Initially, I had the intention to write a follow up to a 3-year-old text called “Europe and me”. This new text would have been written under the title “Europe and me II”, because I felt it was time to do so. Three sentences in, I realized though that this short story will not only be about Europe and me, but about Europe and me and the world. It will be about the entire world, because Europe cannot be thought without the rest of the world. Just like this can Germany not be thought without Europe. Maybe we can imagine Germany without the EU, but it would need an institution just like it, a common structure to ensure the States of Europe their free and open lifestyle.
I grew up in Germany, but it was only in Poland that I felt like growing up, entering adulthood (from my current perspective I wouldn’t agree, but never mind). In Turkey I had first lectures in intercultural dialogue and interpersonal relation. “International relations” got a whole new meaning to me in dark basements underneath the old town of Krakow. All of us, a wild, chaotic, absolutely crazy group of young men and women with and without plans from all parts of Europe became masters of this discipline during long nights dedicated to the joy of life. My first boyfriend was a charming Irish man and I felt in love with his country just as much. Albeit without love, I cherished a sincere relationship with Ryanair whose standards from 2012 one cannot compare to the luxury of today. I followed my beloved ginger man to Japan. He loved the country, I didn’t and we continued our own exciting journeys. I was in Asia and that was fantastic, I felt in love with aspects of this new adventure and travelled around until responsibilities called me back to Germany. During all these weeks (14 in total) in Asia I never lost Europe out of sight, always watched careful and slightly worried from the corner of my eye. In Asia I felt – for the first time in my life – something like “pride” for my origin, my European origin, and my cultural heritage. I asked myself whether this European identity I am so proud of today will appear narrow-minded and antiquated to open-minded people of the future; just like I am confused by the construct of patriotic national pride.
Europe and the world are unavoidably connected, I only really understood that when living in Asia. Obviously I knew before that thanks to globalization and an increasing connectivity of world regions and metropoles all is interlocked with each other. But in Asia I not only discovered my own closeness to Europe, but also the role in the world we have or do not have, or could have if we wanted. I discussed on high roofs in muggy, stiffy nights European values night in night out about European values and met men who only tried to make me, because I am European, hence the embodiment of dominance and madness. That must have seemed very appealing.
In Asia I realized how different Europeans and Asians perceive each other. I realized how similar we are because we are people and how diverging because of our cultural socialization. I realized how much I missed Europe and how much I still wished to export aspects of the Asian culture and lifestyle to my home. Decades after widespread European colonization we Europeans still tend to see the world through our European eyes, with a distinctive euro-centric perspective and an arrogant attitude towards everything foreign.
But this attitude is not limited to other, developing, continents. I have, since I started to have a good look at it, always understood Europe as more than just the EU; also as more than just Western Europe. This also describes the limited perception we Western Europeans tend to have: We still divide the world, often subconsciously, with the Cold War borders. Maybe my memory fools me, but I cannot remember that I have ever excluded the East or even the Western East which actually counts more to the Centre of Europe when speaking and thinking about Europe. I am thankful to my parents for their cosmopolitan education (and maybe also their affinity to the East).
Over the last years I have thought much about Europe and the EU and I have tackled it more or less critically with many people. A big problem I have noticed for myself is an attitude which doesn’t allow many Europeans to look further than the tip of their own nose. They cry after the good old times of the 18th and 19th century when all was joy and happiness and the nation state was the hottest invention of all. All over Europe anti-European operations are argued with the own proud history, as if the right to national sovereignty would be an inevitable European privilege.
In Asia young people look with envy to Europe and our individualism. I agree that I like it more than social collectivism. But between strict partition and total harmonization lies much room for exciting opportunities and innovation.
The young people I have met from Europe and who sometimes became my best friends and sometimes infuriated me, have no problems to look beyond their horizons. That is a question of attitude, sometimes maybe also of the alcohol which is much cheaper in other countries. Borders blur easily if one is not eager to constantly reproduce them.
I really like Europe, there is nothing else to say. I also like Asia, but Europe is my home, here I feel good, here I want to stay. I also still think the EU is the model for the future of Europe. But I am not anymore a convinced EU-citizen as I am a convinced European. But that is not the fault of Europe, not the fault of a common union in general. It is the fault of national short-sightedness which definitely is not a European phenomenon, but a distinctive characteristic of people who are too scared of change and loss of power.