Last friday afternoon on the way home from flat hunting, I ran into my old friend and Rudi-Leni neighbor, Kazuya, a handsome Japanese fellow and longtime expat.
He and I share a cultural frustration. We both speak German fluently, but still with some degree of an accent. I would say his foreign accent a good bit stronger than mine, seeing as his native tongue is much more distant to German than that of mine. Nonetheless, his vocab and understanding is just as good as mine. Anyway, it happens occasionally that when dealing with strangers, they will just switch to English. Me, I get pissed when this happens, because I jump to the conclusion that I am being patronized. For him, he finds it hilarious, because like many Japanese, he doesn’t speak any English at all.
He does however speak Spanish very well. This because he lived a few years in Mexico before coming to Germany. He also has two cute little girls from an earlier relationship with a German woman. They look Japanese as the day is long, but speak Saxon like native speakers, which they in fact, are.
He tells me that he visited Japan this year, and that was the very first time in twelve years. I can only guess what a culture shock that was. I certainly get one everytime I visit the ever-expanding parking lot I call home. And even after a long stretch in France, returning to Germany is a culture shock enough.
We walked along Kamenzerstr while catching up and I commented on the new Netto supermarket on the street. I was glad it had opened because it would be just round the corner from my new place. And the buildings look majorly renovated, I can’t even remember how they used to look, I said.
–Because they weren’t there, he said. It used to be a sandy vacant lot. Then I remembered the Big Fight. It had been vacant since the end of WWII, the houses standing there destroyed by stray bombs. Then, a few years back, people were saying “let’s put in a parking garage”. Others went, how about “no”. How about a park? A playground? An outdoor stage, a beergarten, even.
People got involved. I recall seeing the picture of an exgirlfriend in a magazine, one of the ringleaders of the resistance. They was even a backlash movement, one to make the entire Outer Neustadt into a pedestrian zone.
It was a valiant fight, but in the end they built a Netto. And, says Kazuya, all the people who protested go shopping there now. I guess I will too.