This year, I’d like to create a series of blogs about the many relationships and friendships that have developed between the Germans and Brits since the end of World War Two. I’m certainly not going to be mentioning the War 😊 or the political turmoil around Brexit. Instead, I’ll be looking closer at the human connection between these two countries with some personal stories.
I’ve lived in the UK with my husband for almost 15 years. During this time, we’ve met so many lovely British people and developed some very valuable friendships. We were very lucky that those we met along the way were patient and continually encouraged us to speak English – despite it being no better than school English at the time! Of course, we had (and still have) lively discussions with friends putting the world to rights. Sometimes we agree; sometimes we agree to disagree. What’s important is that we learn and accept cultural differences. I’ve certainly adopted a few British habits over the years!
Do you like Germany?
Since I started my websites, (www.holiday-in-germany.co.uk and www.nadjasgermany.com since May, 2018), I’ve been asking people about their experiences of Germany – whether it was for holidays, business trips, visiting relatives or as an expat. My (not particularly representative) study showed that the majority of people said that they loved Germany. I often wondered whether people just said that out of politeness because I’m German or whether they genuinely loved travelling to Germany.
First impressions matter
Our first impression of a country often comes from how we are welcomed into it by its people. This is certainly true if you spend a longer period of time there and get to know its culture and traditions.
I recently interviewed Tracy, mum to 8 and 10-year-old girls, about their holiday to the Black Forest and how her love of Germany developed. Many years ago, she participated in a work experience exchange programme and spent two weeks working for Sparkasse bank in Bamberg. She stayed with a German family who had warmly welcomed her into their home. Tracy loved Bamberg and said how much she appreciated the picturesque Bavarian town, even as a 17-year old. Since then, she had always wanted to go back to Germany at some point, and finally took her family on holiday there in 2018.
So, that made me think how our first impressions of a country can influence your views of a whole nation – particularly when you’re in your teens or twenties. Certainly, we all know that we can’t judge a nation by meeting a few unfriendly people. But what if Tracy had stayed with an unwelcoming family or in a town that wasn’t so attractive. Would she still have had the urge to revisit Germany?
Northerners are different to southerners
Germany is no different to the UK when it comes to regional differences of its people. In Germany, northerners (those living close to Hamburg) come across as being quite stern. So, don’t think you’ve upset them if they are abrupt or not very chatty. However, people from the Rhineland area around Cologne and Düsseldorf appear more open and welcoming. It’s something you’ll begin to figure out the more you travel to the different regions in Germany.
Learning about a different culture opens up your mind
I often have chats with people about their experiences of studying or working in Germany or about their short breaks or holidays. Of course, it’s not always rosy and every country has its advantages and disadvantages. But from a human point of view, I’m convinced that a friendly welcome can make all the difference. I believe that it’s just as important now as it was after World War Two to build bridges between countries and nations. Learning about a different culture on an exchange programme is something valuable and essential to life. Learning how a nation ‘works’, having empathy and accepting a different culture is a skill and essential to world peace.
Look out for my upcoming blogs where I’d like to shine a light on more relationships between the Brits and Germans. I’m very interested in hearing about any of your experiences. So, please don’t hesitate to contact me either via Facebook or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how you’re connected to Germany or what experiences you’ve had. Again, this is not a place for a political discussion; it’s a place to discuss the human or social aspects of our lives. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!