Once upon a time there was a young Polish-Canadian girl who fell in love with a fellow from Germany. Or at least one living there. Despite all of her adventurous travels she’s done so far on her own, falling in love for a – sort of – German unravels itself to be her biggest task yet. But let me go back a little further. Agnieszka is a courageous woman who left everything behind – family, friends, work – for the unknown.
“Finding romance, adventure, yourself.”
For the adventure. She wanted to start anew. Not just live, but be alive and vibrant. Go to Italy and find herself drinking wine, enjoying the romantic assets of the Southern European lifestyle. Go to Poland to get back to her roots. Being out there, meeting lots of new friends, having fun. So she took off for Eastern Europe and eventually met the One. At that time, she was least expecting it. But falling in love moves mountains, changes lives. We all know that. So it comes as no surprise that the protagonist is giving love a try to bloom in moving to Germany with M. M. is the One – the constant in her everyday struggle to fit in where she never dreamt of going. He’s her anchor, her oasis of tranquility. Germany was never on her list. But then again: Most adventures come as an unexpected surprise. So comes living here.
I got this book as a review copy, which in no ways influences my subjective opinion on it. I – as a German who lived in the US for a few months due to work – found ‘Doing Germany’ enlightening and a fun read. I know about the struggles to blend in in a country that is so very different from your homeland. I know about the stereotypes that go with it – some of them you find to be true, others to be altered. I also have a family member who got married to a North American, so I’m sort of familiar with the tasks Agnieszka found herself faced with – just vice versa. Seeing her way of coming to Germany, getting to know our country was interesting. At some points it made me shrug and shake my head. For instance: She did not learn German. She gave it a short try, but that was it. German is a very tough language – I know. But that makes it even more important to learn it – to get along, to understand everything and to better connect with the people her. She also didn’t go out that much in her first two years here. She had some issues with her ligament though – but eventually you have to get out and explore your surroundings if you want to feel at home someplace else. If you want to feel you could belong. That’s not just her fault. M. was working much because she didn’t have a job here in the beginning. But with working much and coming home very late, it makes it hard helping a loved one to settle in. Only going out every once in a while, in the evening, is not enough to come to terms with a new place.
But other than these two points, it was a very nice and light-hearted read. You feel vibrancy and life in every word. She was trying the best she could. It just was very hard for her in the beginning. Reading her story on how she finally comes to fall in love with Germany – and she will! – was like a first impressions on our country and step by step solving the puzzle on the ever present struggle to settle in a foreign land. Of course in doing so, she was faced with many challenges (different language, unique food choices, huge expectations that turn into chastening findings, but also great surprises). And she took the reader with her while meeting those challenges. Reading the novel – or modern memoire, if you wish – was like talking to her. Letting her tell you her story, just the way she feels it. That was refreshing, different, entertaining and despite some minor spelling and grammar issues a very welcoming change. She has had good days – on which she found love in the very details of Germany, she has had bad days when she was missing her travel time and Canada. On those days she compared good old G to Italy – which she glorified in her memories. That’s understandable, but it was very hard for Germany to compete. But the more she gets to know our country, the less she compares it to another. Throughout the book you can watch her grow, widen her horizons and wage more.
Over all I can say that I enjoyed reading ‘Doing Germany’. It was fun learning about a woman who wants to pursue adventure, travel and live her restless spirit. It makes me want to travel more too. It creates wanderlust – you just have to be open-minded to read it, to forget about all the stereotypes you might have about a stranger coming to Germany and becoming a bit of a German herself. The author’s style of writing is easy, a little sharp, sarcastic every once in a while, but funny to the core. Her way of communicating with her loved one is mirrored in a snappy but also lovely tone – depending on the struggles she’s currently facing.
“At that, I did what any real lady would do. I showed him my tongue.”
It’s a page turning modern memoire – something like reading a very personal, but enlightening blog – about an immigrant that finds herself – because that is what the book is about: finding herself, finding a home – in a very unexpected place. It’s bitter and slightly frustrating, but also welcoming and joyful – the whole roller coaster ride of emotions, what you would expect to happen when you leave a life behind to make a new one. Exciting, thrilling and adventurous. I was curious to see how she came to know Germany, what her individual experiences were. There’s just one small criticism I need to put here: The book is mainly centered on Germany – that’s what you expect from its title at least – so it was a little too much of Italy in it for me. But maybe that changes with volume two.
To get you hooked:
· Will she learn German?
· What struggles will she find herself faced with in the novel and how will these impact on her relationship with M.?
· Will she find what she’s been looking for with M.? (a.k.a. a home?)
They say: Home is where the heart is. And the book holds one giant surprise to make your heart belong to Germany – at least a bit and forever.
Go read and find it out yourself. ‘Doing Germany’ is a very entertaining and fun read – if you view it with an open-minded heart.
Recommend reading it – esp. when you find yourself settling for the unknown too.
Yours, Jil Aimée