From Where I Write

It can get sticky, this situation of writing about a country that isn’t yours. Regardless of intention, or even the bottom line of affection and appreciation, sometimes it can come across as me sitting up pretty and privileged, in a bountiful country, poking holes in the way it does things. I get it. I bristle similarly when I read comments from foreigners in a similar situation to mine, about the way Germany does things, and I am a foreigner. ‘Suck it up,’ I think silently, ‘you chose to come here.’ ‘Well does your home country do things better?’, I chastise. ‘If things here are so bad, why are you staying?’ Of course, such a response lacks the logic of the simple fact that inhabitants of a country who work, support the social system, actively partake of cultural systems and traditions, and learn the language, are completely entitled to have a problem with the way their country of residence does things. But it’s a knee-jerk reaction, this one of ‘if you don’t like it, why are you here?’ and one we all have.

It would be foolish, then, to imagine I am exempt from provoking a similar reaction in others. In among celebrating my life here, I do complain about the weather, I make good-natured fun of cultural quirks, I express bewilderment over processes and ways of thinking that conflict with those I developed living on the other side of the world. For the most part my German readers have a laugh, or gently point out where I am misreading or misunderstanding. Every now and again someone wades in and tells me I am flat out wrong – and that’s fine too, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That is precisely why I published each and every comment I get, whether it’s good or bad.

I got a comment recently – and I have had another one along this vein, on the same post – and while I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, I can see how and why the reader responded the way he/she did. The comment itself was, yes, quite caustic, and came from a place of obvious frustration – you can find it at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to read it – and at mentions of the perceived substandard way my own country does things, I bristled in the same manner I imagine my commenter did when reading my post. (And, obviously, I don’t agree with much of what was levelled at Australia in the comment, but that’s another story for another day.) I ended up writing an email to the commenter, because I felt I needed to. And as I wrote, I realised my response outlined the precise place from where I write.

For that reason, I have chosen to share the email I wrote in response. Not to call out this commenter, nor to invite people to pile on with agreement or disagreement – but more to further explain my position both as a foreigner, and as one compelled to observe and comment.

Dear – ,

Thank you for your recent comment on my blog – thank you for reading me, and thank you for taking the time to share your opinions on what I write. I appreciate it. 

I will write this in English, because I can better express myself in that language.

I never intend for my observations to come across as arrogant, although I appreciate inference is something different to implication. What I imbue my writing with, is not necessarily what readers will take away with them. So, while most of my observations are lighthearted and if not, then grounded firmly in a very rational understanding I possess, that a) nowhere is perfect b) I chose to live here c) there is generally reason behind how things operate here – I understand how it may not read so.

That being said, I like to think I balance my frustrations with my adopted homeland, with my love for it. The fact that I live here, by choice, and receive the many privileges of residing here, does not mean I must agree with how absolutely everything here is done. Just as you residing in Australia and receiving the many privileges of life there, does not mean you must agree with how absolutely everything there is done (and you clearly don’t).

Moreover, I do not believe my country to be perfect. In many, many ways, we aren’t. I see our shortcomings in most areas of life, and I am not proud of them. In fact, there are many aspects of our culture, of which I am deeply ashamed. Our education system needs an overhaul, we have long treated our Indigenous people appallingly, we need better environmental policies in place.

Along this vein, I have written, on several occasions, about how, when I compare my homeland with my adopted homeland, in many key ways, Germany comes out on top. But, again, that does not mean I have to agree with everything that Germany does. There are, and always will be, aspects of life here, that frustrate me, or are in opposition to the way I grew up. Quite like how there are aspects of life in Australia that evidently, and vehemently, frustrate and upset you. Both of us are entitled to feel that way. Neither of us must, because of that, consider leaving the countries we live in. And at this point we must also consider the fact that, no matter where we live, where we come from is so often the deep well from where we draw our understanding of what is normal.

However, none of this influences the fact you find my writing arrogant. Regarding that, I can only offer the above explanation as the place of reason from which I write. Do the Germans piss me off sometimes? Of course they do. Does that mean I shouldn’t say anything about it, on a platform I have created to expressly share the ins and outs of my life as a foreigner in Germany? No, it doesn’t. Do I try and keep my tone in check, my tongue in cheek, and my blessings counted? Yes. If that doesn’t come across, well that is simply my failure as a writer.

16 Replies to “From Where I Write”

  1. Hi Liv, I’ve been an avid follower of your writing for a few months now, and I want you to know, it’s been a great comfort to me. I’ve been living between Australia and Germany for the past few years and have recently settled down (hopefully) permanently in Leipzig with my own SG. Your take on the German people has always left me giggling, as you notice things that I’ve noticed myself, or which I begin to notice around me, which help me gain a better understanding of this crazy bunch, and also help me laugh off the culture shock I inevitably get every time I try and do the weekly shopping at Kaufland without my Tüte, or try and order a small latte, and end up with a giant glass of coffee flavoured Schaum.

    The best part about your blog is that you can feel the love you have for this strange and beautiful country. I hope you continue to be a curious observer, and a critical writer.

    All the best
    Mikaela.

    1. Thank you so much Mikaela. I am so glad my writing could have been of some comfort during what is a really weird and wonderful stage – the push and pull between two countries for the sake of a relationship. I hope you are settled and enjoying Leipzig and NEVER FORGET YOUR TÜTE! LG xx

  2. Hello
    i as a German living for 18 years overseas find your observations brilliant and to a point very fitting/ Go ahead and continue! all the best

  3. Keine Bange, die Person ist wohl einfach gerade in einer Stimmung, in der sie sich leichter angegriffen fühlt, vor allem, wenn es um den Vergleich von Deutschland und Australien geht. Ihre Reaktion hat also mehr mit ihr selbst als mit dir zu tun. 😉 Wollen wir also einfach mal hoffen, dass es ihr bald wieder besser geht.

    Ich persönlich kann natürlich auch nicht 100%ig allem zustimmen, was du hier über die Deutschen schreibst… aber ich kann mir auch oft genug die Haare raufen, wenn ich mitbekomme, was andere Deutsche so treiben und für selbstverständlich halten! o_O Von daher bist du für mich keine Australierin, die über “die” Deutschen urteilt, sondern einfach eine Person, die ihre eigene Sichtweise zu ihren persönlichen Erlebnissen darstellt – worüber ich mich ziemlich gut amüsieren kann. ^^ Hier und da möchte ich zwar auch mal einwerfen “Hey, es gibt auch genug Leute in Deutschland, die das ganz anders handhaben!”, aber eigentlich versteht sich das ja von selbst. 😉

    Also, mach weiter so! 🙂

    Übrigens gibt es Regionen auf unserer Erdkugel, wo Leute dermaßen an kalte Temperaturen gewöhnt sind, dass sie selbst bei minus 20 Grad ohne Handschuhe auskommen. o_O Ob die allerdings Hausschuhe haben, weiß ich leider nicht. 😉

    Herzliche Grüße aus dem Ruhrpott, und noch einen schönen norddeutschen Sommersonntag! 🙂

    1. Vielen Dank! Ich glaube du hast recht wenn du sagst ”Ihre Reaktion hat also mehr mit ihr selbst als mit dir zu tun.” Es ist ganz persönlich wenn man über Erfahrungen schreibt und man kann nicht erwarten, dass alle Leute zustimmen. Aber ich bin glücklich darüber, dass meine deutschen Leser und Leserinnen offen sind und viel Humor haben.

  4. Aw, Liv, keep up the writing the way you do! A little bit of bitching has never done any harm. Being a German abroad, in Ireland, I do find plenty to bitch about, laugh about, crack up about…same as my Irish partner when living in Germany. Being a Blow-In, you will always have a slightly skewed perspective on things, good! Having lived abroad for 13 years now I almost have a similar skewed perspective on all things German and I am enjoying it.
    “Like it or leave” as an attitude to new-comers is just xenophobic ignorance based on fear of change.

    1. I think a good vent is healthy, as a blow in. If you don’t take stock every now and then and get some things off your chest, or toss a ‘is this weird’ conversational ball around, you go mad!

  5. Liv – As an American with German parents I have been enjoying your blog for quite awhile now – it has definitely helped me to understand my upbringing and to clear up some long-standing mysteries (as I told my sister recently, “Mom and Dad aren’t trying to drive us crazy…they are just German!) Your writing is always done with a tone of lighthearted fun…cultural differences are interesting and your perspective as a young mother trying to understand and live within a culture so clearly different from where you were raised ALWAYS makes me smile, nod to myself and say “oh yes, that is SO German.” My grandmother was from Kiel and I spent several summers there when I was young…thanks for helping me recapture those sweet memories. I currently work with a high school exchange program – our motto is “its not bad, its not good, its just different!” Please don’t let that comment get you down – just sounds like someone who needs to air some grievances and you were a handy target – who compares an educational system to house shoes? Keep up the good work – I look forward to it!

    1. Thank you so much! And I love the line, “Mom and Dad aren’t trying to drive us crazy…they are just German!” – I think I say that to myself at least twice a week, but replacing ‘Mom and Dad’ with various other names.

  6. That person may well have a ‘Stock im Arsch’. Removal could be a long and painful process. All credit to you for writing such a polite email. I wouldn’t have bothered responding. Nowhere’s perfect. Utopia doesn’t exist. There’s certainly no harm in ‘sending up’ the Germans or any other creatures of habit – wherever you are. Just moving to a different part of your native country could give rise that, or even a different part of town. “Demut and Dankbarkeit” – oh dear, oh dear – but no.

  7. Well written Liv, like always! Being an expat myself (German living in the U.S. by choice) struggling with the same thoughts, feelings, emotions daily. Following your blog helps me a lot to feel as normal as possible being a crazy German in a foreign country called new home for 4 years now 😉 You point out the little quirky things in such a funny but true way ,it makes me laugh and also proud at the same time. You brought my heritage closer to me, and in the situation I was in, it was a good thing. Thank you for that!

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