Why do I still think about being German? What’s the big deal? I have lived in the UK since I was ten years old, apart from a curtailed gap year back in the old country. I’m not particularly fond of the place, though I think it has a good deal more going for it than many Brits realise. I don’t make a point of hanging out with my compatriots, although they do seem to get everywhere so I meet them from time to time. I go back regularly to see my family but don’t have many other friends there and don’t usually stay for more than a few days. If it was not for my angular mouthful of a name I could certainly pass for English, and have been able to since I was 12, but I decided long ago not to try and hide my identity, although it is not always a comfortable one to wear, or should that be ‘bear’?
But for a number of reasons I find that being German in the UK in 2020 is something that I do want to write about. One of these reasons is obviously Brexit, which now seems inevitable with the leaving date due in less than a month. However, I do not want to go over the ground that has been so well trodden since the referendum, and which will no doubt be further churned in the coming months and even years. Rather, I want to offer a more personal account of a relationship between two countries, two cultures and of my own compound identity and experience. There has been much writing by people who look different about how they have negotiated the issues surrounding their identity, fitting in to a culture that does not always accept them, while trying to understand how to relate to another culture which they may or may not have direct experience of. I do not look different, but the difference is there, sometimes I feel it, sometimes I am made to feel it, and despite the proximity of our cultures and countries, the differences and frictions are, well, let’s say considerable. And whereas things have changed a great deal since I first came to these shores, Brexit is a rude awakening for anyone who thought that the old divisions were behind us. So, from now until the end of this month, when Britain is due to leave the EU, I am going to blog about Germany and the UK, and about being German in the UK.