Posts Tagged Germany

Sunday Column (429)

Last week was a turning point. I believe, and I mentioned that to my wife, that the next few weeks will be a turning point in our life. There are changes coming up, chapters being closed. I start writing this as I am sitting to wait for a delayed flight to Hamburg on Sunday night. So a week ago, prior to Sunday Column 428 being published. Crazy, but that is my creative output. I love writing, keeping myself busy with thinking and strategising. About anything and everything really. I was asked this week what my next book is about, and I said, probably it is about my life, or life or something. No plans yet…

At the weekend we started to speak more German at home. My wife started taking private tuition and the boys tried understanding what I am talking about. I translate the sentences simultaneously. This is only the beginning but we try to become more bi-lingual at home. The weekend was productive with us having done some spring gardening and we finally built the hedgehog house. It was a good weekend, the wife and I went out, maybe a few too many drinks, but hey, that happens now and then. Not many occasions when we can go out to celebrate. Then we had our yearly debate if St. Patrick’s day is actually the first time we met and kissed. Anyway, don’t let me get into that.

Further, I closed the chapter of writing a productivity book. I sent the final drafts off to publishers at Christmas but didn’t get a positive response. So I put it on Amazon Kindle on Sunday, a link is to the right of the post. It is free to download in the first week, but I decided to make little noise about it. A good read I find, and if people are interested, they will find it. I have other focus at the moment than productivity books and worked on them for a few years now. Time to put that to bed. So closing this chapter and focusing on other things is good. Maybe the new book about life πŸ˜‰

On the other hand I opened a chapter at work. Not only the first 30 minute presentation at a conference for this employer, but also in German! So a double challenge but it went well. So did the panel the next day. I am trying to help out where I can to present the company and hence I flew out to Germany on Sunday. I will continue to be in Germany more often, as I temporary help in the German market. It will be a drag flying, but it is going to be a lot of fun too and a great challenge. Having said that, I had to wait 4 hours for my Easyjet flight coming back, so no more Easyjet for me. The delays were getting to much and I am only back to travelling, so Heathrow it is unfortunately as it is a pain to get there for an early morning flight, and BA or Eurowings instead of Easyjet. The joys. Travelling is never glamorous, and I was hoping to do less, now probably going to do more. But I love a challenge, a chapter and the opportunity to help and support. That’s who I am, that’s what I do, that’s what I enjoy. And work is very good about it too!

As one chapter opens, another closes they say. I travelled with my German passport. I have done since I moved to the UK in 2001. Yet, since Wednesday, I can be hopeful to soon get the British passport too. I pledged my allegiance to the Queen and became a British national. Now I am British and German, soon with two passports. Wow, who would have guessed. It all happened quicker than anticipated in the end. And the application for the passport has been sent. Exciting times ahead. It feels like yesterday that a friend of mine and I discussed this, sitting over lunch in Farringdon. He said, now you know the process, it is easy to do and you don’t know what the future holds. It gives you security he said. He was right. Security and peace of mind. I beat him to it too πŸ˜‰

I feel at ease. I feel like spring cleaning my life a bit. I put a lot of energy into the new job and really enjoy the challenge. Is it much different to what I am used to? Yes and no. As a friend of mine said the other day: good tech, great people, and you realise how much you know and how much experience you have. Sometimes you don’t realise how much you know, but in this line of work I very much rely on my experience often and enjoy it. Yet, there are new challenges, different experiences, which help me grow and go outside of what I know. Keeping me on my toes. It is great to see the positive difference you can make. And a great team I have!

Then amongst the travel, I listened to a podcast by Tim Feriss, where one of his guests, John Crowley, who has children with a disease, talks about the IPO with his business. His business is in the biotech space to save humans like his children from this particular disease. When he came home after two weeks on the road after the IPO, his daughter woke up when he kissed her goodnight. He said she would be proud of what he has done. And she said, she was proud and that she saw him on TV. He said, what do you think of me on TV? She said he looked short.
In her next breath she asked whether he was around tomorrow to take her to school. That was the most important part for her.
I understand that feeling. The boys aren’t interested if I speak at a conference or close a mayor sales to bring home money to buy the Lego Deathstar (which I refuse to do btw). They care if I bring sweets or if I take them to school the next day. And that’s how it should be. It is important for me to be up at 6 am on a Sunday to do colouring in or build a model of Bumblebee. That should always be our focus, to spend time with our loved ones, to teach them, to help them, to be with them, to share moments with them. And with all the travel, and my wife planning to go back to work, this is still the main priority and focus. And we make it work, as we make anything work we want to make work. Just like turning a page in a book, we move on with life.

Of course we cannot be there 24/7. But when we are there, we need to be in the moment. We must be with them and make sure they see that. We must help them to understand the world and share the experience. I have done that a lot lately with my boys. Individually. Together. I feel better for it and so does my relationship with them.

Have a great week and give your loved ones a big hug.

Love and Kindness from my corner of the world,
Volker

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Sunday Column (382)

Last week started on Sunday when I flew to Germany. I piggy-backed a long overdue trip onto a trip to some clients in Frankfurt. Frankfurt is not only a pain to fly to (Heathrow only), there aren’t that many companies in our industry. It has been 18 months since I have been and stayed one day this time to then train it to DΓΌsseldorf. Germany is very scattered when it comes to big cities and there are important people in each one of them. I guess it keeps it interesting.

A bit of travel is essential to cover ground in Germany. One of the few countries without a centralised city for media, not like Paris/France, Milan/Italy, Madrid/Spain and of course London/UK. My next trip to Germany is Berlin in a few weeks time. That again will be from Gatwick, which is a lot easier. It seems that Easyjet changed their flight plan and doesn’t fly to some cities I need to go to. That means a long taxi drive to Heathrow.

On the note of train travel in Germany: my annual travel card from Hassocks to London, which I renewed this week, costs more than a travel card to use the train all over Germany for a year. On first sight my ticket seems like a rip off. Discussing it with people, it seems that Germany subsidises train travel and given you pay almost double on tax, this explains how it works. Guess every country has its pros and cons.

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I seem to hate flying out on a Sunday. It seems like I am cheating on family time but luckily this happens only a couple of times a year. Particularly as I got a good engagement going with the boys, playing chess and doing homework. We had a fantastic weekend.

However the meetings we had were awesome. The industry is very responsive to our solutions and we are pivoting. It is nice to see we offer innovation in a crowded market space and drive business forward. What is not to like?

My Hilton in Dusseldorf was a bit unliked by me. We got to a personal chat with the Operational head and a make good. Actually curious to meet him in person now πŸ˜‰ He seems very much switched on. Next time. First unhappy Hilton stay so far. That’s a better track record in comparison to IHG. Let’s see how the next three Hilton stays stack up. Being away from home you want to have a good bed and a good service, a good place to stay and most of all, value for money. When staying in a very low frill hotel the other day, it ticked all the boxes. Yet, it didn’t come at the price tag of a Hilton. Same is true when we travel, as a family we go into a Premier Inn for the night. Anyway….I keep you posted, no doubt.

Overall it was a very successful trip. Definitely worth while with some very challenging and good discussions with industry leaders. Just the way I like it.

Work is very interesting at the moment. We are, as a company, innovating a lot around cross device data points. That and us playing in the biggest offline silo, TV, and the most engaging online silo, Social, leads to some interesting developments. It’s going to be exciting over the next few months.

My wife ran another race. I am very proud of her. She managed to hit her anticipated time. She also signed up to more runs. I am a bit afraid I would get addicted if I start signing up to races. Hence I am still refusing to join races but the one in July running a 24 hour relay race over the distance of 10K. Despite my exercises I seem to be putting on weight. Not a lot to be honest but it seems to be creeping up. So this week I have done a few more runs than normal. 30K and 45 minutes Cross Trainer. That resulted in the weight being down again but I was exhausted on Friday.

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For the matter of weight I need to look into my diet again. A few client lunches and boozing sessions with lots of finger food and crisps seem to take its toll. That of course is fair enough so I shall try to cut down on those wasted calories of nuts and crisps. Also I am wondering if this high fat diet, having a ham and cheese omelette every morning, is the best idea. I guess I need to do more research. If you look up athletes’s diets they eat ‘normal’ with focus on veggies, carbs prior to events and fruit as well as protein. Yet they never mention chocolate, cashew nuts or crisps as part of their diet πŸ™‚

You only live once I guess πŸ™‚

I am buzzing this week. Overall. The challenge is our bathroom. The tiles just don’t seem to be on there right. Uneven in any of the three directions. The builder keeps trying. I am hopeful we get there in the end. Quite a stressful experience. But for now, it was weekend. Time to chill.

Last but not least I decided to grow a beard this week, then took it off again. I just don’t seem to be able to decide on the right look. And the right itch. The right format of beard. Off again for now….we shall see.

The joys of life. Hope yours is going well.

Best wishes,
Volker

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Sunday Column (317)

A week with snow, long drives and mixed feelings lies behind us. Happy Easter.

We spend a few days with my parents in Germany. The long drive, and the crossing via the Channel Tunnel’s train, went very well, given our 3 little companions. Latter includes the dog which of course was terrified but coped very well. The boys behaved fantastically.

The kids loved spending time with the grand parents and exploring Germany. I am still hopeful they pick up German at some point, becoming more familiar with both the country and language. They genuinely enjoyed the trip. We had some snow, spend quality time as a family together and quality time as a couple whilst Oma and Opa were baby sitting.

It is good to be back in Detmold. Good to see that I still like it and that things are still the same but evolving. Could I consider moving back? I would be (emotionally) able to, but no. I am very much settled in the UK, my life and family are there. That’s my home. Yet, and I never thought I would say that, I like the little town of Detmold.

I heard good and bad news this week. The bad news is that my old teacher died of cancer suddenly. He was diagnosed with it about a year ago, I heard, and died about three weeks ago. Only about 4 years ago, maybe less, I visited him and he said to me “I always knew that you wouldn’t stay in Germany, Mr. Ballueder”. We had a “closing chat” without knowing it was our last encounter. He helped me through my A-Levels when I was struggling in German, struggling in life I suppose, after having spent a year in the US as an exchange student. He was a great man of his profession. A true mentor. May he rest in peace.

people come into your life for a reason

On the positive side of things, and I am not sure I remember the whole story, but when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, so about 1985/86 we had a refugee into our class. I remember being friends with him, playing with him, and we might have had him over for lunch a few times. If I say I remember we helped his family I might be making this up. But that’s the memory I have of the time. Now he showed up in the local newspaper supporting some Iraq project for a charity associated with some football tournament. It fills me with joy to see that people that came to my country with probably not much else than the cloths they were wearing, to turn into someone helping others and using the opportunity of a new start.

Whilst not a refugee myself, having moved to a different country, I also used the opportunity to become who I am. It is a new start, a new opportunity if you can start afresh. One must use it! And wanting to contribute and make life happen is a great opportunity that I feel sometimes gets lost if you are stuck in your own rod and your day to day life. Being able to break free is good. I hope that makes sense.

As so often the good and bad things are in balance. Life cycles I suppose. The good and bad things, the help to support and the unintentional closures. One must love life. One must accept its ups and downs. Use the opportunities one has. Meet with people one likes. Seeing my grandma, now almost 95, next to her great grandson, not yet 5, is an amazing picture. Old and Young, Ying and Young, Good and Bad, Hot and Cold.

I enjoyed my week off work.
I love life! I am positive!

With best wishes for the remainder of the Easter weekend, I leave you with deep thoughts of people that come to your life, where you make a difference and who make a difference in your life. Often those move on, sometimes they stay. But everything that happens in life, any person coming into your life, happens for a reason.

Grab the opportunity whilst you are on it.

Love and Happiness,
Volker

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Sunday Column (297)

This week’s highlight was my trip to Germany. Not only did I attend some really great meetings and a fantastic conference for work, but I also stayed over for a night to catch up with my old fraternity friends in Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt. This was for the first time since 2006!

To get there I treated myself to a 1st class rail ticket on the German ICE train. I was very excited and it was fantastic. Matter of fact, as many people asked me when I write my posts, I am writing my column on the train just now, to be published on Sunday as usual. I got WIFI, I worked, I chilled out and got a lot of thinking done. I enjoy rail journeys (no, not the daily Southern Railway commute) but overall, I find it quite relaxing. And compared to driving, this is much more chilled out and you get so much more done. Fantastic really.

Fraternities, mine is Corps Franconia, sometimes have a bad reputation. Yes, we used to drink a lot, and yes we are very good networkers, high achievers and usually a bit more conservative. But we are a band of brothers for life, friends for life, as we all stood at some point for the same ideas and values – and most of us still do so today. We are not in any way discriminating against anyone, have many members with a variety of political views, integrate our women (yet they can’t become members but there are sole women sororities too), accept foreigners as members and we do NOT tolerate any racial discrimination of any kind plus would never accept a member with extreme views (either way). So we Corps are good.

Our network is globally yet based on the time we spend together whilst studying in Germany. Our principles are around personal development, growth, and success in a career. This of course can be defined by each individually. A community, bonded by common experience (academic fencing) which is compulsory. We have all done it, from our 19 year old members to our 90 year old members. It is something special and difficult to grasp for someone on the outside.

Coming back to the 125 year anniversary and seeing old and familiar faces was great. A unity and a great event catching up with ΒΎ of our120 alumni. There aren’t many clubs where you meet the majority of members over 15 years since you have been an active member. And the bond is stronger than ever.

But never mind, enough about that. As of this weekend we were allowed to take Rosie, our dog, outside. Finally we can tire her out, get her used to noises, smells etc. and get her to learn that there is a world outside the house. Exciting times once again. I am glad the baby stage with a dog only lasts a few months rather than years. I cannot wait to start running with her in the morning and getting her to be my “running buddy”.

Work, I have to say, was fantastic this week also. It shows the 2nd screen market is really taking off. I have written a bit about it over on Linkedin, and I can see very exciting times ahead with the cross screen/channel tracking. Isn’t it great if you enjoy what you are doing? You never work a day in your life again πŸ˜‰

So I am thankful for what I have. I enjoyed Germany, and nothing like coming out of an agency to meet a good friend from the UK having a meeting just after me with the same agency. That cannot be coincidence. Things happen for a reason and when I was sitting down with some of the guys for dinner on Thursday, we could just feel that the real stuff is just to begin. There is an exciting buzz in the industry.

I leave you with those thoughts, and the idea of more to come, more to look forward to whilst being really grateful for what we have.

Amen.
Volker

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Sunday Column (291)

This week I was in Turkey. Nothing like the Asian/European emerging market cities – a buzz going through the streets, lots of cars honking, everyone making their own rules. It is like you see it on TV or I have experienced it in Cairo back 8 years ago. Maybe Cairo was a bit busier.

The people are great. Friendly. Particularly with Germans; one waiter said to me “we are one country with different flags”, which shows you the deep connection between our two countries. Amazing. For generations. It is something special.

I enjoyed the trip. As always when you go on business there is little time to squeeze in sight seeing. A bit was ok but I would have loved to spend more time looking at more things. There is just too much to see. But my wife already said she would come with me for a long weekend, I cannot wait!

Friday was a holiday in Germany for the reunification, or celebration thereof. East Germany joined West Germany. I don’t remember how many years it has been. Twenty at least. I wrote about it before, I remember my Latin teacher trying to explain the unexplainable, that Germany after 40 years of divide was reunified. I never understood why my mum was crying. I didn’t understand. How could have I? It was something deep inside the older German people.

On my flight to Istanbul I watched Lore. A movie about a girl of a German Nazi commander who was left to rescue her siblings and take them from the Black Forest to Hamburg through the occupied territories, the American and Russian sector. A girl, maybe the same age my mother would have been, born during the war.

And watching this movie I cried. I am crying because I feel for the generation of my parents and grandparents. Most people wouldn’t understand the way this generation would have fought for food, for things to be better and make do with the little they had. All that whilst coping with guilt.

I never forget my grandparents. Without saying they taught myself all I needed to know about surviving, to never give up no matter how complicated life would get. They are my heroes. My ideal for resistance against order and subordination. My heroes of, no matter what, bringing up their children and giving them the best future possible. An attitude that I believe sits deep down inside most of us.

reunification

I had this discussion over the past few weeks a lot, deep down, we as humans want to help other humans. We have the urge to protect others, help them and particularly with our own blood, our own heritage, we would put our lives over theirs. This is instinct. An instinct like the one for a dog to be loyal and please their “master”. Maybe not the best comparison yet I couldn’t think of anything else πŸ™‚

It happens to me regularly but more so once a year when I reflect on life in general. To praise Buddha, to thank “God” for my happiness, for the fantastic family I have, my wife, my parents, my heritage and the future of it, my two boys. I feel truly blessed with life. Deep inside me I am hoping to pass those values I was given, and those we added in our generation, on to my boys, to never give up and to always look forward in life. To trust that things in life will work out and things going to be ok. As long as we believe in it. As long as we keep our head over water and keep on paddling with our feet. To never ever give up, or to accept anything on face value.

Deep inside me I am hoping that my kids will show an interest and read this or other thoughtful posts, and trying to understand where their heritage is coming from. Why people get emotional talking about the devastation through war, separation, reunification and rise of a country. A country that will make up 50% of what one day they might stand for. Their choice. We can only educate, hope and suggest.

I know that people will read that saying to me, once again, ‘I had no idea what a deep thinker you are’. I take that as a compliment. I believe I have always been like that and writing a blog helps me a lot to express my thoughts and feelings over the week.

Given you have read this far, I hope you enjoyed this post. It puts me back in time just to realise that we are living for the future. And that we are living in the very moment, the moment we call now. Only now can I change the future of my children. For the better.

Have a fantastic week ahead.

Volker

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Sunday Column (280)

Here is the summary of my last weekend, as promised: We made it. We survived!
Not only did we go up the South Downs to fly a kite, we also went to a Birthday Party, had a picnic in the living room and played in the garden. Mummy can go away again πŸ˜‰ They did miss mummy though and didn’t enjoy to only have daddy around but it was fine. Daddy enjoyed it.

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And of course, we made it as a German team. We won it, the World Cup. Which is, after 24 years, a great effort. I couldn’t get the kids involved too much as the games were past their bedtime. Hopefully in 4 years time, them being 10 and 7, they can get more involved and time zone wise the games should be at a more kid friendly time, Russia being the host.

Also this week we (almost) reached another mile stone. My oldest finished reception. He will still have a couple of days next week but overall the year is done. Wind down. His first year in school is finished, and off into 1st year this autumn. How quickly do they grow up?! Isn’t it fantastic to see them learn, understand the world and make friends, coping with first challenges etc. I really enjoy it!

This weekend my parents came to visit. They brought lots of wine again, just to stock up the cellar πŸ˜‰ I have reduced my wine/alcohol intake as I have been very focused on getting to the next level re fitness. With this in mind I bought a new bike, a road bike, on eBay. I believe I got a bargain on a Fausto Coppi Lombardia in my size (XXL) and what a beauty it is. Finishing the auction during the world cup final really helped me to get this at a decent price πŸ™‚

I took it for a first spin early Thursday as I had to fix a puncture when it first arrived. Yet some adjustments needed and maybe a couple of new ball bearings. Future rides will show. But I love the need for speed. The riding on a road bike is different to a mountain bike. Different enjoyment. Still the same satisfaction…if not better.

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My plan is to not only get fitter in terms of weight loss and muscle gain but also overall by increasing my physical activity by riding mountain bike as well as a road bike, latter also on my stationary bike stand during the winter. Running is still part of the fitness routine as it seems to loosen up my back a bit which gives me trouble during sleeping. However this seems to be improving too.

The only addition I now need is a pool to complete a triathlon from the comfort of my home. Maybe not. Let’s see if I manage a six pack by Christmas or not. The biggest restriction as it seems is time, whilst I believe running on the treadmill and being on the stationary bike, I can train late at night and/or in the morning. Onwards and upwards.

This really concludes a busy week. Yet the holiday season is kicking in and things at work seemed to slow down a bit. But this changed mid week again, and I can’t complain about being really busy again. But also a good time to get on top of a few things, admin and planning the months/quarters ahead.

Exciting times.

Have a fantastic week,
Volker

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Sunday Column (279)

I seem to write the blog posts a week in arrear. Whilst I would love to speak about a great weekend I had with the kids, the wife was away from Friday morning, I wouldn’t have any time finishing it in time for you to read it. So if anything eventful happened, you will hear next week.

I cannot wait to spend a boys weekend at home. Hopefully we can make it a regular thing in the years to come, maybe away from home going fishing or surfing. We shall see what the future holds and where their interests lie.

So let me start with last weekend. I finally got off my butt to organise a night out with Jen. We went to Brighton for a superb Thai. I asked a good friend to recommend a place that is neither posh nor awful and he suggested just the spot. It was good to date again, be away from the kids and we hope to finally make this a regular thing again. Onwards and upwards. It seems like we are getting a better family routine now that the kids are older. Even mum can go away for a weekend.

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Then Germany played Brazil this week. I am not really into football and not overly interested but what a German efficiency! An awful playing Brazilian team slaughtered by a German war machine. At least that would have been my headline if I was editor of the Sun. Never mind.

I have given my thoughts on Germany many times before, on the history, self confidence and being able to just get on with the job at hand. Here we go, a great testament. A good team, efficient, just getting on with the job. Now by time of publishing we will be playing in the finals. That means you probably won’t read my blurb just now and Germany might be on our way to become world champions. Wouldn’t that be great?

I would love Germany to win. Naturally it is the team I’d favour but also as it shows the team has such a strong commitment to fitness, team spirit, tactics, endurance and ‘once you got something in your head you will end up achieving it‘. I never thought about it in greater detail before but if you see all those Mittelstand, medium sized companies, in Germany, it is nothing but entrepreneurism, making their own work best, growing it to a decent size and getting on with it. Efficient, stubborn, driven.

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Enough about it now. I had a good catch up this week, with lots of different friends and people in the industry. My company sponsored a summer party, we had a blast. The amount of people I don’t know in the industry seems to be getting smaller. My generation are now in key positions driving the digital market in the UK. I find that exciting. What started as a sales job years ago turns out to be a job for life in an industry I love. Sounds cheesy? Probably is. But it is also true.

The reason I bring that up is that I start getting this connectiveness feeling from people that we can achieve something together. We are on to something, driving the evolution of digital media across all channels, particularly in connecting TV to digital. Latter is the very exciting bit, whilst of course we still have to master mobile. You might read my regular thoughts over at MediaPost. Every month I come up with another digital thought and my view of the industry. I enjoy doing that and have many thought pieces out there.

Anyway, I guess this is enough for this week’s thoughts. Whilst the wife is enjoying a weekend away, I had lots of fun with my boys. Nothing like it in the world.

Have a great week, I will tell you all about it next week.

Cheers,
Volker

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Wee Man in Germany

The wee man keeps me company as I wait for a flight home from Dusseldorf. He flew with me to Hamburg yesterday and to Dusseldorf this morning. Now our flight home is delayed πŸ™

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I love you, Germany

The regular reader has seen me writing a few posts about Germany. I left Germany in the summer of 2001. I failed German university in statistics, then worked for Hewlett Packard for a while, then pretty much finished my “pre-diploma” at a different University before moving to Aberdeen. This was it. Without knowing then, I left Germany for good.

A first class degree in engineering and an MBA with commendation later, paired with part-time jobs at university, halls of residence, schools and as a bouncer, I moved to London. After 8 years in Beckenham, we moved to Hassocks where I believe we are now settled until at least retirement. I give it at least 24 or more years.

map of germany

I have arrived. I settled. I am now in the place my parents where when I grew up. After 12 years in a foreign country I still haven’t lost my accent. Most probably I never will. I am a foreigner after all. I took on some Scottish expressions my English co-workers don’t even understand, and I speak to my boys in German. We visit Germany frequently, I worked for a German company that was sold to an American one, and I speak some German at work. But I think, dream, live and work in English. England, the United Kingdom, London, Hassocks, is my home.

At my last trip to Germany something slightly unexpected happened. Normally when I am in Germany I feel a bit apprehensive, a bit uneasy. Not so much better, but I compare a lot. I realize that the German way of living is better. Better house insulation, better quality food, more restraint or control of one’s life, eating more healthy. German houses seem warmer than British ones and people seem healthier. This is not necessarily true and over the years I have noticed that actually I am very happy where I am. So on my last trip I realized: I don’t need to compare anymore. This is a huge step!

Germany is a country. Yes, I grew up there, but generally speaking they are doing what they are doing. They think they got the better technology, quality houses etc.
Britain is another country. Yes, I live there, but generally speaking we do what we do. We think we got a few things figured out that the Germans haven’t.

You see where I am getting at? I could go on. For the past 12 years I have compared Germany to Britain. Now I stopped. I don’t care anymore whether things are better or worse as long I am happy where I am. And I am. Our family is. We are! Very happy indeed. So it doesn’t matter whether I go to Germany, Italy, Turkey or Spain when leaving Britain. One advantage is that I speak the language in Germany. Another nice things is that Germany is a beautiful country and I have never really noticed it because I was too busy comparing. But when visiting it, when showing the boys where Daddy is coming from, it is easier to communicate. I became British really.

What about the history?

What about the history? I wrote in a Sunday Column the other day that I watched a BBC Four documentary about a person that survived the Holocaust and his children researched his last steps after his death. Six Million and One was available on BBC iPlayer. It had me in tears several times as thanks to their dad’s diary of the concentration camps, they, as a family, grew closer. They had different opinions about the things that happened though.

I don’t feel guilty about that anymore. As far as I know my generation of Germans have closed that chapter. With all respect we agree that it was wrong and should never be repeated. But it just doesn’t make sense to dwell on it.

One thing I learned from the documentary was that I need to make sure that I ask my dad, as I asked my granddad and grandma, to tell me their story. To even out any misunderstandings, any grief, any unhappiness before they die. Whilst we have a chance we should use the chance to say “I love you” to our parents, grandparents, siblings, partners and children. I think that is something very important to do.

On the other hand there is something else. I watched old movies from Germany, hobbyist footage. It made me sentimental as it showed the Germany I left and I still associate myself with. It showed the circumstances after the war, the winter of 1947 when a lot of people starved to death. That was 65 years ago. But it still shows pictures of my childhood and things I grew up with in the 80ies and 90ies. The cars, the attitude, the sentimental signs, the way the Germans drink, celebrate and have a good time.

I guess I don’t have those associations in the UK. I didn’t grow up here but stepped into a life at a certain point: I was 24 when I came to the UK. A good time to adopt, being adventurous and try things. I suppose I did. I loved Aberdeen and enjoyed living as a young couple in the suburbs of London. Now, living in the country side, being able to almost let the kids run around freely in the village, is nice. That is where I belong and what I enjoy. We got the family home, living the family dream I suppose. Trautes Heim, Germans would say.

We haven’t it all figured out yet as a family. We are still learning, making wrong decisions, making good decisions. But it doesn’t matter anymore whether I am from Germany or not. It doesn’t bother me that I know Germany is more advanced in certain things than Britain. Neither does it make me proud if Britain is more advanced in other things. I don’t watch the football but probably would cheer for the Brits rather than the Germans when it came to it. I might even prefer England over Germany, but given my wife’s Scottish heritage, Scotland would probably be my favourite team. There we go again….

I can now safely say that I closed another chapter in my life. That doesn’t mean I forget my heritage or dismiss my roots.

I arrived.

I love you, Germany.

I don’t mind you anymore or any less, and I do enjoy visiting you. But quite frankly, it isn’t about where it is better or worse. Let’s celebrate the difference, the uniqueness.

Amen and Peace.

Happy Easter!
Volker

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Sunday Column (206)

I have been in Germany with the family this week. A train to the airport, a “funny” train between terminals, a slightly delayed plane (as a family we haven’t had a travel where the plane was on time yet), an ICE train and a small train before Opa picked is up. 9 hours of travel. The boys loved it, were behaved and the ICE train even had a compartment for families. A luxury journey.

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It was my dad’s 70th birthday, an occasion to meet the family, the kids to play and bond with their cousins, and all of them to bond with Oma and Opa. We had a good time. We drank lots of wine as we stayed up late chatting away and catching up. Normal I suppose. We enjoyed it. There is a lot of things happening in the family. My brother is building a house, dad got his first ever smart phone. Lots of great food, home cooked meals, fresh rolls (BrΓΆtchen) and lots of play with old childhood toys.

The other occasion of course was Rohan’s 2nd birthday, hence the celebration as birthday twins was for 70+2 birthday πŸ™‚ So lots of attention was given to our wee one as well.

Up to a few years ago I wrote a lot about Germany and my love hate relationship. I think that has now passed. I moved on. I actually enjoy coming back as I don’t compare Germany any longer to what I have. Yes they have nicer trains, warmer and better insulated houses, higher quality in a few day to day items, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I am very happy and content with the life I have, and I moved away from trying to be 100% perfect. I like to think so anyway. I feel like I moved on. I found my own purpose.

Despite that I am not sure whether to speak German or English, to feel at home or not. But as opposed to former visits I just embraced things I enjoy. Like the above mentioned rolls and home cooked food that took me back in time. I can let go. I can and actually do enjoy my time in Germany now. The journey back in time becomes a nice journey. I believe that over the last few years I have settled, embraced what I have and was able to let go and focus on the positive things in life. My outlook is positive in all aspects of life and that is what I focus on. Here and Now. Positive!

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Also I was able to switch off from work. I relaxed, felt like I was living at home again where everything is taken care of. Hotel Mama with unlimited wine, food and fun. No worries. At the birthday party I met with friends of my parents who have been some kind of mentors for me over the years. Contacts that helped me grow up and understand the world. People who have seen me through all my stages of life but the last 15-20 years. This is difficult to comprehend I found. Those people used to baby-sit me, nurse me, comfort me, teach me or were just there for me. Now they are 70+ enjoying retirement and grandchildren. They of course loved to see our kids and how I got on in life. Whilst my parents keep them updated, it is nice to personally touch base with them. Again, a much more pleasant journey than anticipated. I actually look forward to going back to Germany again.

My dad used to be a teacher. In 1995 he got the chance to build a new school as a principal. As one of the guests pointed out my dad’s career and reputation as a teacher is amazing. He pushed himself to help others, to progress and have more influence. I suppose that is where I got my drive from and my urge to help others, to help develop others. My drive to succeed, take on new projects, seeing them through and coaching younger people to progress in their life. I guess I learned a lot from you, dad, and never realised it before. Maybe you taught me much more than I have ever realised before. I just hope I will be able to be such a good teacher for my two boys also.

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On the fun side: I must look like my dad too. Asking Colin who the person on the picture above was, he said “daddy” not hesitating once. Since then he started noticing slight differences and it is “Opa”, however there is a slight resemblance, wouldn’t you think?

It was nice being back home. My wife and I managed a night out, ate some nice Gyros and we showed C the fresh fruit market. The weather was beautiful with snow and cold winds but it limited us in doing too much. So we just spent the right amount of time in Detmold, hoping to go back for longer maybe next year in the summer. The journey back seemed quick with two brave boys pulling through to the end. They fell into bed being absolutely exhausted. C was still recovering from all the input he received by the weekend. We just chilled out.

I went back to work on Thursday. Lots to catch up. Lots to do. Back to the grindstone. I am back in my routine. Kind of anyway. A few pints with the Hassocks crew on Saturday night and “our home cooked” food Friday and Saturday. It is good to be home. It is good to be settled. We are not creating the memories for our boys for them to experience what I did this week. The circle of life I suppose.

A good week comes to a close. Thank you Oma and Opa.

Love,
Volker

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