They may be a few thousand miles from their country of origin, yet German residents in the UAE feel strongly about upholding their culture and interacting with each other to maintain a sense of camaraderie.
And as the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall takes place this weekend, there is an extra poignancy to this patriotic gusto.
My family was actually split because of the wall. And then suddenly the wall came down and we were reunited as a family.
– Moritz Drucker, Pastor, German Protestant Church in the UAE
Moritz Drucker, Pastor to the German Protestant Church in the UAE, says the breaking down of the wall in Berlin had a huge impact on his life.
“My family was actually split because of the wall. I had some aunts who lived in East Germany and they were sometimes able to travel to visit us, but of course we felt there was a divide between us.
“And then suddenly the wall came down and we were reunited as a family.”
Working for the church, Pastor Drucker says it’s his job to bring German people in the UAE together for activities and worship.
“I am often with other Germans, eating together, doing music, plus we have trips to the desert and the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah, or we go to the beach,” he says. “For me this is very important because I can live my culture and speak my language together with other people.”
Sense of community
Another German expat, Tommy Schneider, a business development manager working in Dubai, explains that events such as Oktoberfest help preserve German habits while allowing other nationalities to enjoy the fun. “There is a strong community of Germans here, which is a comfort when you live away from home,” he says.
I was really young when the wall fell, but when I watch videos of it coming down and see the people celebrating, I still get quite emotional.
– Tommy Schneider, German expat in Dubai
On the approaching anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall, he says, “Being East German, the fall of the wall has greatly affected my life as I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to live in the UAE or travel extensively, which I enjoy a lot. I was really young when the wall fell, but when I watch videos of it coming down and see the people celebrating, I still get quite emotional.”
Juliane Niederste-Hollenberg is deputy kindergarten manager at DISD German School and teaches the German language to youngsters. She meets a lot of German expats but adds, “I also love the local people, that’s the reason I am here in the UAE.”
We actually went to the wall and climbed up and danced on it. The next day when the border was open and people from the East could come through, we welcomed them with chocolates and a big hello.
– Juliane Niederste-Hollenberg, deputy kindergarten manager at DISD German School
It may be 30 years since the Berlin wall fell, but she recalls the day well. “I was outside making music with some friends and at midnight a lot of people came to the pub to celebrate and it was just a great, great day,” she says.
“We actually went to the wall and climbed up and danced on it. The next day when the border was open and people from the East could come through, we welcomed them with chocolates and a big hello.”
Another German expat, novelist and film lecturer Daniela Tully, says she tries to read German news every day and stay updated on what’s happening in her home country.
“And sometimes I make it to the events organised by the German Emirates club,” she says.
I watch German movies once in a while, especially when I feel I’m losing touch with my roots.
– Daniela Tully, novelist and film lecturer
“I also watch German movies once in a while, especially when I feel I’m losing touch with my roots. But I avoid German food as none of it served here is as great as my mum’s cooking.”
She says the upcoming anniversary holds great meaning for her.
“The fall of the wall was one of the most memorable moments in my life, not only because my grandmother finally received a farewell letter that her twin brother had written to her from the war in 1944, shortly before his death, but I remember David Hasselhoff singing I’ve been looking for freedom. I recalled my cousin crying when we handed him a Coke can that my parents had successfully smuggled over the East Germany border in 1985, my one and only visit.
“On the day of the anniversary, I might enjoy a can of Coke, feel grateful remembering my cousin once again, drink it to the tunes of Hasselhoff, and just feel proud to have been able to experience one of the greatest moments in German history.”
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