25: East Germany still finding itself
Gabrielle Hermann
25

I think there is an interesting parallel to draw here between the differing cultures and attitudes in the US, and those in Germany. To expand up the analogy in your post, I grew up in Austin, Texas, and as people from both coasts (NYC, San Francisco, LA, etc.) started to flood my city over the past 10 years, I laughed at the snobbery embedded in their attitudes regarding the superiority of the cities they left, for the city they now chose to live in over the cities they claimed were superior. Long way of saying, those of us who didn’t grow up in the East or West Coast of the US hold prejudices as well against those supposedly more sophisticated or refined folks from the coasts. At the same time, some of my best friends are from New York and California. Once you get to know people, people are people, and the veneer that we ascribe to others can easily fade away.

As it relates to the East/West German divide, I visited Germany for the first time as a wide-eyed 16 year old, and spent virtually the whole trip in eastern Germany (Dresden, Goerlitz, Erfurt and Berlin). In meeting many folks from West German, I recognize that many West Germans have prejudices against East Germany (and vice-versa). Some of those prejudices are rooted in truth, but the majority of them aren’t. As you mention in your post, there is so much cool stuff to explore in East Germany, but unfortunately sometimes it takes outsiders (i.e. non-Germans) to initiate that exploration and bring more attention to what is there. By way of example, over the past 5–10 years, as the population of Austin has boomed, many of the newcomers to Austin have been the pioneers in exploring new neighborhoods that many native Austinites or Texans dare not venture into. Many of those neighborhoods now are considered some of the most vibrant and coolest neighborhoods in my city. Now many Austinites wish they had explored that territory 10 years ago.

I guess this is my way of saying, continue exploring the wonders of East Germany, both the natural areas and the wonderful people you encounter. As you share what you see with your West German friends, I suspect that more and more will become increasingly curious, and want to explore more of East Germany. This is one way in which we can break-down stereotypes! Thanks for the post, very much enjoyed the read.

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