Arrived in Germany with time to spare, I left my case in the Hauptbahnhof and went for a wander. Hannover is not Germany’s loveliest city, but I liked it. Stopped for a cup of coffee, a bit of lunch, meandered down to a museum of modern art. Through a pedestrian zone, and a park. Everyone here looks middle class, well dressed, well fed, relaxed. Not too crowded. Bikes weaving in and out, bike lanes everywhere. Life seemed easy peasy.
At the station information counter, a lady in her 60s came up and proferred a ticket with a lower number than mine. Danke! Later on, as I was finding my way back to the station, I’d barely stopped and pulled out my Stadtplan, when a terribly sexy older man stopped to ask if he could help me. Vielen Dank! I don’t remember Germany being this friendly! Another thing has changed: though almost all the voices I hear are speaking German, a significant minority are not.
So I was thinking: I could live here.
And then I thought: Seriously, I really COULD live here.
If I am going to try to make a living writing English copy, how much more of a competitive advantage will I have if I am translating from German? In Germany? (Or I suppose that could be my niche back home, too). Not Hannover in particular, anywhere in Germany. Or Austria, or Switzerland. Not now (my son is still at school in London) but soon. Berlin? Munich? Or a small town, where I would likely be more marketable as a native English speaker. It wouldn’t have to be forever. It might be a laugh. Shake things up a bit. (Not sure where Alexander Technique fits into this, or some of my other ideas, but let’s leave that to one side for the moment.)
I presume I would still be able to listen to R4 (as my previous post made clear, I could hardly live without it). I could still buy English language books from Amazon. I’ve finally embraced skyping. I never see my friends or family anyway, or go to the theatre, or any of the things London has to offer. (That’s not true: I do like to visit art galleries and museums. But still.)
Alone in a restaurant, looking round, listening to conversations at neighbouring tables, I realised I would never feel fully at home here. But what am I thinking?! I LIKE not feeling at home! There is clearly work here for a shrink. Growing up, my feelings of awkwardness and not belonging (my parents talked funny, we ate different food and so on) made me unhappy. I was conscious that my English didn’t come naturally, there were things I didn’t understand. Subtleties about the difference between lounge, living room and sitting room. And front room! You know, all that. And I didn’t feel special. I felt inferior. I wanted to fit in. I felt I didn’t.
But then we moved. Living in the Middle East, being visibly foreign, that was great. And there I passed as British. Later I lived briefly in Germany, France (not visibly alien) and Hong Kong. Loved it. I like being foreign. Maybe it’s an excuse, something to hide behind, a reason not to fit in. I don’t know.
Arriving in Germany and queuing to go through customs, I felt sad at the thought that pretty soon my British passport will not allow me to go under the EU sign. And then I remembered: I have a German passport.
Photo is of a statue in Hannover.