Please meet two nice young people from Croatia, currently living in the centre of Berlin, Neukölln. Csaba is a sworn translator for English, Croatian and German and Petar has recently enrolled to the Master’s Program of East-European Studies at the FU Berlin.
Csaba: I have German ancestors. I was born in the Balkans,but I grew up surrounded by the German language. I also studied German at the University of Zagreb. After the war in 1995, in that still politically troubled time, I applied at the University of Hamburg and got a place. And here I am!
Petar: I am really a newcomer in Berlin, but I always wanted to move here. The most important reason is that Csaba and me are partners. We were really tired from this back and forth travels between Croatia and Germany. We wanted to finally live together. As Csaba has already been residing here for almost 20 years, there was no talk about him moving back to Croatia. And I, at the same time, was fed up with the small town in Croatia where I was living and working. By the way, I had a good job there; I was a university lecturer and was doing my PhD. But I gave up all these things to come to live with Csaba in Berlin. In addition, Croatia is too conservative for me. In spite of the fact that Croatia is now part of the EU, the society is still struggling with accepting European values, which are very important to me.
Would you agree that Croatia is a multicultural society?
(Both are laughing for a while. Finally Petar begins to speak, but his voice sounds a little bit ironic – ed.).
Petar: Sure. Many nationalities! You know, if an African is walking down the street in our county, everybody will stare at him, as if he were an alien!
Casba: To some extent, we have Multicoolties ;-). But it is a kind of “internal Multicoolty”. You can meet a lot of people from neighbouring countries/the Balkan region, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Serbia etc., but other nationalities, reall foreigners for us, are seldom there.
We all read in the news about growing nationalism in the Balkans, would you say it is true?
Csaba: To a certain degree. In Croatia, as well as in Serbia, there is a strong national wave. Some people even insist on not understanding each other while speaking ;-). I don’t care what language you speak: Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian or Montenegrinian… I speak and understand all of them 😉
Petar: I have the same opinion. You can speak whatever language you wish, but don’t go too far… If a Serb tries to convince me that he does not understand a Croat or vice versa…It is a shame!
How integrated are you into the German society?
Petar: I have been here since about 2 months and it is too early to speak about my integration. I don’t feel integrated as of now. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t like things here. Some things just bother a bit…
I think, there is so much unnecessary bureaucracy in Germany! To apply for a University, I had to fill in a lot of papers…
Is there anything you don’t you like about Germany?
Csaba: The weather here is awful. Sometimes I think, I will never get used to it.
As for the Germans… They always do everything by the rule. They are a little bit rigid and not so flexible, as for example people in our country, but it is not so bad. I am used to it now.
Petar: I like Germany, but there are some things… For example, coffee is often served in a glass and not in a cup. I am serious! It is impossible to hold the glass while the coffee is still hot. After waiting for a while, the coffee will get cold, but you cannot enjoy it anymore ;-). In the Balkans, we have a different culture of drinking coffee, which is more elegant. And asparagus doesn’t taste here as good as back home in Croatia. It is too watery and just bland here.
Are you satisfied with your life in Berlin?
Petar: definitely yes. May be if I were in another place, Munich or Stuttgart, I would have different experiences. Berlin is actually a multicultural city, where I, as a foreigner, feel good and comfortable. Besides, you can meet other like-minded souls or people from your home country, who might help you with your integration process.
Csaba: I definitely don’t regret! I like Berlin – this wonderful city, which has become my second home!