Interview Series #4 Together instead of alone

In our fourth interview with Chiu Kit LAM, LAM will talk about how and why the German club culture would become such an important part in his life, and what role does volunteer commitment in the society play for him.

From rabbit breeder to fireman – almost half the population living in Germany is a member of a club. You belong to the volunteer fire brigade. How did it happen?

After graduation I moved to Offenburg and got a new job there. At that point I already knew that I wanted to stay there for a longer time. Then came the question: What should I do, if I want to integrate better in this little lovely city?

When I observed how my colleague once rushed out of our office when the fire alarm squeaked, I found the answer.

Then I learned about the volunteer fire brigade service in Germany and wanted to be a part of it!
And above all: As a kid I dreamed of becoming a fireman! A Hongkonger puts out fire in Offenburg – isn’t that a cool idea? 

The works could sometimes be quite demanding. One simply cannot imagine, how hard it is for a fireman (or a firewoman, because there was also a lady in my training), wearing the compressed air breathing apparatus, to bring out a training manikin from the site of the accident in the dark. But the more difficult it is, the more interesting it becomes. Through the volunteer fire brigade I also got another opportunity to get to know the people from Offenburg. Besides, I also learned something technical, broadened my language skills (do you know what a “Überflurhydrantenschlüssel“ is?) and to rediscover my city. It often surprises my wife, when I tell her exactly where a street is in Offenburg. Of course I know that, because I once had an operation there!
 

Interview 4 ©Chiu Kit LAM Being a fireman one can really learn a lot. For example one can learn how to smash a car into pieces! Of course in a rather construtive manner. Thanks to smoke detectors there are not many fires nowadays, however car accidents still happen everyday. It is cool that one can help other people by using his own professional knowledge.
 
It is estimated that there are around 600.000 registered clubs (e.V.) in Germany – especially many sports clubs. Even the Goethe-Institut is a club. Are there any differences between the clubs in Germany and Hong Kong?
I was also once a member of a fishing club, and I still belong to the badminton club in Offenburg. Fishing is a nice hobby, but in order to get a fishing license and to join a fishing club, one has to sit for an exam. That also shows how “serious” a club’s work could be.

My opinion is that the Germans spend more time on clubs and are much more committed than the Hong Kongers. I have the feeling that most Hong Kongers are already quite stressed by their jobs and they are not eager for something “strenuous” after work. When I was a member of the Fishing Club, I still had to work and to attend the general meeting punctually. So you don’t just fish when you belong to a fishing club.

But that’s also a good thing, because it keeps the clubs going and as a member you could really get something out of it.
 
Interview 4
©Chiu Kit LAM
Fishing is indeed my hobby, but the participation in a fishing club can only be permitted once I pass the examinations regarding the conservation of the nature and water management. I think its good that people can contribute to the community through participating in different clubs.
 

Whoever belongs to a club, usually involved on a voluntary basis, i.e. on top of his/her job duties. How is then the relationship between one’s job and hobby?

I am really lucky! My boss is very understanding and very supportive of my social commitment. I always got special leave for the duty-call at the fire brigade and I could join the training without any problems.
Work and personal life are separated quite clearly in Germany. Hobbies, especially those voluntary ones, are considered for a good cause and at the same time delightful. That’s why many clubs are supported or financed by corporations. I am glad that it can be agreed upon so well.

Unfortunately I don’t have enough time for the fire brigade service since the birth of my son. After my parental leave I made the decision together with my commander that I would be discharged temporarily. It was a difficult decision, fire brigade is a volunteer work, but it is also something that has to be taken seriously. But I had a great time being a fireman.
 
Interview 4
©Chiu Kit LAM
It was really nice that I met lots of Offenburgers through joining the volunteer fire brigade. Of course not just only to meet them, but also the cooperation and the communication with my commarades were very exciting. If you want to integrate into the German communities, it is not really a must to join the olunteer fire brigade, there are also other options. My tip: search for something which you really like!

 

To establish a club is relatively easy. And you as a Hong Konger without German citizenship could establish a club. The club is called “Hong Konger in Germany” e.V. How did that work?

I am the founder of the Facebook Page „Hong konger in Germany“. A few years ago, I already sensed that the Hong Konger community in Germany is getting very strong. There are more and more exchanges, meetings and mutual support in the society. Then I asked myself: Why isn’t there any solid or official platform, where all these activities could take place together?

Life in Germany, especially for a newcomer, could be very hard. Through a club I hope the Hong Kongers living here can connect with each other better and to overcome their difficulties more easily.

It is true, when you say: Establishing a club is relatively easy. However, if you want to do it right, you have to put in a lot of effort for the foundation. The formalities can be done by someone else, but how the statute should look like, who should be the board members, how the admission works, and how the general meeting should take place etc., all there are not so easy to decide. A lawyer can only give you advice. We must answer all these questions ourselves first, so that the club can function smoothly in the long run. Hopefully I could explain more on that later! I am excited about the development of the club!
 
Interview 4
©Chiu Kit LAM
It seems easy to found a club, but if you want to make everything right, it is not that easy. First, you need to do some readings. I bought some books and also marked the words, which I did not really understand, becasue I had no idea of the new voabularies of these technical terms. My conclusion: you should never stop learning German!

 

In Germany, clubs are closely linked with civil or civil society’s commitment and they are often operated on a non-profit basis. Nowadays many clubs are founded for protecting the climate and helping the refugees. How do you assess the influence of clubs on society and politics? 

For me clubs are „implementer“. You can of course start with the politics, but politics usually offers very rough direction in the first place. The clubs have more direct contacts with the people and understand exactly, what one should do, in order to make a change. I strongly believe that with a club I could connect the Hong Kongers in Germany better and help more. 
 
Values like freedom, democracy, climate protection and human rights don’t simply exist in a statute book, you have to fight for them. And a club is one of the best legal forms to enable the collaboration of those committed people. Therefore, I believe clubs do play an essential role in the society and politics.
 
Interview 4
©Chiu Kit LAM
I had never imagined that some day I would join an assembly in Germany. I went to Frankfurt twice, in order to explain the current situation of Hong Kong to German people. One cannot integrate if he or she forgets his or her homeland. In contrast, the connection between my first and second homeland strengthens my own identity as a Hongkonger in Germany. I will never stop introducing my first homeland to the people in Germany.