I am sitting at my desk, in front of my computer. Again and again I am reading this email asking me to write an article about the country I live in, and my opinion towards the European Union. What can I write? What do I have to say? Well, Germany is the country where I was born 25 years ago, where I have lived all my life and where I study. I am the native of a little village close to Kassel, a countrified region, and I live in Mainz, where I study Cultural Anthropology, Geography and Economy.
What is typical German? The things that come to my mind are the popular regional stereotypes. Because I study in Mainz, a city near to Frankfurt at the Rhineriver, I think of Carneval and wine. Should I study in Bavaria I would always eat Wei?wurst (Bavarian veal sausage) and maybe sometimes the typical German Bratwurst (fried sausage). I would always drink wheat beer and wear Lederhose (leather trousers) and Dirndl (traditional dress that consists of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and apron).
In North Rhine, Westphalia, I would also drink beer, as it is typically German, but I would drink K?lsch at a B?dchen (clear beer with a bright straw yellow hue at a kiosk) and I wouldn't be at home anyway. I would be at my campsite, which is decorated with the typical German Gartenzwerge (garden gnome). Should I live in North Germany we would eat fish all day long and then again at tea-time!
Actually, I was born in a village close to Kassel where a sauerkraut factory (the typical German sour cabbage) is located and where you can find the typical German fachwerk (timber framing). After laughing about imagining myself in these roles, I start to think serious about stereotypes of Germany:
I think of:
- Organisation and arrangement
- Being passive
These well-known stereotypes are boring and sad, because I recognise that a lot of people think about Germany as boring, but I can assure you it is not true. I can affirm this last statement. Stereotypes may be true, but I am happy to live in Germany because of the varied landscape. On one hand I have the chance to be at the seaside, and on the other I can go to the mountainns. Since there is the Schengen Agreement it wouldn't be a problem to go to the North Sea, the Netherlands and the Alps in Austria.
Another reason I like to live in Germany is beause of its placement in Europe and the contacts with many neighbour countries. Actually, Germans love to be members of a lot of clubs (Carrier Pigeon Association, Auxiliary Fire Brigade, sports clubs, etc). I have one real hobby and that is travelling. Above all the common currency, the Euro makes travelling and shopping in Europe very easy (although I have to admit that I like foreign coins in my purse).
I knew before I start to study that I would not miss the chance to study in a foreign country. So I studied one semester within the Erasmus programme at the University in Utrecht (Netherlands). I could experience the advantages and disadvantages of the university system in an other country. I am studying Cultural Anthropology. In Mainz this subject was still a bachelor degree course. Soon, in course of the Bologna-process, it will also be an Bachelor/Master degree programme. So this experience in the Netherlands was a chance to get in contact with this new system. An advantage of the Europe-wide conformed education system was certainly that the Erasmus students of other countries got credits for the certifications they did over there. In my case that was not possible for all certification, but anyway, I am happy that I took part in Erasmus, as it opened my mind. I broadened my horizon, mingled new theories and ways of thinking. Especially because the university in Utrecht had a very good equipment. On the other hand the Erasmus programme opened my view for my every-day life in another country. It was chance to get in contact with other politics and culture.
Another experience with habitation in another country for approximately half a year I did during an internship in the Goethe Institute (German Language Centre) and the German embassy in Ljubljana. The close teamwork of the different European countries in this institution impressed me.
Another interesting point I could experience on my time in Slovenia was to see the formation and movement of a new member state of the EU.
For all my abroad experience it was an advantage that in all European countries you can survive with the English language. I appreciate the fact that this language is encouraged in schools around Europe. This language connects us, on this basis we can help each other, discuss, approach problems, diagnose differences and similarities. To build a community it is the most important that we can communicate and for that we need a language. In general, it is another hobby of mine to learn languages, e.g. Spanish and Dutch, as with languages you find an access to the culture and the people.
I could see what benefits young people can get from the EU when travelling. Because of my geography studies I kept in touch with EGEA- the European Geography Association (an association for Geography Students from all over Europe). A lot of projects of this organisation are supported by the EU. Through congresses, journeys, exchanges, organized by this organisation, I got the chance to see different countries, cultures, ways of student lives, future expectations, European career opportunities and I got a lot of new friends. This all accounts for the international understanding, tolerance and the reduction of prejudices and conflicts.
Especially Germany, caused by the War, does not enjoy a good image. Still a lot people bear a grudge and prejudices against Germans and I hope this perception can be changed through the EU. But also I think if I support the reduction of borders I still think that not everything in Europe should be assimilated. It is nice if countries be aware of their origins. So we can discover news in the different countries.
Also if the free movement of goods in the EU is in many ways a big chance for Europe, I do not need all articles from all over the world in the supermarkets. But I also know that it is not always good to stick on old traditions, ways on life etc; the development is irresistible and contains also al lot of chances.
For the future I hope that more European standards get realised. For example, if all present and future member states implement the human rights or that policy and procedures in climate and environment protection become equal and that all states are responsible for seeing that.
I am curious, not only on my journeys? I am excited how Europe develops. I could imagine, that I live in another European country and work there and hope that my studies and interests prepared me for that.
Sandra Blum, Germany
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