My name is Saengrawee Grabow (for short Sam). I’m 31 years old, work as a flight-attendant and live in Heidelberg. My mum is from Thailand and my dad is German. I was born in Germany and the only passport I ever had was the German one. I lived in the Philippines for three years, in Ghana for six and in Tanzania for five years. But because my parents were there four years after that, I spent a little more time in Tanzania, without actively living there.
What do you consider home?
Home is generally where my parents are. So whatever house my parents live in and wherever I can sit with my parents on their couch – that’s home. It doesn’t have to be a specific country, but my parents create home.
Where is that right now?
Right now, I’m not sure because they live in Myanmar, but I haven’t actually seen them in Myanmar. So my last home was Tanzania, because that’s the last place where I visited my parents.
Do you feel like you belong to any specific society?
Legally I belong to Germany because that is the passport I hold, the language I speak and the place I was born. In Germany, though, people tell me all the time that I don’t look German. So even though I may feel German at times in my life, people in Germany point out that I’m not. When I’m in Thailand, it’s obvious that I kind of know how things are done and how the people are, but I don’t quite look it. And I don’t speak the language.
Surprisingly when my parents lived in Peramiho in Tanzania, there was a sense of belonging there, which was very awkward, because the last thing I am, is anything African. But there people say: oh you grew up in Mwanza, so you’re a Sukuma baby and you went to school in Moshi, so you’re a Chagga. (Sukuma and Chagga are the tribes of the region) So even though this is what I am most removed from ethnically, those people made more of an effort to make me feel like I belong.
You’re also quite a jet-setter and now you’re married to an American and carrying his baby. So how is this going to develop?
I don’t know. I am generally scared of settling, because my family always moved alot. But I married an American boy, who has spent 30 years living in the same area. So maybe I need to be with someone like that, who is going to say: „You know what, it’s okay to settle and be in one spot for longer than ten years.“ Because right now, I cannot imagine that. I have been in Heidelberg on and off for the last 13 years, so Heidelberg has been my German home-base. But if somebody had told me that at the start, I would have freaked out.
What identity do you think that your child might have?
Raising a child may be a little bit of a challenge because I don’t know whether to bring in the Thai part, or whether it’s going to be between the American and German culture. I don’t speak Thai, so I will speak German to my child – will that make me more German, because I am trying to focus on the German part of myself? And then there’s the bit of Africanness in me – what do I do with that? Do I have African characteristics, that I might just give to my child? I’m not sure – it will be an experimental time.
Do you feel accepted in Germany with your cultural heritage?
I think Germans are not very good at making you feel accepted, because they feel that they have to point out that you’re different all the time. But they don’t make you feel unwelcome and it doesn’t make me feel unwanted as such. So as a whole I would say yes. They have their ups and downs but then every society does.
Would you say Germany is a multicultural society?
Yes. It depends where you go. My dad is from a very small village north of Frankfurt. We do have a few people there who are not entirely German, but it’s not as multicultural as Heidelberg, where you have a constant stream of cultures going in and out.
Interview by: Sella Oneko
Follow Sella on Twitter:@sellaoneko