My name is Andrea Masini: it sounds very Italian and, indeed, I am Italian! Since September 2012 I have been living in Belgium, where I’m working as a researcher at the University of Antwerp. Right now I’m doing a five-month internship at the European Commission, a dream come true. It is amazing to share the office with colleagues from France, Poland, Estonia, the UK (but for how long?), Slovakia, Spain… and Germany.
Oh, Germany! My ‘special relationship’ with the country of Goethe, Fuβball and Bratwurst started many years ago… in Italy! From 2006 until 2012 I was working in a beautiful campsite next to Venice, which is mostly visited by Germans, starting from Pfingsten until mid-September. When I started working at the ‘Europa Camping Village’, my knowledge of the German language and culture was rather limited. Although I had studied German for five years at school, I couldn’t really communicate with people.
On the very first day of work, when an old German lady asked the innocent question “Wo ist die Briefkaste?”, I panicked, and I pointed my finger to an undefined direction. Probably, that postcard never made it to Germany.
But after a couple of months, my German improved dramatically. I became very proficient with all of the campsite-related vocabulary, mastering elaborated concepts like Stellplatz, Wohnwagen, Anhänger and Ameisenpulver (very much needed if you have a tent). After a while, I could quickly react to requests for ‘Münzen für die Waschmaschine’, and for the ‘Trockner‘ as well.
Also, I was very happy to pick up phone calls from numbers starting with +49. In 90 per cent of the cases, they would start with: “Ich hätte gerne eine Frage, und zwar,” followed by a request to reserve a place for a camper in the area where dogs are allowed. However, I wasn’t aware of a small detail: the campsite was mostly visited by Bavarians. After the tenth time I had said “Passt schon!”, a nice man from Fulda told me that what I was talking was actually Bavarian! That’s why I started engaging with Hochdeutsch, watching programs on ZDF (among my favourites, all the crime thrillers, so-called SOKOs – especially SOKO Köln, Leipzig and Stuttgart), and trying to read some books.
I was basically becoming German, and I started wondering about a future in Germany, riding a BMW in the streets of Passau with my German wife, showing people my brand new German Reisepass.
I was even planning to add an ‘s’ at the end of my name, so that people would stop asking me why I have a female name. But my process of ‘Germanisation’ didn’t become complete. On a warm June night, Italy was playing against Germany in the semi-final of the World Cup of football. When Fabio Grosso scored the victory goal for Italy, two minutes before the end, I exploded with a spontaneous joy that reminded me of my Italian soul. Es tut mir Leid, Deutschland. I will keep on being Italian, but I like you very much. 😉