Watching Deutschland 83 on Sunday nights has reawakened an interest in Germany. This classy Cold War thriller brings back memories of growing up in the 70s and 80s; the nagging nuclear threat, the big red button, the terrifyingly huge mushroom cloud, the impenetrable iron curtain, the us and them. (Guardian Review).
Is Germany still living with a split personality? Reading around it would seem the UK and US press believe a dichotomy of spirt still appears to pervade the Motherland.
Divided politically left and right, West and East Germans lived side by side for 44 years. The Berlin wall came down over 25 years ago and the administrative process of a unified Germany quickly began (some say, a swallowing of the GDR rather than a reconciliation). But the people have been much slower to come together. Western Germans think Eastern Germans are sour, mistrustful and anxious. Eastern Germans say western Germans are arrogant, materialistic, more bureaucratic and superficial.
And we can see this split in it’s psyche too. Germany appears;
Liberal (naked zones in Munich) but authoritative (don’t even try jay-walking).
Obdurate (ask Greece) but self-flagellating (historical shame lives on).
Western and European but a real home to many Eastern peoples; Turks, Koreans, Vietnamese…Syrians.
Welcoming to outsiders (refugees, at the moment) but discriminatory (xenophobic even, race is a feature of the reactions to the New Year groping attacks).
Cheap (er to live than London – Brits in Berlin), but rich (winner of the Best Country in the World; “in part because of its strong economy, world influence and its focus on key global issues, such as the migrant crisis and eurozone unity.”)
The Ossies (East Germans)/Ostalgie (fond memories of the GDR) against the Wessies/Westalgie (nostalgia for a simpler, more German Germany).
And then of course there’s Mutti, Chancellor Angela Merkel. The East German girl who grew up to lead a powerful Western nation (Person of the Year 2015 profile).
So divided but whole. Split but not apart. I wonder if this division is as felt by Germans as it appears to us outside?
Perceived or real. I would say Germany seems to have found an inner strength in it’s cultural differences.
Some sources I recommend for further pondering;