In the past ten days I have driven from this beautiful fiord to the equally beautiful Swiss alps and back again. Before I left on the business trip, I had this idea for a blog posting that spoke about cultural identity and how every where you go you observe a piece of that place’s unique flavour through the “look” and habits of the locals. Thinking back, I was going to comment on the conformity of the locals in my environment here. The road trip through Zagreb, Milan, Lugano, Gstaad and Trieste brought everything together and underlined how conformity is everywhere, not just in this hidden garden of a land.
In the past, I thought we are all individuals, but when you live in and observe a metropolis you have all sorts of neighbourhoods that define themselves by their own certain style, individuality becomes more of a blur. In Vancouver, you had scenes like The Drive, South Main, Point Grey and West Vancouver. Each neighbourhood had its own cultural characteristics that you could spot a mile away… that certain hairstyle, attire, car, posture or other small details would give away someone’s provenance. I always found it kind of fun and oddly reassuring to know exactly where someone was from. Perhaps conformity is simply a device to give everyone a sense of place and security. I don’t know why the idea of conformity seemed to be so prominent here that it would inspire a blog posting; it is something I have observed for a while.
Here in Montenegro, it is harder to tell where anyone is from because we don’t have the variety of neighbourhoods or the population of where I came from. For each generation across the country, there is a specific look for men and a look for women. The men have decided that a track suit, runners, man bag and a cell phone is the “look”. The girls have a similar thing with knee high black boots, tight jeans, a short leather jacket and hair pulled back into a pony tail. Whether you are in the capital or the port town of Bar, the aesthetic is pretty much the same. I have heard that in the capital of Podgorica, they “try harder” (sorry Avis) but I have not been there enough to comment.
You could criticize the locals and say there was a lack of style here, but I ran into precisely the same conformity in every city I visited in this road trip. Milan had a look that was equally as consistent; Gstaad was even more defined, but that might have just been the -13 degree temperature. Trieste and Zagreb had theirs too.
So, what started out as a look at the local lack of variety has turned into another observation point about how, in our differences, we are all much more the same than we like to think!