When I walked into the party, I immediately noticed her. A leopard print tattoo on her arm matched her skirt, and her piercings were far more numerous than mine. She had all the signs of a German hipster, which is a bit like an American hipster, but with a few extra spoonfuls of metal thrown in. I was fascinated by her look, and I wanted to know more, so I said “hi”.
This 20-something women, whose every pore screamed “I AM DIFFERENT”, bore the classic name of Sarah and came to Nuremberg from a town of only 250 people. This town didn’t have a bar, or a disco. It didn’t even have a store. The people of her hometown had to drive to the next town to get bread, although she admitted that most of them just made it themselves.
That this now-city-dwelling, tattooed, California-loving, young women would have escaped from a tiny town is not really that surprising. The real surprise was when she freely and without any irony, admitted that when she got married she would return to her town to have and raise her children. There were so many unexpected things about this statement of hers; I didn’t know where to begin with my many questions.
I was of course surprised that someone so young and ostensibly “different” already planned to be married with kids in the next five to seven years. That part of the plan seemed a bit more average than I had expected from her. Yet, it was the fact that, even with all her tattoos, her dyed hair and piercings, Sarah still wanted to return to a town that didn’t even contain a grocery store that truly shocked me.
Yet this is the contradiction that is Germany at its heart. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, you always belong at home eventually. A hometown isn’t just a place you once lived for most Germans. It is the place that defines you, that holds your past and your future.
Even the most alternative person on the street is expected to return to a tiny town and raise children in a house down the street from where they grew up. The American sense of home can be transported from Miami to Chicago, but for Germans, home is forever fixed in one place. Home isn’t just where the heart is in Germany; home is where you belong, yesterday, today, and always.