This sounds nice but sometimes, I must say, this servant attitude is taken to an extreme that is uncomfortable for me. I think it’s okay to be nice and friendly but there’s a thin line between that and reproducing colonialist attitudes. In non-upscale places treatment varies. Here in Stuttgart, on the other side, the trend is that people don’t see me (as if I were invisible, like, they bump into me all the time, although I’m always making gigantic efforts not to collide!) or that they literally frown when they see me. I’m still not sure if it’s my skin colour or my clothes…
- Landscape: I believe both Lima and Stuttgart are, on average, ‘ugly’ cities. Architecture is not so exciting in either city and both of them tend to have grey skies. In Lima, however, while running under the very grey sky, I’ll be able to see the wonderful Pacific Ocean, the surfers and the people practising yoga/slackline/martial arts/etc. on the parks. That compensates for the grey days. To be fair with Stuttgart, yes, I know it’s possible to run along the Neckar river or through vineyards, but that doesn’t work for me because it’s not close to my neighbourhood.
- Cultural life: This one is an absolute win for Lima. P and I like to walk a lot and be surprised. Both in Peru and Australia, this has been our way to discover new things. We’d suddenly find an interesting alley and there you go, art expo! We’d see a graffiti-filled abandoned building, enter it anyway and, surprise! a cool coffee shop on top, or a pop-up store or a party. Well, that doesn’t happen in Stuttgart. We’ve tried so hard to find uplifting, interesting things to do here and nothing. Although I’m sure they are out there somewhere, it’s just not easy to find them. It must be a closed circuit.
- Street harassment: Okay, here Stuttgart gets a point. I’ve heard so many female tourists complain that when they go to Lima they are whistled at because they look pretty and blond and evidently foreigner. Well, I’m not blond and look stereotypically Peruvian and I also get whistled at and more! And no, just because I’m Peruvian it doesn’t mean I’m used to it. I hate it everytime it happens. It’s not funny, it doesn’t feel good, it makes me feel threatened and objectified. Now, let’s be fair. This doesn’t happen everywhere in Lima. In my own neighbourhood, I do feel extremely comfortable and safe. In Stuttgart, on the other hand, I haven’t been whistled at because of being a woman, but I’ve received frowns and disapproving looks when wearing mini skirts and/or bright red lipstick or ripped jeans. Once an old man approached me on the U-Bahn and reprimanded my jeans. It was so surreal it ended up being funny. It’s a different kind of harassment, though. Maybe it’s less scary, but it is still harassment.
- Discrimination: As you might have noticed, I’m constantly being discriminated in Stuttgart. People ignore me, give me bad looks, and so on. I don’t know if it’s racism necessarily, but it’s definitely some sort of discrimination. Also the following: I’ve been yelled “Raus!” (Out of here!) by a group of neo-nazi looking men (dressed in black, bald or very short hair). This only happened once during this year but it’s been bad enough to fear for my safety. You can find other discrimination anecdotes on this posts: Job Advisor, Job search, European Qualifications Framework and Racism at the movies.
- Being exotic: This might sound appealing to some but not to me. Even when this ‘exoticization’ comes from well-meaning people, I can’t stand it. Example 1: a (German) friend of ours was visiting and I showed here my chilli plants. She immediately assumed that I must love chilli because I’m from South America. She said: ‘Oh, I bet you can’t live without your chilli. Is this from Peru?’ Well, nope. The reason I have chilli plants is because they’re surprisingly resistant to my bad gardening skills 🙂 I do like chilli but actually, my German husband likes it way spicier than I do. Example 2: Me asking a (German) friend of ours what is the pacifier supposed to do. I don’t have children and I’m never surrounded by them, so I was wondering if it makes the baby sleepy or if it calms hunger or if it’s to make babies less anxious. Her reply: ‘Oh… wow! you don’t have pacifiers in Peru?’ OMG. Really? God… I’m so tired of MY experiences, MY thoughts, MY likes and dislikes being assumed as representative of a whole country.
- My husband: I will miss him so much. We plan to visit each other constantly until we find a way to meet again (we’re thinking he might follow me in a couple of years and create a start-up). I love him so much that I want to stay in spite of all the Stuttgart Cons and my low quality of life here. But I’m being rational now and I’m taking my life back. So, Lima, here I go!