12 May 2008 4 Comments

Never ending discussions about West and East Germany

The border betweet west and east Germany The official border between West and East germany disappeared for quite some years ago, 18 years ago to be exact. But the border between West and East Germany still exists obviously in the hearts of many Germans. I had some German friends visiting me yesterday, and the first question Germans ask each other when meeting for the first time is where they are coming from. Hardly suprising, because everyone does. But I think they do it to see if they are from the same part of Germany, western or eastern.

“I am an Ossie”

Sometimes I’ve got the feeling Germans do not feel like being German, they feel like being a “west German” (a Wessie) or an “East German” (an Ossie), for me a bit strange to see because I see Germany as one country. Even the most people I meet, are in the range 20-25 years old, experienced only a bit about their life in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) or in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD). They may have lived there, but they did not experienced it really. Even those people have their opinions about “the other side of the country”. A person who is born in the western part would normally not move to the Eastern part, and vice versa. I have got a friend from western germany who moved out to the eatern part (Leipzig), her friends considered her as stupid… They think that “their” part is the best one, however I think both parts had some positive things. Wessies ask Ossies how life was “without bananas and Coca Cola”. The movie “Goodbye Lenin” shows how life in East Berlin was based on an example of a DDR family. I see the same thing happening with the younger Dutch generation. Ask a random dutchmen about their opinion about Germans and they will probably tell you they that they do not like Germans. All bases on grandpa’s experiences, not on their own.

It just needs some time…

The freedom which the West Germans had was the best thing and the most important thing in peoples daily lives. And however the people who were living in the DDR had hardly any freedom, they did not complain, they did not know better, they had work and the DDR had a good social safety net, there was no reason to complain. I do understand that some of the West Germans have something against the former East; since the borders got open, the unemployment rate started to rise  in East Germany. West Germany should bear the costs that East Germany made, and they still do. On the other hand, some East Germans see the West Germans as the people who stole their jobs (It is simply not a socialist state anymore dear Ossies!). It is kind of a complicated story and I do not think one part is better than another part, I just think they should work together to solve the problems which Germany still has, and where the high unemployment rate is one of the biggest ones. I am wondering how much time it will cost to integrate the two parts together, it has taken almost one generation. And another generation is definitely needed to have a clear objective opinion.

My experiences in Berlin

East Berlin TrabantBerlin is not one city; Berlin is West Berlin and East Berlin. It is easy to recognize when you are leaving the former part of West Berlin and entering East Berlin. Houses are getting uglier, smaller, taller. The atmosphere is getting more underground, alternative and most of all, very pleasant. You will find all the underground galleries, clubs and cosy bars in East Berlin. You just have to see it by yourself. Do not forget to visit the DDR museum near the Berliner Dom, in this museum is it possible to experience, to see and feel how the people lived in the DDR. You can sit in a Trabant, taking place on a couch in the livingroom and pulling clothes from the closet. Only a few objects are behind glass.

I am really interested in this topic, and how other foreigners in Germany expierence the differences between Ossies and Wessies. What do you think?

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4 Responses to “Never ending discussions about West and East Germany”

  1. westernworld 16 October 2008 at 6:49 am #

    the east/west division goes much deeper then just having lived in the gdr oneself. east germany perpetuates many traits and mentalities that the 60′ and 70′ changed in the west in addition to differing social and economic structures going back as far as the days of the kaiserreich.

    the whole being the conqueror and being the conquered dynamic plays a huge part even for generations to come, because the easterners inherit the bitterness and resentment their parents feel, and quite rightly on occasion, towards the west.

    my generation, the so called generation golf, feels just disinherited … all the money that we could have spend on our lives our retirement was blown on the east, all our parents built …

    this topic is a bottomless pit and you really would have to be german to read the codes the nuances, the idiosyncrasies.

    you must remember that the popular opinion polls pre unification were 69% against in the west, for us the were always the unwelcome poor relations coming to stay.

    so social class , regional mentality and historic experiance form an intricate web of mutual dislike.

  2. Marjolein 16 October 2008 at 9:38 am #

    I agree with you, this discussion goes way much deeper than what I pointed out in my post. But I didn’t want to write about just the past, what I think is interesting is the way how younger people behave between one and another. Why don’t they look to the future? Maybe I should have been German to understand this.. But this is the reputation Germany has, a seperated country, still.

    I could hate germans as well, because of what they did to my parents and grandparents during the 2nd worldwar. But why should I? During the time I was living in Germany I was really enjoying it and I love german people.

  3. MelvinXH 16 December 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi just off topic . just wanna ask anyone introduce what is a best identity theft prevention out there ?

  4. Dennis 11 April 2011 at 2:59 am #

    As a Norte Americano I traveled through DDR (Ost-d) by car to Berlin and train (to Moscow) during the early 80s. I loved the slow pace, reminiscent of the 1950s US, and can empathize with those who miss it today; even those wonderful, temperamental, smelly Skoda autos (joke). We could all do with _parts_ of a culture that has remained outside the sturm und drang nach manana, tech und bucks, eh?

    Of course Germans are wonderful. I can think of people of no culture I haven’t enjoyed as I got to know them individually or in small numbers. Even US republicans are tolerable in small doses — really small, as babies or only one at a time!

    Problems arise when groups form and members become aware of their common bonds and, ergo, distinctions from other groups. That’s the bi-stable effect or yin-yang of tribes. Add stress, such as through forced life style changes during economic recessions, and people seek out their group’s designated or politically correct scapegoats.

    The problem with that occurring to any relatively accomplished ethnic group is that its members have tangible evidence of their social virtue. In the US we have wonderful usually easy-going, accommodating young Hispanic males. However, when they fall into the influence of a group (a gang), they reflect/re-emit/amplify the tribal mentality, with too-often disastrous results.

    M, u r 2 gr8!

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