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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

German blogger series: expatriates in America and Germany (II)

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 4th, 2003

Konstantin Klein: WorldWideKlein

Mr. Klein, originally from Munich and Berlin, has been in the United States since 1996. He lives in Arlington, Virgina and does freelance work for the Deutsche Welle German television service. Like Andreas Schaefer (profiled earlier), Klein is also leaving the States soon to return to Germany, in Klein’s case to rejoin his family and make a career move “from the writing end of a desk to the technical side, where all the plugs and cables are.”

Klein has raised a child here, and has grown accustomed to and even fond of his time in America:

I feel very much at home here. […] Do I live abroad now – or will I in half a year from now? […]

[A]fter seven years in the DC area I actually have the feeling to have lost the touch with Germany. So my return will be to a (sort of) foreign country – definitely different from the one I left in 1996, anyway. Which makes the move interesting, again.

Like Schaefer, Klein hopes to return someday. In his correspondence with me, Klein saw effects of his long stay in America on his writing and perspective:

I’ve started dreaming in English, thinking in English, writing in English – and that hasn’t improved my German at all. Fortunately, I used a proprietary style when writing even before I came here, so I still can claim my mistakes in German are in fact just creative writing. As for the issues: I think every expatriate can confirm that it actually helps to watch one’s own country from outside for a while. It puts things into perspective, opens one’s eyes for different views and in general provides more openness. Very recommendable!

Klein has been radical in putting an old blog down when he starts a new one, so “WorldWideKlein” will probably not survive the move, even in archive form — Konstantin retired his prior “nothingbutthetruth.de” blog and allowed the domain to lapse.

That seems a shame to me; part of what can set apart a blog is being able to trace changes in a person’s writing and thinking over time. (That may be Klein’s point, too, come to think of it.) At any rate, current entries in Klein’s “WorldWideKlein” blog concerned with the contrast between German and American cultures are under the heading “Culture Shock“:

Italianization: I know lots of Germans, who are firmly convinced they have a sound, well worked-out opinion about the USA. I know no one who would claim he had a sound opinion about, say, Italy. […] “The German” (if there is such a thing) would be understanding (or not), amused, shocked — whatever. But: he would hardly claim he had a sound opinion. Why is it different for the USA?

— Good question.

Family life: … a report in the local newspaper about the life of the Peters family of Arlington, VA. Dad, mom, two kids each from first marriages, nine TVs, nine telephones, six VCRs, six cell phones, three stereos, three MP3 players, two DVD players, an Xbox and a Nintendo gaming system, there are four shiny new PCs for the children and two older laptops for the adults, the digital household. Family life happens mainly during 35 minutes of supper, before and after that the dear little ones can be found in front of their respective computers.

Thesis: This family life works so well, because they never see eachother.

So that’s how my neighbors live. And? Am I surprised?

— Not a bit.

Other entries under the heading “USA: PoliticsRUS” can also sometimes reflect a specifically German take on American politics — or how some of it’s rubbed off:

Eat this, Homeland Security!: [CNN graphic showing that hijack warnings would not make about 80% of Americans change their travel plans] That’s why I love my chosen countrymen.

Thinking differently: … It’s a lot of fun to disentangle whether, when, where, how often and with what intent Bush and Blair distorted the truth. It’s so much fun that it will fill our news just as long as the next elections in the USA and the United King Kong.

Whatever: then I’m just the only one who’s interested instead how the Bush and Blair governments will convince their citizens to support the next project. The critical questions might just be asked in advance next time.

Look for “seismicorange.net” or “.de” to replace “worldwideklein.com” sometime this fall. Klein tells me he may move to longer, less frequent items; short or long, I look forward to reading them.

=====

TRANSLATION NOTES: sound, well worked-out: fundiert.

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