Hello! My name is Julia, I am 25. Korean born, Kazakh raised, I studied in the UK and since November last year I am based in Berlin.The history of my family spreads across the Northern hemisphere… Long story short, I am a descendant of Korean migrants originating from the Jeju island, famous for its female pearl divers, and of the Kazakh nomads from the “Sherkesh” clan originating from the Western part of the country. Hence, being on the move is probably in my DNA. By occupation I am a marketing and comms professional but at heart I’m a filmmaker.
What brings you to Germany?
To put it simply – Love. My husband is German and after spending past four years traveling across the continent, we decided to settle in one place and we chose Berlin.
How do you like your life in Germany in comparison to your home country?
It’s funny, but in Kazakhstan we grow up with some substantial knowledge of not only German history, but also culture and market products. After the fall of the USSR, Kazakhstan’s market was flooded with foreign products and most of them were from Germany. My first mobile phone was Siemens and my dad had an old Mercedes, and I drank Zuko when I was small… and million other things like that, making our daily life, you know. So in a way I was familiar with Germany even before I moved here. Another thing what I really like is the German hospitality. Hospitality is the foundation of Kazakh culture and I am glad to see similar attitude to foreigners here. Most of the people I’ve met so far were welcoming and were genuinely interested in learning something about my culture. What I like specifically about Berlin is its casual atmosphere and rich cultural landscape. There is also a lot more space here in comparison to London, where houses are squeezed next to one another and rooms are tiny. I like having space. What I am really surprised and even confused about, is the lack of digitalisation of the daily life despite the fact that Berlin is consistently named the new Silicon Valley. Such things as e- goverment services, card payments, online and mobile banking, mobile internet, home broadband, public transport passes, etc. are behind both Kazakhstan and the UK!
There is a lot more face to face interaction and doing things the old school way. On the other hand, it’s nice to have a human touch occasionally.
Could you tell me a few words about your blog?
I am currently working on two projects, which are in a way related, because they both concern the issue of migration. The first is my personal blog, which I started after I moved to Germany. There, I keep record of my personal experiences and also share my intercultural perspective on things I find important and interesting. These are migration, media and entrepreneurship. In the future, I am planning to invite experts in these fields to guest blog.
Another project, on which I am working together with my friends since May 2015, is called Koshpendiler (Nomads translated from Kazakh). It is a collection of stories of Kazakhs living abroad. The goal of this project is to unite Kazakhs living abroad and also to show my country to the international community through the stories of its people. We are planning to launch this project in February. We will have an English version, so everyone is welcome!
Do you feel yourself integrated into the German society?
It is a good question. I don’t feel like a tourist, because, well, I am with my husband here and we have a family around the corner. This helps. I also speak German, not yet fluently, but enough to read newspapers and find my way around and meet people, so I can discuss hot topics and be on the same page with them. However, I don’t have many friends here yet, so I’d say I will be fully integrated when I have circle of pals here and when I am totally fluent in German, because the language is key to most of experiences. But I am on a good track, that is my answer.
Does Germany look multicultural to you?
In my understanding, multiculturalism is not just about a number of cultures or nationalities living next to each other, but the extent to which these cultures interact and understand each other. In that respect I think Germany is still quite monocultural, partly because of the Christian influence and partly because of its history. I am lucky to have been to different parts of Germany: I went to cities like Munich and Dresden and I’ve also been to rural parts of Brandenburg, so my experience is not limited only to Berlin, which is of course very international. Most of the people I met outside big cities speak only German and haven’t been much further than to nearby countries. For comparison, in Kazakhstan we have historically two official languages – Kazakh (Turk origin) and Russian (Slavic origin). This by default makes its people familiar with two very different cultures. Second, we officially celebrate all sorts of religious and historic holidays, for example Chrismas and Kurban Ayt, as well as Nauryz and New Year. Finally, with 126 nationalities residing in Kazakhstan, it’s the country where a mixed marriage is a norm. In my family we have Koreans, Kazakhs, Russians, Germans, Jews, Tatars, English. Germany is definitely on its way to become more multicultural, and maybe in some fifty years there will be a some kind of European culture only.
But today Germany is international but monocultural in my opinion.
What would you like “import” from Germany to your country?
Conscious approach to environmental protection and The German Autobahn.
5 discoveries in Germany so far?
I am a foodie, so here are my 5 fun food facts:
1. There is no such thing as a traditional German dish, rather traditional dishes for each region
2. In addition, there is a special type of sausage in every area or region
3. Most of German idioms concern food. My favourite one is “es ist mir Wurst”, which in direct translation to English means “it’s a sausage to me”, which means “I don’t care”
4. Germans are kings of bread. There are more types of bread than anywhere in the world
5. There are more than 50 words across Germany for describing a bread roll, Berliners, for example say Schrippe!
What is the first thing you do when you go back?
I haven’t yet been home, but I guess after I meet all my relatives and my friends, I will try home made food cooked by my grandma 🙂
What does 2016 look like for you?
It looks like a pretty busy year ahead. In addition to achieving fluency in German and running my projects, I am doing two online courses on EdX and preparing for my German driving licence exam. Wish me luck! 🙂