I’m still going through a terrible time here. Germany and me just won’t find a common stance. After having lived in a country as strange as Israel, with all these issues I never had to think about before all around me and still finding so much happiness and joy there, it comes as a shock to move next door, from Austria to Germany, and feel like I came there all the way from Mars. Especially given that I have already lived in Bavaria for two years and, though there have been issues about identity and feeling accepted during those final months, have never felt such a complete stranger back then.
It’s not about Germans not knowing how to take care of this year’s masses of snow. It’s not about Germans not knowing how to drive a car in hilly land either. Those are actually the things about Germany that make me giggle. Perhaps because it boosts my patriotism, perhaps because it makes them look so human – or perhaps both of all. When you move abroad you expect things and people to be different after all.
Perhaps, I am pondering these days, a part of the ongoing issue between Germany and me is just about this: How people don’t see Austrians aren’t Germans. We seem to be so similar on the first glimpse. We speak the same language and a lot of our customs, the way we dress looks similar. We share quite a few pages of history too. So maybe when you are an Austrian living in Germany people just expect you to fit in. To assimilate instead of integrate. And with “people” I mean those on either side of the border. The border, that in a way, doesn’t exist anymore since the Schengen accords that opened Europe up to people and goods.
The truth is Austrians aren’t Germans. It’s not politically correct to speak about differences these days. I don’t care. Austrians aren’t Germans as little as Bavarians are Saxons as little as Upper Austrians are Viennese. Perhaps it doesn’t matter in places like the US, in places like Israel or South Africa where people relocating from one side of the continent to another a couple of times during their live is everyday business. In Middle Europe it does matter. In Middle Europe people don’t know what it is like to be the new gal in town. People don’t understand how hard it is to find friends if you haven’t gone to school in this place, if you haven’t played in the same sand pit as the other kids. After more than a year back to Germany and three relocations during these 13 months I still have no clue how to meet people my age and how to make friends in Germany. I haven’t yet found out where they meet or how I could approach them without scaring them away, for every social activity in Germany seems to be knitted after a harsh set of rules I do not know. But people don’t know about that. They think as an Austrian I am as good as a German (apart from these guys who still think Austrians climbed out of their caves just some years ago) and they expect I do know about German society rules. But I don’t.
I’m not going into what was better in Israel or South Africa or such. It’s no use. Sure, if I could I would just pack my things, board the next plane to Tel Aviv and sit in Gan HaYarkon crying until the world feels alright again. I did that 16 months ago, so I know what I’m talking about. Right now, however, I have to face that I am trapped in the one country that probably fits my personality least. I have to face that I have to make the most out of it for the time being. There will be a day when I’ll be able to sit at strange river again and cry until there are no tears left. For simple relief that it’s over. Until then I’ll have to confuse Germans with my smile. Until then I’ll have to learn those zillions of unspoken rules – so I can break them in the most elegant way. And when I leave this town perhaps some people will have found out that Austrians aren’t Germans.