1. The houses are more like huts

Tatjana Heid

Editor on duty at FAZ.NET.

  • Follow I follow

My neighborhood is a suburb cliché: lovely houses, manicured lawns, one or two US flags. But after the first two weeks of my journalism fellowship in Nashville, I can say: the houses look lovely, but they are terribly built. Mostly made of wood, zero insulated. When the air conditioning is off, it gets unbearably warm in no time. The walls could be made of greaseproof paper, that's how thin they are. You can hear everything that is going on in the house. When it rained heavily the other day, part of the rain gutter came down. The doors and locks are so unstable that you could break them open without any special criminal knowledge worth mentioning.

My roommate just shrugged her shoulders and said: “We Americans like to build cheaply.” Then she drove to the bank to have important documents locked up there.

“To be on the safe side, in case the house burns down.” In view of the construction, she thinks this is a realistic scenario.

It is.

A house burned down recently not far from here.

And parking in the vicinity of hydrants is strictly prohibited.

You never know when the fire brigade will have to come back.

2. Everything looks the same

The plots are roughly the same size, the houses are the same height, they have a double garage, at least one car is in front of each house and a large tree is in front of the house. The mailboxes are black, the lawn in the front gardens is the same height and because our house number is somewhere in the thousands, even the first two digits are identical. When my roommate's golden jeep is not in front of the house, I usually drive past it. Once I even parked on our neighbors' garage forecourt, which I only noticed on the way to their front door.

And it says “Home sweet home” everywhere: on metal signs in the front yard, as a welcome on the door or a picture in the window.

It is as if the residents of Suburbs had agreed on some kind of uniform.

Signs of patriotism are allowed, as are flowers, but nothing too extravagant please.

I was honest the other day about a “Trump.

Keep America first! ”- Happy sign.

It shows me when I have to turn from one endlessly long, endlessly identical street into the other endlessly long, endlessly identical street.

3. You only see cars, not people

Sometimes post-apocalyptic ideas come over me while walking, for example that I am the only one who was forgotten during the evacuation of the earth. Or the last survivor after an alien attack. Because you hardly ever see people here, neither on the street nor in front of the houses. This is strange, because the verandas are mostly lovingly designed, with fairy lights, rocking chairs, flowers. Only in two weeks I have never seen a person who lingered on them.

Somehow life is missing.

In addition, there are no name tags on the houses.

A house has a number, nothing more.

The fact that most houses get by without a fence suggests an openness that does not exist.

The houses look like fortresses.

The blinds are always down, the curtains are closed.

Anything could happen behind them.

Mrs. Robinson could seduce Dustin Hoffman or bring Chucky, the killer doll, to life.

It's oppressive.

4. There are no sidewalks

Of course, the US is a nation of motorists. And yes, you need a car to get from the suburbs to the city center - at least in Nashville, where public transport is "very limited", as my American colleagues always say apologetically. But is that a reason to avoid sidewalks? There isn't a single one in my neighborhood, the streets simply extend to the front yard.

If you want to go for a walk with your dog or go jogging - which, it seems to me, are the only activities that are carried out in the suburb without a car - you have to walk on the street.

This is not pleasant in view of the density of cars, even in purely residential areas with numerous dead ends.

Laconic comment from my roommate: "Why do you want to go for a walk too?" To save your honor, however, it should be said: motorists react almost heartily when they see a pedestrian like me.

They brake, drive past at walking pace and often greet them in a friendly manner. 

5. It's loud

This may be surprising in view of the previous portrayal of the American suburb as a lonely place. In fact, you can hardly see people, but you can hear them. Someone always drives by, stands in front of the house with the engine running, or mows the lawn. And since almost everyone has a dog (we even have two), some animal is always upset. But the worst is the incredible noise the cicadas make - affectionately called the "sound of summer" here.

The cicadas hatch out of the earth every year in late summer and climb trees - of which, as I said, there are enough in the suburb. And there the males begin to chirp deafeningly loud. They do this to attract females because once such a cicada has hatched, it doesn't have much time to reproduce. They are downright hysterical, especially in the morning hours. Thank God I don't have to listen to her love songs for too long. For the last four weeks of the scholarship, I'll be living in the middle of Nashville: fewer trees, more people, and yes - unfortunately, more cars. But you can not have it all.

Keywords: