(By Cameron Tanner, Kiel)
Many years ago I asked my mother „what is German ?“ and she answered „its a language that scientists speak“. With that explaination I wasn’t completely satisfied and still wanted to know where people speak it-in which country exactly. I remember being told that Germany is near England and that the english and the germans are cousins. This often comes back to me today when I stand at traffic lights, amused that no-one is crossing although there are no cars in the near vicinity. The English and the Germans are in a way cousins. There has always been a lot of family slinging off from both sides. At the moment I am reading the memoirs of General Helmuth von Moltke, aid-de-camp to Kaiser Wilhelm the second. Wilhelm could not understand why, right from the beginning of his reign in 1888, the english press where forever stirring against him. Even when his grandma Victoria got on her royal train and travelled over to see her various german principality and empire ruler grandchildren, the press continued to ridicule him. Probably just the old adage „never expalain, never complain“, prevented her from saying anything. Her son Edward the sixth couldn’t stand the german way and managed to pass this off onto his loyal kiwi subjects just in time for 1914. George the fifth, his cousin never did anything to pacify the press, and was extremely careful to avoid promoting communism . He himself had a gin problem and was only too happy to be ignored. New Zealand inherited many undesirable immigrants from England as well as many very questionable practices from there. Until recently Kiwis invariably spent their OE (overseas experience) time in London,that is if they’d managed to get further than Sydney. Kiwis fought for the English in their wars and NZ produced primary products blindly for the Motherland until 1972, when without warning England joined the European Ecconomic Market, forcing NZ to train the Japenese to eat lamb. When I examined the death certificates of my 4 english ancestors (all great great grandparents) the striking thing is that 3 of them rolled up their mortal coils,went to meet their creators, joined the choir invisibule because of liver scerrosis. Life was hard and one could escape it by either drinking or going to NZ, and escape the horror of industrialising England where you proboably continued drinking as in the case of John Winter, my great great grandfather late of Battlesea, an alcoholic chemist whose family sent him out in 1874 on the „Conflict“, a ship known not to carry alcohol on board, to avoid disgrace. He continued his addiction and loitered around Wellington pubs with his sons, draining other customers‘ glasses.
The early immigrants had guts and were „hart im Nehmen“ and many of their decendants look on many rules as being thereso as to be brokenand for this reason will often laugh at the Germans‘ respect of the law ie at pedestrian crossings. I think its also a big reason for Kiwis having a good life generally in Germany, being appreciated especially for their positivity, friendliness and willingness to knuckle down and do a hard days work. Their english ancestors having met these same qualities amoung the maori when they arrived after their arduous journey. This inherrent warmth that Kiwis exude has always impressed tourists. Kiwis were the first country in the world to allow women to vote and one of the only colonial countries where a Waitangi Treaty was made to respect the rights of the naitive landowners and Kiws make a big thing of abiding by this treaty today and trying to live in racial harmony.
In the 80’s, there were mixed reactions from family and friends when I first came to live in Germany. The name Germany still sent cold chills down the spines of many older Kiwis-years of war films and comics having done their job. Kiws having growing up with appropriate german vocab, achtung schweinehund , Blitzkrieg amoung others. My brother, visiting me in Nuremberg and having just completed his stint at Waioru, was entralled at the thought of being able to put it all into practise and machine gun down a troop of possible SS who might possibly loom up over the horizon. However there were still a great number of Kiwis who found Germany exciting with all its clichees: Beethoven, Wagner, Neuschwannstein, Bavarian Beer, raisen bombers, the Wall.
As a Kiwi you can learn a lot here and eat well too. There is only a low 7% GST (Mehrwertsteuer) on food in Germany. The NZ Labour Party introduced GST in the 80’s. They actually intended doing away with some other consumer based taxes but were unfortunatly voted out before that happened and then the National Party retained GST and all the other taxes as well. Fruit is so cheap here, mostly cheaper than in NZ, however the germans have not been brought up to eat a lot of fruit like we were. The beer is dangerously good here and the breads and cheeses and sausage equally as good. My local supermarket boasts 600 chesses. Also for those who need to, smoking is cheap. You really learn respect for neighbours‘ space and privacy. What Kiwi would ask his neighbour to turn down the telly or stereo or insist that the neighbour not mow his lawn on sunday at 9 am. Windows and walls are much thicker here and the building standards more demanding. When you are invited for dinner here you dont need to bring a plate, which is anyway awkward as you ll probably be travelling on the underground. Being invited for coffee in Germany is vastly different than in NZ. If Germans have seen Django they’ll know what I mean. In one of the of the last scenes they take coffee and „white cake“ in the lounge. In Germany its much more organised. When being invited the host will ask how many pieces of cake you expect to eat and then when you arrive you’ll be directed to lavishly set table with everything on it. Kiwis could learn from this, no more slopped cream cakes down the couch cushions. There are some real monetary advantages in bringing up kids here. Kindergeld (childsupport) being one of the most impressive, 184 Euros per kid per month till they‘ re 25 years of age as long as they are studying. Kiwi parents in NZ get off rather lightly regarding the tertiary education of their young. No more obligations after the 18 th birthday. Whereas here, one finances everything for ones child until its graduated. Quite unfair in NZ is that the parents‘ income is assessed prior to student receiving financial help. Although this by no means obligates the wealthier parents to finance their childrens‘ study. There are practically no uni fees in Germany. The fees for my sons course at Unitech in Auckland were $24000 for the last 3 years. The german education system is also quite thorough here. Several high school students I know have been tó NZ and were amazed what high maths marks they got there. Although upon returning, they went back to their old grades. The recently resigned Minisiter of Education in Germany, Annette Schavan, pushed for the introduction of the english university system here. Up until now the german university system was well proven and now there is by comparison a pressure cooker type bachelor system, where the the benefits of the scrutinising analytical german mind are not utilised to the full. Many master courses are done in english. Another good reason for Kiwi students to continue their post grad studies in Germany.
I haven’t become a scientist but a teacher. German ist the language in which I live. When I am at school I think in German and work in German. At home I think in English because I communicate with my friends and family in NZ a lot. Many of my friends here speak English with me because they want to practise English. Nevertheless I prefer to speak German in my daily life here even if my mother advised me not to when I was starting Highschool, because I‘ d never need it ( me being so unscientific). So there you have it: „man weiß nie wie das Leben so spielt“ (you never know what is going to happen in life).
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