When I travel to foreign continents and get asked where I am from, my answer is often: “I am from Europe”. I never really thought about what this means until the Brexit vote. It’s not that I don’t want to say that I am from Germany (because whoever asks is probably going to demand a more precise answer anyway and I will give it). It’s not a lack of national pride; it’s more a sense of international unity within my own continent. I am happy to be German, but I am proud to be from Europe. Being born and raised in an isolated country like the GDR, the sense of freedom after the reunification was amazing.
I grew into an adult benefiting from the bond that the European countries had formed with one another after being in conflict for centuries. For me this became the status quo. I could travel, study, live and work in all of the other countries without problems, which many of my class mates actually did, going to France or the UK after school. When many of the countries even started to share one currency it became even more united. Going to Madrid or to Rome over the weekend to visit friends or just have a good time, this no longer felt like taking a vacation in a foreign country. It felt like something else…
When I moved to Berlin in 2000 it almost felt like more than moving to another German city. Here, the European nations came together in one place, speaking different languages, cooking other food and bringing a lot of other cultural elements from their homes to the table. Living in Berlin felt like living in Europe. And I loved it, I still do. There is this freedom and this unity that makes borders feel invisible – we might have taken it for granted for too long. We are free to follow our hearts, our creativity, our careers, and we don’t have to worry if we’re gonna get in or get rejected. This really is a privilege.
I am proud to come from a place with amazing German cars, with delicious Italian food, with awesome Swedish fashion, beautiful Spanish men and a hilarious British sense of humor. This diversity is what makes Europe so amazing: how we combine our best parts into something amazing and how we support each other in our weaknesses. We need to cherish this togetherness because this is an accomplishment that took so much time and so much strength to create, and we should not let anyone take this away from us ever again.