From German to Geordie

4 Jun

This summer marks my 6th anniversary of living in Newcastle (UK). I first came here in 2005 to do an MA in Cultural Management but fully with the intention to stay and to build a new life here. Why Newcastle? Because the course looked good and my Geordie friend who I lived with in America was just the right amount of crackers to make me think this place would be a good home for me. And I also wanted to live somewhere in the English-speaking global network, as Germany suddenly seemed a very small place that was always a bit behind the cool cats.

There is always an amount of gambling when it comes to moving somewhere new. Yes, the prospects of starting afresh, new friends, a new life are exciting. But you can never know whether it will work or not. What made it a huge success for me was that I found new friends (and a boyfriend) very quickly. And not just acquaintances or buddies but real friends (as it turns out) who adopted me into their circles and showed me what Newcastle had to offer underneath the loud and fake-tanned surface. And that’s when I really fell in love with the place, started to settle and considered this place my new home. The Geordification process had begun.

I’ve noticed over the years that when Germans live abroad, they tend to absorb a lot of the new culture to become ‘one of them’. We don’t really seek other Germans out, but rather avoid them actually. Why that is I don’t know. Being German (in the eyes of non-Germans) in 2011 is thankfully not as bad as it used to be 15 years ago – and I guess a lot of that mind-shift can be attributed to a hugely successful World Cup in 2006 – but there is still something strange going on with our cultural identity. And the longer we live abroad, the more tricky this whole thing gets. Living in the UK, I am always labelled ‘The German’ which obviously I am not when I go back to Germany (there I am ‘The English’). I think I am somewhere in the middle and as interesting as that is, it’s not without conflict. In the attempt to integrate myself (to become a cool cat) I have absorbed a lot of English manners and ways of thinking over the years of which some are in a bit of a clash with what was there before. Something to do with being German, with the values and beliefs of my family and my very own. Things like what does Speyer (my hometown) mean – the English in me says it’s where my mum lives, the German in me says it’s home.

Home apparently is where the heart is. My heart is in Germany, in Speyer, in Newcastle, in England. And that’s wonderful as home is in many places at ones, but it also means there is always a void as I am never fully at home in one place anymore. When I am here I miss something about Germany and when I am there I miss something about the UK. I know this is not at all a unique situation. Most people experience some sort of ‘disrootment’ (yes, it is a word) when they move away from where they have grown up. And roots can be powerful buggers. They pull you back when they want to and then when you’re finally there at the old place, they don’t care, don’t want you anymore or the old place has moved on and changed so much that is doesn’t even resemble the old place anymore.

Internationally speaking, my life in 2011 is pretty cool. I have friends in different countries and thanks to skype, facebook and easyjet, talking to them and visiting them is fairly easy. So that’s good. But where do I go from here? My family are all in Germany and as much as I’ve happily not seem them too much over the past 6 years, I am now feeling a massive pull back to them. I adore my niece and my nephew, currently 4 and 2 1/2 and it is super cool to see them a lot via the genius that is Facetime. But as much as it brings us together, it also enhances the gap that is between us. And parents are not getting any younger. Let’s face it – they might not be around in 15 years. If I keep going at the current rate, that means I’ve got about 30 visits left with them. So family is a massive argument for Germany. And not just the family behind me, but when I think about my future family (weird concept when you can’t attach faces to that idea…) I can’t see myself not ever living in Germany with them. But I don’t want to live in Germany now – I want to live in the UK, that’s where I’ve built up a life! And going out with a German? Please……have you seen their trousers?!

So what’s keeping me here? Friends, tick. Job, tick. A nice place to live, tick. And that counts for a lot. I wouldn’t want to live in a place where I have no friends! But Newcastle is a small place and some people have recently suggested that I should be looking beyond the Tyne. And I can see why. No offense, being single in Newcastle is one thing but being single and 30 in Newcastle is another. The chances of me finding the next Mr Perfect (or at least Mr Acceptable) here are slim. But it’s not just about that. Professionally, the North East isn’t exactly full of opportunities when it comes to career development in the area I work in. The German economy is booming, some say. Why are you in Newcastle when you can be ANYWHERE, some ask. You speak 3 languages, get the heck outta here, others shout.

Because quite frankly, I like it here. I know this place and this place knows me. The idea of starting all over again is quite frightening or at least exhausting. Yes, there are all these other magical places but isn’t the grass always greener and all that? And ANYWHERE isn’t exactly an easy place to find, especially when you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for.

So, for now I’ll stay Geordie and see what happens. And who knows, I’m in Malaga next week. Maybe the German with the French name who lives in England will find true love when she speaks Italian to a Swedish guy in Spain?! You know what, I wouldn’t even be surprised….


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