It Was Twenty Years Ago Today01 Sep 2010
On this day in 1990 we arrived in Germany, with all the suitcases we could carry plus 3 cats, the rest of our belongings in a half-container on a slow boat, for what we thought would be a 3 to 5 year stint. Saddam had just invaded Kuwait, Germany had just won the World Cup, and we still didn't know who had killed Laura Palmer. Germany was still in two pieces, but the marriage papers had just been signed the day before and the party would be in a month.
Coming to Germany was an impulse decision, and it was better to be lucky than good. We were in the right place at the right time, reunified Germany was where the action was. Change was happening before our eyes and history was being made at our feet. We had left the US during that decade's banking crisis and the beginning of a war. The US was slow and broken down; Germany was exciting.
We landed first in a run-down top-floor apartment in Kiel with a 4 month lease. We thought we'd be heading to Berlin, but it became clear we'd be staying in Hamburg. Housing was tight, the whole country was on the move, and 50 people would show up for an apartment showing. I think in the end someone pulled a string for us, and we moved into a 3 room apartment in Barmbek just as the slow boat with our belongings pulled up.
My introduction to German life was total immersion. There was no internet, and I knew no other expats. I was naive and optimistic enough to believe that my American degree and determination would be enough to get a job. In the end it worked, but it took 3 years.
I wonder sometimes if today, we were 20 years younger and the same opportunity came up again, we would make the same decision. Times have changed. I somehow doubt it.