Tag: Germany

Sunday Column (63)

What a busy week it was. With the bank holiday Monday and a short week, I managed as always to fit the same hours into a shorter week that I normally fit into a normal week. I am loving it 🙂 Actually I do love what I am doing, so I shouldn’t complain. And some weeks are quieter than others, and this one wasn’t.

The week actually started off much more exciting than work: Colin decided to chew a bit of a hook from our old MP3 player. And to make sure it wasn’t stuck anywhere, we went to A&E late Sunday night. The joys of being a parent. I couldn’t get a nice picture of the x-ray, but you could see the metal bit sitting in his intestine. Luckily it came out on Tuesday morning, so all good 🙂

Then, on the 1st of May, my cousin’s wife gave birth to their second son, Emil. A day later, our neighbour gave birth to their daughter. It is with so much joy to see little babies coming into this world. And, on Tuesday we found out about another friends’ baby joining this world, another girl, up in Scotland. She was born on Sunday too.

I think, although I find it a lot of effort, that the joy of having children, is seeing them growing up and exploring the world. And, for me as a dad, to explore the world with them all over again. I really enjoy it so much but often don’t know how to express it. I could spend hours just watching these little worms. And, it is clearly baby booming time at the moment. Wait, 9 months ago, what happened there? August? Maybe the recession. The bad weather? You never know….

Martin Luther once said:
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

I guess that sums up what it is all about. Even if the end of the world is near, you should never give up and make sure you create new life, new passion and new hope.

Regarding new hope, and never to give up as there is and always will be hope, I watched the movie “Sturmzeit” again. I originally bought it because I like one of the actors, Ben Becker. However, I began to love the story of the East-Prussians, e.g. Germans, that went to live in Munich and New York but always had their heart and home in a small town in East Prussia which is now Russia or Poland.

For me this story shows a great deal of my image of Germany and Heimat. German virtues, German attitude and character. I wrote about it many times before, my Germany.

Heimat is where you feel home. Heimat is translated as “home”, “home land”, “home country” – but for me it means so much more. It means history associated with my family. Family is Heimat. I am reading Janosch to my boy at the moment. The bear and the tiger who compliment each other and say “if you have a friend/family like we do, you don’t have to worry about anything”.

Heimat is the place where you don’t have to worry, you can let go and you can be YOU. No matter what happens, it is your “safe haven”. Here you have gate keepers that protect you from the world and all evil. For most of us Heimat is where we grew up, e.g. for me Detmold, for my wife Dingwall in Scotland.

Now, althought it gets a bit lengthy, my question is how can you create Heimat if you don’t live in any of those places? Having a house, moving the furniture, and having a garden? That just doesn’t make it Heimat. There is a feeling attached to it. You need to create an atmosphere, and I believe there needs to be an atmosphere already around the place you call Heimat.

If you settle away from your own/original Heimat, I believe you will one day visit a place and decide to settle. A place that reminds you of Heimat. A place where you can create Heimat for your family. A place of peace.

Now, enough of philosophy. Don’t get me started where we want to go next, and what is happening next. My head is exploding as it is. The election didn’t help this week. A hung parliament in Britain with the Conservatives being the strongest party. I personally think it won’t be too bad, but time will tell!

I hope you all have a good week. Mine, as always, looks quite busy. We shall see.

Best Wishes,
Volker

Sunday Column (48)

Sunday. Hurray.
What a week, I don’t really know where to start.

I am very excited about a few things. One is my job which I really enjoy. And, I am not only saying that. I am convinced we currently have one of the best display media optimisation offerings out there to utilise ad exchanges. People are responding very well to it, so I am very happy with my choice of job.

Anyhow, besides that I am very excited about my son Colin who started saying DADA and I am now sure he means me 🙂 However, he was quite sick this week, including a big accident on Friday night after which we had to dispose some cushions 🙁 The joy of having a baby I suppose. My wife didn’t feel well either but so far I have been ok.

Then I am excited about my new regime – I have been up every morning at 5:45 am to go swimming and to go to the gym. Hopefully I keep doing that for the next while. My knee still hurts but with Ibuprofen and hopefully slow progression I am confident it will only be temporary. Fingers crossed.

And then I am excited about Schimanski 🙂 Not only did I order his jacket, the M65 Jacket I had for years in his stone/beige colour, but I also got the first four DVDs that were available of Tatort with Schimanski. It is great!

So this week has been very exciting. And, re-reading my post I didn’t necessarily put work before my son but I still spend more time at work than at home, that is why.

What else? I met with a good friend of mine on Monday night which was great. Haven’t had a chance to catch up with him for a while. Then I had a workshop about taxes and how to do my tax return which was quite helpful. I managed to have two early nights too to be able to help my wife with our son. I enjoy having less of a commute in order to be home a bit earlier. Of course if often happens that I have to go back to my emails afterwards, but it works well for us.

Next week I am looking forward to download the new Peter Maffay CD. Hopefully it will be a good one. Old songs newly recorded…. – I am touching base with my German roots quite a bit lately and I really enjoy it. It is as if I find myself and my history and slowly but surely know where I stand. Surely, I will write more about that shortly, but I can now let go of it. It took 9 years!

That’s all for today. I am tired. Taking care of the boy all weekend, long afternoon walks, not 100% myself, laundry….I have a lot of respect for my wife who does that every day. She enjoys it, as I enjoy what I do. That is fair I guess 😉

You have a good week. Mine looks very busy and exciting, so fingers crossed.

My Germany

I have been writing a lot about my “personal” German history, or my personal reflection on history and tradition in regards to Germany. And, I think it is time again to write about it. Again? Yes, whilst the past doesn’t equal the future and you cannot live in the past, you can form the future. Hence I often go back and think about the country I once was born in. Where I was raised and where I got a good start in my life. I still have strong connections to “a Germany” the way I used to know it. My Germany. Sometimes I would love to get an offer from “Die Welt” or “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)” to write a monthly column on “A German view from the outside” or something like that.

Coming up for Christmas, deciding whether Christian and for me German traditions should be important for our festive celebrations, makes me think. Should we celebrate Advent, Nikolaus and when should we celebrate Christmas? On the 24th? Do I really mind? How important is it for my son and his upbringing? How important is it for me. Is it the Christian belief or is it a German tradition. And, does it really matter?

I watched a movie, the Comedian Harmonists, the other day. A group of Germans in the recession in the 1930s in Berlin form a “band”. They sang songs and made noises like instruments, just accompanied by a piano:

Now, I like the movie because of my most favourite German actor Ben Becker, but also because of the time it plays in. I am attracted to the 1920ies and 1930ies when people didn’t have money and nothing to live on. The bare minimum and surviving was the key. And, there is this group of people that made it happen. The “American Dream” from rags to riches. My grandmother comes to my mind again, she used to sit up all night to sow clothes and table cloths to make their living a little bit better, to have a little bit extra. The hard working Germans who didn’t fear a recession because life will always go on.

wine cigarOn a side note, when the Comedian Harmonists got more successful, they started drinking wine instead of beer and smoked cigars instead of cigarettes. Is that why my granddad smoked cigars and drank wine, and why I like both too? Maybe there is a connection to feel “wealthy” between those things?

Maybe that is why I am thinking about it now. I was made redundant twice in the recession, found a job twice too, I think it is my will to survive, to work hard and make things happen. Not to give up, to establish opportunities early and to network. Never forget your friends and never forget your enemies either. I have been sitting up some nights to make things happen and it will pay off one day. Hard work, my grandparents said that every time I visited them, will always pay off.

Now, the past doesn’t equal the future. Germany has moved on. I have moved on and left Germany 8 years ago. But I still think German. I cannot and do not want to get rid of my heritage.

Stereotypes of course. Yes, Germans seem to be very efficient, “Vorsprung durch Technik”. Always have been, always seem to evaluate things back and forth before making a decision. They are less impulsive and they are hard working. This definitely comes from the “good old days”. The German engineers that build cars. Thinking back and forth before coming to the conclusion on how to build a car, they then wanted to make sure it is the best and the most efficient one. We are a nation of those engineers, there was a time we envied the successful bankers and lawyers as a nation. But that is a different topic.

So, I am not sitting here in the UK pointing fingers at Germany and try to explain why we are, who we are, and how we are. No, it is more about looking back and finding out why I still do certain things in a certain way. Why I still try to engineer my career, my life and why that drives my wife nuts (sometimes). It is about understanding the past to shape the future. It is all about letting go, and in order to let go of the past you need to understand it. Will I ever understand it though?

Germans also seem to be less emotional. And I believe, it has to do with our heritage also. Because there was a time in Germany when people “just had to get on”. Don’t worry about things, if you work hard and if you make things happen, then everything will be ok. You will be ok and so will be your child. It wasn’t very common to show emotions. After all, it is all black and white, the “machine works or it doesn’t”. There is no in between.

Now, to conclude, my Germany is build on this image of black and white, the efficiency and “just getting on” mentality. That has been drummed into me since I was a child. More though in the generations before me. You don’t show emotions and you just work hard, and that is it. I want to let go from that and as my German teacher said in hindsight, a few years after my A-Levels, “Volker, I never thought you’d stay in Germany. I know you would go abroad, I could see that”. But, he never told me then.

Not long to go to 2010. A time when I will engage more with my boy and want to tell him about “my Germany”. A time when I am looking forward to starting something new. And, another year away from my fatherland. The longer I am away from Germany, the more I examine the values I inherited and filter them, “good and bad” or “black and white”, to decide which ones to pass on. To nourish them. To learn from them. To make sure they are what they are and not pretending to be something that is based on false assumptions.

That is part of my Germany.

Reunification – a personal reflection

I guess I cannot deny being German, having the accent, efficiency and all. However, I have lived in the UK for over 8 years now. I remember like it was yesterday when I took off from Duesseldorf to Heathrow in August, wearing my Barbour jacket to save weight in the suitcases, and arrived in Aberdeen about 5 hours later. That was 2001. Only a few weeks later the world changed when two planes flew into the world trade center. Then Google became popular in the UK and I was about to start a new life.

Tradition is very important for me. However, for me it is important to look forward without forgetting the past. If I had looked back in 2001, I would have left the UK 2 years later after my Bachelor’s degree. But I didn’t because I wanted to grow, I wanted to get my MBA and have a career in the oil and gas industry as a manager. This never happened and I have now lived in Beckenham, just outside London, for over 5 years. And I love London, I like the UK and I am very happy.

So what has changed? I got used to instant coffee, don’t mind not having a canteen at work and eat sandwiches during the day and cooked food at night, I drink ale, love bacon butties after a late night out, and love to joke about “Don’t mention the war” or “We are slowly taking over the world again”. That is of course all bollocks and I don’t want to take over the world or think that the 2nd World War was good. Maybe good in terms of drawing new boundaries and destroying the confidence of a generation of Germans. And, it makes good jokes if you are up for it, and living in the UK you need to be up for that. But never mind.

Ever since my first time living abroad, in the USA, going back over 15 years, I had to learn how to take the mickey out of my own nation. Not sure if this is good but it is just the way it is. We just get on with it, because fighting it would make things worse.

So what happened on the 9th of November 1989, 20 years ago? I can tell you what happened in our living room. I got up in the morning and my mum was crying in front of the TV. The wall came down, she said. I wasn’t touched at all. My dad was born in the East and then moved to the West a few weeks later, long before the wall was built. Both my parents grew up just a few miles from the iron curtain. As a young child, and in 1989 I was still a child, I always saw the wall, the iron curtain and the self shooting mechanisms in case anyone tried to escape. I visited the East, loved to eat very cheap and stock up on books. I didn’t understand that people in Eastern Germany were glad to have a mono cassette player which was out of date or some nice food we had smuggled across the border. And, of course I remember mum packing several parcels for Christmas with West German chocolate (Eastern German chocolate used beef blood instead of cocoa) and wrapping some things up in aluminum foil so the border police couldn’t see what was in there. Some parcels never arrived. That was just normal for me. That was the way my life was, being born in 1977, the wall had been up for over 15 years.

And now the wall was gone. Does that mean we can now travel freely to Berlin, I remember me asking my mum. I couldn’t understand the emotions because I could never understand the wall. How could have I? If our children grow up with climate change and nuclear power, they might never understand what it would mean for us to not being dependent on it. For me, I thought, nothing changed. So why was my mum crying?

We took my grandparents Charlotte and Heinrich back to the East in 1992. Five of us in our Audi 80. And I saw my grandparents crying. My grandma cried when she saw the house in which she gave birth to her two sons just before the end of the second world war. The house that had a stiff iron gate that had prevented the Russians coming in and harming her. She heard her neighbours crying. She never really spoke about it unless I persistently asked “what happened grandma”. It must have been a terrible time. Granddad with both boys on his old motorbike (the picture is from the web and doesn’t show my dad and uncle but I guess it must have looked similar). dkw motorcycle And grandma spoke about her boots that she could heat up inside when she had to que for food rations. And they spoke about the train which transported their furniture from Sonneberg to Geroldsgruen. From East to West, even if it doesn’t look like it on the map.

So if you can ever understand why your granddad joined the Nazi-Party two weeks before the end of the war to prevent being shipped to the Russian front and then cancelled his membership the day the war ended, then you might understand why the wall was such a terrible thing. Even if the communists in the GDR spoke about “we prevent capitalism to enter our country”, it was more about “we prevent our people to flee to a free and democratic state”. If you can ever understand that my dad never found out about my granddad’s party membership until I asked him, one generation later, you might get a picture of how deep the scars were. What the war had done to Germany and our confidence. We were the scapegoat for everything. And, maybe my humour is just a way of dealing with the scars that you still find in my generation – over 60 years on.

I am writing this on a Sunday morning, it is rainy and cold outside. My wife who is Scottish is upstairs, still sleeping. So is my boy, Colin Heinrich. You might now understand why I wanted to name him Heinrich, and why my cousin is a godmother to him. It is because it is important to keep tradition alive but having Colin growing up without the pressure and scars my generation and more so my parents’ generation grew up with. Germany has changed, so have the Germans. And the 9th of November 1989 made this change happen. Never have I seen more proud Germans than at the world cup a few years ago, after they had a chance to grow together, East and West. But also, when the 3rd generation Turks and Greeks were celebrating with our generation for Germany’s success in the world cup. Seeing that kind of change in your country, in Germany, is new, it is fantastic.

For many years I just didn’t get it. I didn’t want to live in Germany ever again. My mother in law grew up with a fear of Germans. She stands for a generation in the UK that were told about the evil Germans. My neighbour in Beckenham got bombed three times in the 2nd World War. There are scars on both sides. But, in this country, the UK, I feel more at home now. I have my wife, my little family, my house and all. I work in an industry that my grandparents wouldn’t understand. Anything beyond a normal phone line would have been difficult to explain to someone who never flew in a plane. Digital Marketing, mobile phones, blackberries?

My granddad called me a few days before I was flying home for an internship in Frankfurt. He said that he was proud of what I have achieved and that I should carry on with what I was doing, encouraging the free will and the life I had chosen. He was immensely proud of his grandson. The day before I flew home my dad called me and told me that he had died. All he wanted to do was say goodbye. We were close. Then, on my birthday a year later my grandmother passed away. I am confident she chose my birthday to send me a message, a message to her grandchild living abroad that life is there for living and enjoying – and for living on, no matter what happens.

It makes me cry to think about it. It makes me cry to reflect on it. This is my personal life, my family life and maybe this is my wall, the wall between the generations that came down between my grandparents and myself. Now, I understood why my parents were emotional when the wall came down. When they were reunited with friends and family in the East. There were so many personal relationships that the wall had destroyed.

reunificationOver 8 years ago I left Germany. Never before would I have considered to go back to my fatherland but this year. This year I started thinking differently. I started speaking to my son in German and want to make sure he will understand why my mum cried and why I cry thinking of my grandparents. It is important to keep the flame burning, the tradition going. It is important to make future generations understand.

This year a new generation was born for me. My son who grows up without a wall, without scars and as a “product” of internationalisation and globalisation. A son that will not preserve the ashes but hopefully understands and continues tradition. Tradition from both sides of the family. A person that can wear the Lederhosen and the Kilt and feels comfortable in both. And, maybe one day he will read this blog post on his smartphone. Many years from now, when the technology we use now, that was not comprehensible for my grandparents’ generation, will be old and the technology Colin uses will not be comprehensible for me anymore.

Life is moving on. 20 years ago, the wall came down. For 20 years we have been healing scars and fighting for freedom. We started living again as German people, as “ein Volk”, and we are not afraid to stand up and be German. It is not a bad thing anymore. Things have changed. We are the new generation, and we don’t want to take over the world anymore, we just want to be free and living.

Facing the Giants…

I finally watched the whole movie of facing the giants as described in my earlier post. It is a very motivational movie. However, I was surprised that is based around god and the love of god to make it a success.

With having lived in the US for a year a few years ago, I know how important Christianity is in the US and that it helps people to motivate. However, it does not matter which faith you are as long as you believe in something, and someone – yourself.

I am not a great believer in contemporary church but find my spiritual guidance through Buddhism. Latter helps me to stay focus, help others and be motivated in personal life as well as in corporate life.

What wonders me sometimes is that there seems to be this “YES WE CAN” attitude in the USA, the American Dream that just this week was supported by the first ethnic minority president to be in the world. A country that has this approach will always be more confident and be more successful.

In Germany where I grew up and I believe it is similar in most European countries, this attitude is not on the schedule for high school kids. It is more about “this is an American thing” and that is that.

Why are we not taking the positive attitude, the “can do approach” from our big brother and use it to make us more successful, more motivated and more focused in life and work. Without thinking that this is only done “elsewhere”.

I believe we need to incorporate the basic and underlying approach of this attitude in our daily lifes to motivate ourselves and to get where we want to be. No surprise that things like GTD, NLP, Turning Passion into profits are all coming from one country.

In my opinion most of those ideas are based around the basic attitude of reaching out for the stars and making things happen. And to have this vision of reaching things, not to show fear and stay focus. That is not rocket science, is it?

Wedding Pictures / Germany

You find pictures of the wedding here.

Jenny and Volker

What I found quite funny in Germany was that I was seen as a tourist or example of someone being different. Wonder why 🙂

However, going into a local shop got me the looks. Lost 50 Euros on the way – or later whilst dancing. But overall, it was great.

I sometimes wonder if I miss Germany. The rural area we went to was great. It was a nice get together with all my friends and of course it was the great day for Kathi and Jochen which I did not want to miss out on.

But Germany? Still not really an option. Germans seem to have this black or white mentality. I do not think I could get used to that again.

Volker

Volker in the news

This weekend I am mentioned in the Telegraph Newspaper.

Our PR Agency got me to write a bit about Germany and what the differences in daily working life are between Britain and Germany. So the supplement of yesterday’s paper mentions me. What I did not know, they have comments from a CEO of what I would say is a competition of some sort….

Nice to be compared to a CEO ,-)

That boosts my ego.

another week- am I German?

Another week. I almost feel back in my old job with our weekly report.

This week I was up in our HQ in York for two days and had 3 extreme busy days in the office. Even better my Saturday will be spent going to a vineyard in Kent. So do not expect any blurb later today 🙂

Just wanted to say, being on Facebook and all, you see all these status messages about what people are up to. Some of my friends were at the Next08 in Hamburg. I was at the Next07 in Berlin last year and really enjoyed it. Good conference, good blurb in the industry. Now, being away from the German Online Market a bit, it seems so distant.

That brings me to what I wanted to write about. Last night a girl from Latvia (?) asked me whether I like driving fast, referring to the Autobahn. And, I did not have anything to say about it. I look at the German market and feel very distant.

I think I slowly but surely break my ties with the country I was born in. No question that I am German and surely it comes out in a lot of things I am doing, attitude wise, however, I am not sure if I ever want to go back there. Every time I am back I enjoy being there but living there, I really do not know.

With us buying a house in London, being in London, flying out of London, settling here, there is no need to do that either, is there? My home will be Germany, because that is where I was born. But my chosen home is England, Scotland really, but I cannot see myself living anywhere else but the UK at the moment.

Then again, I saw CSI New York last night and the pictures from New Zealand and……

Have a good weekend, Volker Ballueder

My first conference – SMX Munich

Hello All,

At the SMX in Munich I spoke about SEO and Blogging. I was quite chuffed as it went well and the audience’s response was positive. There were a lot of great speakers and we really enjoyed the conference and exhibition.

I have been working with the German Online Marketing Industry for quite some time now, and it is like coming home. The industry is great, you cannot say it any differently!! Just recently I introduced a friend to the industry and he shortly starts with a big ad network in Munich. How exciting is that?!

For everyone who could not make it to Munich, I will shortly be in Hamburg but before that, WebCertain will hold the first ISS, International Search Summit – a summit dedicated to multilingual search!

Also, you find my presentation on my cb consulting website as a download – unfortunately the upload does not work at the moment but I will post as soon as it is up and running. Otherwise just email me and I sort you out with the presentation.

Saying that, the download for SEO und Blogging is now live!

Have a good evening, Volker Ballueder