Monday, 18 October 2010

Chancellor's East German Habits

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who spent her first 35 years in communist East Germany, where people often queued for food, has admitted that the fear of running short of consumer goods continues to haunt her 20 years after unification.

In an interview with the magazine SUPERillu, "founded in East Germany and continues to focus on issues affecting former East Germans" (Connolly, 2010), the German chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that she cannot break her East German habit, where she lived for the first 35 years of her life: "I still buy something as soon as I see it, even when I don't really need it. It's a deep-seated habit stemming from the fact that in an economy where things were scarce you just used to get what you could when you could" (Merkel, in Connolly, 2010).

Her diet continues to be eastern European, claimed the chancellor, "I'm particularly fond of solyanka (a meat and pickled vegetable soup), letcho (a Hungarian vegetable stew) and shashlik (a spicy kebab)," she said. She "has only just got used to the western word supermarket, preferring instead the East German term kaufhalle – literally buying hall" and still uses an East German brand of washing up liquid (Connolly, 2010)
"It took until the 15th or 16th year after German unification before the word supermarkt was able to pass my lips more easily" (Merkel, in Connolly, 2010)
"Merkel's candid remarks reflect just how strongly the planned economy of the GDR shaped the lives of its citizens and how hard many have found adjusting to life in a reunited country which bears little resemblance to their old lives... Merkel described reunification as being "all-in-all positive", but said the experience had been alienating for many. 'We saw the unravelling of everyday life as we knew it – from the world of consumption, through to bureaucracy and the labour market. Adjusting to all of that since 1990 amounts to an unbelievable achievement by East Germans.'" (Connolly, 2010)
Connolly, K. (2010) Angela Merkel reveals her East German food stockpiling habit. [Online] [28/09/2010]

SUPERillu (2010) Kanzlerin zieht Persönliche Bilanz der Einheit: Merkels langer Abschied von der »Kaufhalle«. [Online] [18/10/2010]
Wolff, J. & Baller, D. (2010) Angela Merkel im Exklusiv-Interview: »Eines Tages spricht man mehr von Nord und Süd als von Ost und West«. [Online] [18/10/2010]