I had already started drafting this post a while ago, but as the FIFA World Cup just started and Germany are playing their first official game today and I still have my memories of visiting the KZ Memorial in Ravensbrück I wanted to reflect a bit on the National Pride of the German people. With ideas to cover some language stuff and views on Germans in shows and movies (like Sherlock and Grimm) I simply wanted to express my thoughts before I dive into those topics.
I have lived my whole life in Germany, I was born and raised here, yet I do not feel any sentiment for my nation, even as citizen of Germany.
But why is that? Why can I not be proud of where I am from?
Everyone knows about the horrid history an Austrian bestowed upon the Germans where, even seventy years later, we still have to live with the repercussions, prejudices and fears. It is not easy to see the good things our country has to offer with that background. National sentiment or even national pride, let alone patriotism – which all can be some kind of synonyms for each other – is all in all a weird thing in Germany.
The evil flag
To underline my point I’d like to quote this comic from Scandinavia and the World by Humon:
*Sweden, Denmark and Norway are waving the German flag to congratulate Germany on his birthday.*
Denmark: „Don’t be like that, Germany. It’s just your flag.“
Germany: „Yes, but what if I felt pride from you waving it?! Then what would happen?! Bad things! I’m not allowed to feel pride! People die when I’m proud!“
Denmark: „Your flag is harmless. You’re even wearing it.“
*Germany looks down at his shirt and freezes in fear*
Like Humon describes it in the comment for the comic do (some) Germans only wave their flags during sport events. During World Cups it’s also common to decorate your car with flags hitched on the doors or attached to the exterior mirror. You might even be frowned upon if you do not support our team by wearing flags on your clothes or as painting during public screenings of the matches (which is called „Public Viewing“ in German by the way).
At every other time, showing the German flag seems to imply Nazi tendencies and people frown at you for keeping the flag after the game. Needless to say that every flag „vanishes“ just when the tournament is over – or Germany failed at some point, which makes this whole deal totally ridiculous.
Unfortunately there are far too many cases were this prejudice is indeed true. Even in our day and time, where you would think everyone knows of the wrongness of Hitler’s thinking there are people that follow in his belief that everyone not-German is bad. I am more than glad that there are institutions trying to get a hold of these people and their political parties.
Things to be proud of
I personally can not be proud of Germany as a whole, as it has far too many things I do not agree with, but there are things I am indeed proud of.
For one do I really like the general living standards. While not everyone has a proper flat and the prices differ greatly, it is great to have all these possibilities. If you find a place, you can live where ever you wish and only have to get through tons of bureaucratic nonsense to do so. In every town/city there is at least one supermarket (my home town with not even 3.000 inhabitants has four) and you have at least a chance to get from one place to the other without having your own car (taxis, public transport, even planes). It’s not always easy, but it is possible.
With all the frustrating things the state can throw at you (taxes, fees, etc.) it also does good (payment during unemployment, support for businesses, schools, children) and supposedly tries to help its citizen.
What we/I also can be proud of are the people that became known not just here, but internationally.
We are the home of important scientists like Albert Einstein and Konrad Zuse (first functioning computer); famous poets/writers like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, but also inspiring musicians like Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Händel; just to name a few.
The music tradition even continued with bands like Blind Guardian, Rammstein and Edguy.
And let’s not forget our current chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel. 😉 As bad as people talk about her, I think she at least managed to improve our (political) image quite a bit.
But I think the thing I am most proud of is our language.
As I wrote here do I really like my mother’s tongue and I am quite certain this is not because it’s the language I have known since I am capable of understanding spoken languages.
I really like how you have so many different ways to formulate what you want to say. Of course each language has something like that, but I also like the words that are used, especially the older – and in a way more sophisticated – ones. Though I am (ironically) at a loss for words when describing why I simply love my mother’s tongue. I just do …
A look from the Outside
As I mentioned above do we Germans still have to endure the aftermath of WWII.
Many people still seem to have a quite negative view on my country and our politicians seemingly try to better this in an awkward “we’re not like that any more”-kind of way. It’s always strange to see officials interact, mostly when the other country is one that is still sceptical about us.
If a German isn’t classified as Nazi, the next picture is the Lederhosen-wearing Bavarian, which really isn’t a German “standard”. Interestingly is Bavaria not really seen as actual part of Germany by most Germans and therefore this picture couldn’t be more wrong.
The third picture people have of Germans are the weirdo tourists who expect everyone to speak/understand German and demand their German bread everywhere. I can understand the bread part as I quite enjoy German bread (probably another proud-thing), but I already mentioned what I think about having to speak in a different language if you are native in the land and will not get into detail here.
Let’s not forget the over punctual hard-working engineer, who doesn’t really exist as people are either on time or take at least the academical quarter.
But there are also people who like Germany at least for its travelling properties and I can agree to that as I have seen one thing or the other on my travels (report 2012, 2013, 2014 follows soon) or on my way to festivals or concerts and stuff.
If you like, you can tell me in the comments how you see Germany and the German people. For me it is always interesting to encounter people from other places and to see what is different and what is similar in our countries/cultures/customs/etc.
Other than that can I only conclude this post by saying: I am glad that I live and grew up in Germany, but I couldn’t proudly say “I am German” as there are still far to many things I don’t agree with.