Lou Mowll – A closet German
I am a part-time student at the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations, studying on their MA programme. This is run under the umbrella of Queen Mary, Uni of London, which is where I also did my undergraduate degree, many (...many) moons ago.
I am English and was born in the UK, but spent a lot of time in Germany growing up and probably most of my school summer holidays were spent in the North of Germany hanging out with German and English kids. Other than an initial language barrier I didn’t really see many differences to be honest. I would come back to the UK with cases of ‘Haribo’ for my friends and, now that I think of it, always used to get requests for multi-coloured jotter pads or those stickers of things like ladybirds and horses that children seem to stick to their school exercise books: Germany – the secret home of beautiful stationery!
Although my family moved back to the UK, I still felt real ties to Germany and so when I actually got round to going to Uni as a mature student it was a natural choice to study for a German and Business Degree. I think that by this stage, having lived in London for so many years, I felt that I was very much a “closet” German anyway. I guess “Germanophile” would be the correct expression if it were not for the fact that I took great fun from surprising holidaying German tourists in London with a sudden friendly outburst of German just when they least expected it. With a typical view of the English being their general unwillingness (or incompetence) to speak any other language it was funny to see the reaction. Having said that, I could never be sure if it was the sudden outburst that surprised them, the fact someone in England did in fact speak German, or my accent.
I also found it worked the other way round. As I initially worked for an English company with no German ties, no-one had any reason to suspect I had any links to Germany so if the subject ever arose – don’t mention the football - I would get to hear what people really thought (or were prepared to say) on the topic before stepping in and declaring myself a closet German. Obviously, as soon as I went back to Uni and learned something about the “ethics” of this kind of undeclared research, I had to find a new hobby.
But seriously now, I really support the idea that getting to know the “neighbours” and committing to spending some time immersed in another’s culture is paramount in breaking down the perceptions we have of the other. In this way, prejudices and pre-judgements are more easily broken down, or at the very least exposed, and this forms the basis for better understanding. This is something which we are encouraged to consider and research as part of the CAGCR MA programme and, thanks to the vocational element, something which I can also tie in to my work. The organisation I work for acts as one central point of contact for companies with operations in many different countries and, accountancy aside, cultural understanding and respect play a key role, underpinning the services we provide.
I have always relied on the Goethe Institut for a German “top up” through the years, and now find myself following Rory’s blog too as I love the travel writing style and the elements of humour. But don’t get me started on those Britishers and their views on (German) humour…