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
Berlin 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?