When I first arrived in Germany, I was just a kid, really. Twenty years old, arrogant as fuck, I wasn't particularly patriotic by British, or English, standards, but I still thought England was the best country in the world, like, objectively. That was just a thing I thought.
"The reason the English are so unpopular in Europe," an Irish boy I was snogging at SO36 told me, "is because you're so arrogant. And you think you're the best country in the world."
I wrinkled my forehead in indifferent confusion.
"Yeah," I said, "and also because people are jealous because we are, quite blatantly, the best country in the world."
"I can't believe you actually think that," he said.
"Shall we go back to snogging?" I suggested politely. And we did.
So you know something? My changing attitude towards England being the best country in the world in particular and national pride as a concept in general is one way I measure my integration into German society. It's like that remoulade sauce. I fucking love remoulade sauce now. I don't know when it happened, but the other day, I suddenly realized I really liked it. And I thought to myself: "Fucking HELL! This is it. You're German now, Jacinta."
Back in 2006, during all that Sommermärchen hype, I bought my son, Rico, a cheapo German football shirt from H&M. It was dirt cheap – €4, maybe €5. I showed it to my friend, another single mum, a girl from Dresden, who lived in my apartment building.
"You're gonna let him wear a Germany shirt?" she gasped at me, horrified. "People will think you're a right pleb! I'd never let my boy be seen dead in one of those!"
I thought she was mad, I really did. I thought she was fucking mental. And in 2010, when a leftie friend of mine told me, in all seriousness, that he was suffering from depression because of all the flag-flying going on, I told him to go to the Hausarzt and get an Überweisungsschein for a shrink and get himself prescribed a lot – a LOT – a lot in an American accent – à la hart – of Prozac.
And this year? This year was the first year I ever felt it: what those sensitive leftie German souls feel, when they see the German flag flying. Well, only a little bit. Basically I think football is football, it's a kind of war without the blood, so we're allowed to wave our silly flags about. Well, we kind of have to. Basically I think it's Vergangenheitsbewältigung or like a Familienaufstellung only instead of families we're doing it with nations. So basically, I think it's okay. Because we're just working through all this collective trauma. We're like a load of kids abusing a little doll. We're just pretending. It's okay. But this year was the first time I ever felt, looking at the German flags flapping around in the air, a kind of disquiet. I looked at the flag and I thought: "What's that feeling you're feeling?" And then I thought: "Oh, it's disquiet." And THEN I thought: "Oh, fucking hell, you're really fucking German now, Jacinta."
I remember something my leftie German mate said to me last World Cup. We met at a dinner party in Neukölln, and he was a bit melancholy and subdued. He said that you couldn't feel pride in your nation, because you couldn't feel pride in something someone else had done, that it was a meaningless emotion, that he could only feel pride in his own achievements, that what the German football team had achieved had nothing to do with him. Now, I expect, if you're German, this isn't exactly original thinking, but for me, even after 10 long years in this country, he pretty much blew my mind apart.
"But what about Wal-Mart?" I asked him.
"What about it?" He asked.
"Well, you know. Wal-Mart Germany are the only Wal-Marts in the world where they don't have that silly bloke at the front greeting the customers. It scared the German customers away. They stopped doing it. They had to stop doing it. Doesn't that make you proud? It makes me feel so proud."
"Yeah? Even though you're not German?"
"Yeah. You know Coca-Cola tried to sell canned tap water once? In Britain. It had been filtered and everything, and they'd added some vitamins in and that, but it was essentially tap water in a can. It had worked in America. But it didn't work in Britain. They had to discontinue it. I felt so proud. It made me feel proud. Doesn't it make you feel proud? About the Wal-Marts? They had to send those silly door-greeter-people home. Doesn't it make you feel proud to be German?"
He grinned at me then.
"It doesn't make me feel proud," he said. "But it does make me feel happy."
"Yeah," I said. "And happiness is a good emotion, too."
"Yeah," he agreed. "It's always been one of my favourites."
See Jacinta reading live at Ä on Thursday night, as part of her Lesebühne Rakete 2000. The theme is tap water and the star guest is Uli Hannemann. For more info, go to: http://rakete2000.blogspot.de