Dizzying Uniformity

I'm a commuter between two worlds.

Okay, "worlds" seems a bit exaggerated - it's not Austria to India, it's Austria to Germany, and they're neighboring countries. There are no unsurmountable discrepancies between those two countries, just minor ones, and I'll come to these in another post.

Today is about similiarities.

German and Austrian towns (as do most European towns, of course) share a lot of common companies, such as supermarket chains, chemist's, clothes shops (from H & M to Benetton). These stores have the same interior design, the same colours, the same types of shelves, the same merchandise. Public relations people might say: It's all about creating corporate identity and brand loyalty, they want us to feel at home when we're not at home and so on.

To me, the effect of this uniformity is totally different. Very often, after entering one of those stores I start to feel an uncertainty, an uneasiness as to my whereabouts. Is this now Muenster, or Vienna or even Hamburg?

My playful self starts to imagine what it would be like to be in Vienna when I really am in Muenster. How would it be to exit the shop and be in Berlin? And after a while I start losing my sense of balance, just slightly, and feel a little dizzy, comparable to walking on an escalator that has stopped. The dizzyness gets stronger of course, when there is an escalator in the store and it has just stopped ....

I imagine beaming would be like this. You're not really here, but not there, either.

Finally, I pull myself together and manage to come down to earth.

I wonder if these experiences are unique just to my own foolish self.


Lydia said...

Love that escalator analogy! This is really interesting reading about the similarities in corporate entities within Austria and Germany. Thinking about border countries to the U.S., there are more similarities in Canada than in Mexico. But even Canada, at least when I was there in the 90's, was its own place, maintaining its own identity. There have undoubtedly been changes toward commonality since then, but I hope not too many.
What I hate is the similarity in all towns/cities here. Rather than feeling dizzy, for me the sensation is one of agitation. Good for you for finding some fun in the situation and letting your imagination run...

francessa said...

We still have a few unique stores, of course, but they're getting fewer and fewer, and the streets are dominated by the same chains everywhere. When we went to another country some decades ago, everything seemed so wonderfully unfamiiar and exotic - now it's just more of the same!

Perhaps dizziness is the last stage before agitation? :-)

Lydia said...

I do believe you are correct!

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