There is something that has bothered me lately. Actually, it has always been bothering me, but lately I feel the undeniable need to try to come to terms with it. It is the question what it means to live in Germany as an alien.
I think what triggered this chain of thoughts was the article about translating I wrote for the European Theatre Convention. In this article I describe how being bilingual means carrying two different sets of world views and how my mother tongue interferes with my expression in German and, in general, with expressing my personality.
I, who am a Bosnian-Croatian mix (which is complicated enough, by the way), discuss the topic of being a foreigner with my Kazakh friend regularly. We share our thoughts and experience and ask ourselves and each other how we can live in Germany without suffering too much from our longing for our lost homes. What are our lost homes actually, and where are they? Are they geographic places or rather moral standards, the system of values our parents have applied while raising us? Or maybe the ideas of our cultures, which we, who don’t live in their homelands, carry in our hearts and minds?
And what about our emotionality. Our emotionality is probably what causes us the most difficulties in dealing with people from or in countries in which open and loud expression of emotions is socially not accepted.
Germany has always struggled with the fact that it is an immigration country, and although in the last couple of years it seems to have accepted its status, the discussion about migration and migrants seems so shallow. I perceive it as shallow for several reasons: First of all, the discussion is always restricted to those terms “migration” and “integration” – what it is that needs to be integrated is never being discussed in a satisfactory way, at least not for my taste.
Also, there is no such thing as “the migrant”. We are speaking of very different people from very different cultures in very different times, and we forget that each one of those migrants has a personal history which caused them to leave their country. I think what Germany simply does not understand is that no matter to which extent a migrant or foreigner or alien is integrated into German society, they still have a heritage and a culture and a personal history and an emotionality and way of expressing this emotionality that is different. And these are things that you cannot get rid of.
So here’s what’s gonna happen. I want to write a series of essays in which I describe certain events or experience from which I want to deduce my more general thoughts on the topic of being an alien. I would love for you to follow my thoughts and contribute something. Maybe some of you can relate to what I write. Maybe some of you don’t live in their mother countries and are experiencing similar difficulties. Maybe you do live in your homeland and find it difficult to understand other cultures. Although I primarily want to write essays to deal with and understand the subject better, I would really appreciate it if a dialogue could evolve. So please do stop by and leave a comment if you feel like it.
And by the way: The truest and most poignant contribution to the topic of migration I have ever “read” is a book without words – Shaun Tan’s wonderfully illustrated picture book The Arrival. Maybe I will even write something about this important and touching book in one of my essays.