Good-bye Germany

MeiĂźen, 14th of July

ZwingerWe've made it! It's the last week of our two years in the medieval town of MeiĂźen, in the former East Germany.When we sat down as a family three years ago and set our 'family goals', we all voted for an experience abroad with the aim to discover another European culture, to learn another language and to enjoy outdoor activities. We can confidently look back and say we've definitely fulfilled all three.Not only were we exposed to German culture on a daily basis, but we were also at the heart of European history, including more recent events. We experienced the entry into the EU of the new countries and the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, the liberation of concentration camps and the end of WWII.

ZwingerWe discovered that the divisions between East and West are still very strong around here. Our very location enabled us to go ĂĽber die Grenze, across the border, to explore Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and to really feel the energy, creativity and hopes of other European people. Whilst celebrating the differences, we also felt we had so much in common. I only wish there weren't such negative and scare-mongering stories in some of the UK press.

The learning of another language was most beneficial to Kingsley who is now 10-years old. He is now fully trilingual. The very same boy the local primary school would not have two years ago has passed all his Prüfungen, exams, to go to das Gymnasium, grammar school, and is in the top 5 of his class. He has been selected as the best reader to recite by heart in front of all the parents the 2-page long poem Der Handschuh, The Glove, by Friedrich Schiller for die Zeugnisübergabe, ceremony of the school reports, which closes the last year of primary school. Spot the very proud parents! Imogène, 4, is also fluent in Kindergarten German and regularly corrects her mother! And if I tell you that we've filled in our German tax return ourselves and are no longer scared to deal over the phone with the dreaded Amt, administrative department, it shows the tremendous progress made.

ZwingerThe outdoor life is undeniably what we shall miss most, having thoroughly enjoyed the three months of snow in the winter and hot temperatures and swimming in the lakes in the summer. The clearly marked seasons with local products and a rhythm of life based on the change of seasons reminded me of my childhood in France.We have met a myriad of fascinating people and have been particularly impressed by the kindness and openness of the generation who lived through the war and then the GDR regime, a lesson of tolerance unfortunately not always shared by the younger generation.

If you move to this part of Germany, don't expect though, especially if you're British, to be welcomed with open arms. It is a long, slow process to be accepted, but once a friendship is forged, you are part of the family. We feel we came across several types of Germans in Saxony. Firstly there are the West Germans 'in exile' who immediately embrace you as one of their own - and they do speak superb English. Then there are the East Germans who had been suffocated under the oppressive GDR and who welcome you as a breath of fresh air in the somewhat stilted Saxon mentality. Shy and reserved at first, they will quickly do anything to help you and feel at home. And finally there are the East Germans who still have very little contact with 'Westerners' and will accept you from a distance, as you may as well be someone from Mars. On the other side there still exist East Germans who aspire to a return to the 'good old days' of communism and view any change as a threat.

ZwingerWe realise even more now what a formidable and brave gesture it has been from all the people who have invited us and shared a slice of their life with complete strangers. We can only say a big herzlichen Dank, heart-felt thank you!It has been an extremely positive experience, with its ups and downs. Our family has grown so much stronger. We know we'll always look back on our life in Germany with great fondness and happy memories.

Sent by: Frederic

Comments

Patrick Meier, Bavaria, Germany 2011-04-12

Wow, sogar ich als Deutscher habe den Text gut verstanden, und er ist sehr schön geschrieben.
Außerdem finde ich eure Meinung über uns sehr schön und gut ausgedrückt.
Greetings to you and your family!

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Laura, Lincoln, UK 2010-11-29

What a wonderful account of your life in Meißen. Please write a book!

I spent a few years in West Germany in mid to late eighties as a young language student, and was lucky enough to be in Berlin the weekend the wall came down! Reading your account makes me want to go back there straight away! Your children are now so lucky to be trilingual - I learnt French and German the hard way (ie as part of the British education system, starting at age 11 which is way too late!), but I've always kept them up, especially my German, throughout my career. I think more young Brits should experience living and working/studying in another country - it was certainly the best experience of my life.

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Louise Newton, Nottingham, England 2010-11-21

Hallo! Ich bin aus Nottingham auch!

After trying to learn German in my spare time for the past year, I am finally going to be able to test out my new skills. I'm off to Berlin for a mini-break in a few days time, completely on my own! I realise that the vast majority of people there speak perfect English, but I hope they give me a chance to try my nicht sehr gutes Deutsch out (see what I mean?) x

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Horst Angelkotter, Niagara -Canada 2010-10-03

How enlightening to hear from this Family how they enjoyed Germany. It should be published in the English Tabloid. I agree the UK press has never ever written anything about Germany in a positive manner. My wife is English, her preference spending vacation is always Germany.

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Anonymous 2010-08-29

Delightful - all the instalments.
Could Frederic AND his family,please give us more about their live and times in the land of the Englishmen's great-great.......grandparents (the Saxons)? Danke schön

A 78 year old trying to learn Deutsch.

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Dermot Delaney, Dublin 18.Ireland 2010-07-10

Dia dhuit,
What an interesting diary. I hope to visit this part of Germany as a result of reading about your experiences.
I am learning German at the moment, and after reading your diary,I am encouraged to keep at it.

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Grace, Illinois 2010-07-09

I teach German at the high school level in the USA and will make a point of reading this diary in class. The students are very curious about East v West Germany and the cultural differences between our countries.

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Verity 2010-05-30

Thankyou for your wonderful diary

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Amanda, Dresden 2010-03-10

Commented on your first entry, too, but these keep summing up what I'm going through on my year-long exchange here.

I live in a tiny town an hour away from Dresden, and I have experienced all the different types of East Germans you named. I lived with both the farmer, spent whole life in Sachsen types, and the Westerners who came after the wall fell. Really interesting cultural differences. . . . Though I feel you forgot one important group, the grannies who glare at you on the street when you're speaking English with friends. Maybe it's not b/c of the English, but German grannies have that glare down to a science . . . .

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Martina 2005-10-17

Hi Frederic, habe gerade fasziniert Deinen gesamten Bericht aus Weimar gelesen, alle Achtung! Freut mich, dass Ihr so eine tolle und interessante Zeit hattet und dass die Kinder spielend Deutsch gelernt haben. Sicher werden wir uns demnächst über den Weg laufen!

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