It has been over 10 years when I left Duesseldorf airport in Germany to go to Aberdeen, Scotland. My ambition was to finish a degree in mechanical engineering and then come back to Germany to continue my career in sales. However, things happened differently.
I was born to parents that were themselves born during the 2nd World War. My grandparents hid from the Nazis as much as they hid from the Russians. My parents grew up feeling the guilt of Germany being responsible for mass murder. This guilt, this burden, was passed on to me. I guess with my parents born just at the end of the war, and me being quite a late child, I was one of few within my generation that had this burden passed on to.
In 2006 we visited my fatherland. The worldcup was on and people in my generation were cheering for Germany. I was impressed. The majority of people in my generation were born to parents just after the 2nd world war. They carried less burden and freed themselves by being able to host an international sporting event. It was cool again amongst Germans “to be German”. To be proud of heritage and “Germaness”. Not of course of the “dark shadow”.
When I lived in the UK between 2001-2006, I believe I missed a transformation in Germany in those years. A transformation of becoming a nation, and a new “profoundness of being German”.
But years earlier, the dark shadow was lingering over myself. It was not ok to say that you were proud to be German. I didn’t like or understand that. Why can’t a 20 year old boy in a country with a bad history, which happened over 50 years ago, be proud of his country? I didn’t have anything to do with Hitler and the lot. I am not a Nazi or right wing. I really was questioning how much I could bear to live in my fatherland if I wasn’t allowed to love it.
My fatherland had changed from feeling guilty to feeling proud. The new “burden-less” generation took over and allowed for a world cup that hosted not only soccer games but became a “coming out” event for Germans to be German.
In the meantime Volker became more British. More open to new things and I started to forget about my fatherland. I didn’t forget about the heritage, the black shadow, the salvation from it in my own terms as well as freeing myself from stigmas I was carrying. Between 2001 and 2006 I not only transformed to a new life but also closed a life and chapter behind me. I grew up and became me: in a new country.
The new me was proud to be German but didn’t like living in Germany any longer. I couldn’t imagine going back to a country where I wasn’t allowed to say what I felt. So for me, I decided to stay in the UK.
I became who I am today, and with my wife being British, I feel very integrated into this society. I like Britain, with ups and downs, and have two boys for whom we decided to grow up in England. I am at home in Britain, this is somehow my new fatherland. If of course one is allowed to have two fatherlands? I chose to come here.
I still have my accent. I still speak German whilst with a slight British accent 🙂 And of course my English isn’t perfect. I also work for a German company. However, I see my current set up as being very international with a very experienced, international (German) boss: a unique setting.
It almost sounds rude that I don’t want to live in my fatherland any more: But I think it is a difference in cultures. Plus the fact that I probably never really got over the fact that my fatherland changed without me. That people moved on whilst I have been stuck in 2001. And based on that, I lost the attachment to Germany, the interest and identification. It is just another country. They now pay with a currency I never dealt with in my life before. It has changed a lot, and it changed without me. Maybe we can agree that both my country and I moved on independent from each other.
I am not bitter; I am not stateless or without a fatherland. Still, in my own rights, I value German heritage and love what I identify as being “Germany”. This “Germany” is different to most people’s Germany. These are pictures of my grand parents and their stories of clean rivers, green countrysides, honest, proud and hard working people.
Maybe people will understand that I cannot identify myself with the Germany that is any more. It must be similar to people after the reunification that lost their identity. I am surely not the only one.
In Britain I have found a new home, a country I am happy in. A country where my family and I can live and enjoy life.