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I am a localization manager/translator and intercultural consultant living in Berlin (Germany), passionate about languages, cultures, diversity management, dancing and good movies.  

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Charlie Brown's life philosophy about goodbyes

In a big city like Berlin, people come and go on a regular basis and it is very normal to get to know someone that is just not going to stay and become part of one's life.

At the very same time that someone is moving to Berlin, someone else is leaving the city (and maybe the second one is going to live in the flat where the first one was used to live as well... but this is another story). 

[One of the ultimate movies about saying goodbye:
The Sound of Music (1965) by Robert Wise]

Someone stays here for a couple of years while studying, someone else spends only a couple of weeks because of a project. 
Someone decides to live in the city because of its opportunities, someone else goes away while getting a better job.
Someone attends an interesting and convenient workshop, someone else wants to travel around the world with a one-way ticket.
Someone rents an apartment while being in love with someone else, someone else relocate to another country after a break up. And so on.
[So many languages, the same situation:
someone is going away. How to deal with a goodbye?]

At the beginning, having to experience a goodbye after the other and meeting someone amazing and being forced to say farewell after only little time together was harrowing to me, also because as an expat new to the city, it was not easy at all to befriend people and the impression was "Gosh, another person is leaving... I will never ever be able to make some friends here!".

With the time I just got used to it and I consider it pretty normal now. People come, people go. Most of the time, they stay here a little and then go somewhere else, for some months or sometimes for good. 

Friends, friends of friends, colleagues and former colleagues, neighbours, people I learned German with... I would say that more than 50% of people I got to know in the last four years in Berlin has left the city already. 

How to deal with a situation like this?
Some people just stop to show interest for others, while thinking that they are going away very soon anyway.

[Goodbyes Vs. Hellos
Charlie Brown's life philosophy is a good one!]

Like Charlie Brown, I prefer to keep saying hello. I choose to enjoy every minute I can spend with people I like before they are going to leave, and to consider that every minute spent together like a gift I got somehow.
It doesn't matter that the person is not here to stay. She is here, right now, in front of me, and I can choose between wasting this moment with her or enjoying it. And I pick "enjoying the moment", of course.

Knowing that I am not going to have a lot of chances to see the person again makes me appreciate the time together even more, because I don't take it for granted. And also because I am happy to had the chance to meet the person in the first place, no matter for how long. As Bill Nye says:

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't. 

So meeting someone is a chance to discover something new, to think about things in a different way, to do something that I would not have done otherwise, and this is priceless to me.

And yet in the last couple of years I started to think about the goodbye part a lot more. In the past I sometimes tried to forget that a goodbye was going to happen and to focus on the present moment instead, as already said.

In the last years I realized instead that the way someone is going to say - or not to say - goodbye tells a lot about the person, about his/her relationship with me and also whether it makes sense or not to stay in touch with the person after he/she will not be in Berlin any longer.

Is the person organizing a last party for everybody? Or is the last evening in town reserved for very few good friends?
Is he/she going to call me one more time? Or to send me a message or a customized e-mail? Or to just post something on some social network for the whole world to read?

Is he/she actually going to tell me that he/she is leaving at all? If no, why? If yes, how?
Are we going to see each other once again, somewhere, in some place? If no, why? If yes, how?
And is it important to me or not at all?

Like in a movie, where the end determines what the movie is all about and which kind of message the movie delivers, I consider now the goodbye a very good relationships indicator. Sometimes it hurts, but in a good way, because in the long run I prefer to know that something is broken or not worth a goodbye, after all.

Are you good at saying goodbye?
If no, why?

Previous posts:

Tags: Goodbye, Saying Goodbye, Relationships, People, Quotes


  1. Bel post, anche se un po' amaro. E a proposito di arrivederci, ti ringrazio ancora per il bellissimo giro che ci hai fatto fare a Berlino, quasi un anno fa. Ero rimasta molto colpita dalla tua energia e dalla tua disponibilità nel renderci partecipi di ogni curiosità berlinese allora, ma forse adesso capisco da cosa questa esigenza nasca. See you soon (I hope)!

  2. Credo che doversi dire addio (o arrivederci, come spero nel nostro caso) sia sempre un po' amaro, anche quando si è sicuri di avere un bel rapporto con la persona, poco importa che sia un rapporto professionale o d'amicizia.

    In passato avevo molta paura degli addii e stavo male al solo pensarci. Berlino mi ha insegnato a prenderli come una possibilità e a concentrarmi sul resto. L'addio rende il tempo insieme solo più prezioso ma non influisce sulla qualità del rapporto. Almeno per me.

    Sono contenta che il giro a Berlino ti abbia lasciato un bel ricordo!!

  3. The matter is that I can say "goodbye" really easy, but then everytime I get on a plane to come back home, I have to do my 5minute crying. I don't know how many people I knew on planes because they were so consoling wiht me!! The thing I don't accept is that a parenthesis is definitively closed...

  4. These goodbyes with the crying part on the plane - by the way, it happened to me as well sometimes, but let's keep it secret - look to me like a "We know that we are going to see each other again, at some point, even if we don't know when, for now".

    The goodbyes of the post are most of the time for good.
    In German it is possible to wish someone to have a good life, while saying goodbye: "Mach's gut!".

    I find it very beautiful and touching, even if also totally sad.