My name is Julia Henriette Bräuer. I’m born and raised in Germany. However, I moved to France right after leaving my parents’ house six years ago and some of my French friends tell me I have become French. For example, my eating habits have changed. I eat much slower now, I’m taking delight in cheese and wine – which by the way was totally new for me 🙂 – I enjoy visiting grocery stores much more now… And I do notice how different the dinners in France and Germany are. At home in Berlin we’re done with eating pretty quickly, whereas in France even the conversation at the table is very different. In France you also talk a lot about food: what did you cook, how did you prepare it, how long did it take, and so forth. 😀
But in some things I’m still totally German. For example, punctuality. 🙂
How would you then describe yourself?
I’m a German who’s heart is deeply rooted in France. I couldn’t imagine anymore only living in Germany. Part of my identity is by now definitely rooted in France.
What strikes you as odd now when you visit Germany?
What the French always find very interesting in Germany is the “arithmetic” in waste separation, with all the different colours and bins and separation methods and, of course, the Pfand! (deposit bottles – ed.)
What do you miss from Germany or Berlin while living abroad?
I’d say that in Berlin you can have a much higher standard of living with much less income. The prices in Paris have surged in the recent years.
And vice versa: what do you miss from France or Paris?
I miss the large variety of culture and events. In Paris, you can always find a new exhibition to go to, there a two of the most outstanding opera houses in the world, the Opera Garnier and Opera Bastille, or you just enjoy a little concert in a bar in the Bastille Quartier. I also miss the wonderful 19th century architecture of the Hausman buildings, the wroght iron balconies and the lovely facades of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. And finally, I simply miss the “Parisian feeling”, when you walk for example home from work, over Pont Alexandre III and you see the sun setting over the Seine and the whole city, up to Notre Dame and the Louvre, is in a special light.
These small things already can make you incredibly happy!
Of course, I also miss the good French wine. It is rather hard to find the same variety anywhere else!
Where did your interest in France come from?
My family went never to France and I didn’t even learn French at school. But after high school I felt that I wanted to go to France in order to finally learn Moliere’s language. I worked a year as an au pair in Paris and then I enrolled in a Franco-German course of political studies. That’s where I found the love for France. Later I got involved in the Franco-German Youth Office (Office franco-allemand pour la Jeunesse).
As ‘young ambassador’ I went a lot to different French schools explaining to the students why it’s worth to learn German and how Germany is more than cars, sausages and Angela Merkel. 😀
What does this Franco-German engagement mean to you?
For our generation it’s normal that the French and Germans cooperate. But you have to remember that 1963, when the Élysée Treaty, the Franco-German friendship treaty was signed, was not so long ago… Imagine, the friendship between these two countries is only a bit over 50 years old and before that these two countries were enemies. Our grand parents fought against each other and laid in trenches in World War II. There are still many differences between France and Germany, but despite these differences these two countries are the engine of Europe.
When Germany and France would not cooperate, then there would be no European Union.
However, when the two countries do cooperate, then our differences are even complimentary and lead to progress. I think many people forget how important this is. Franco-German friendship is too often taken for granted, forgetting how difficult this path has been. Younger generations should be more aware of how important these good relations are. I hope I can encourage more young people to engage themselves in contributing to a functioning French-German relationship.