Janina emigrated to the USA because of love. “I’ve always wanted to leave,” she says. Despite this, being in the United States made her realize what it means to be a stranger. “Here I am a migrant,” says the German.

A penthouse on the fifth floor in Washington D.C.: the Pentagon in front of the window, a huge mall behind the house. American idyll. A clean apartment, photos of a happy couple on the wall, a big TV, the silvery taste of an air-conditioned apartment.

“Sparkling or still,” asks Janina. Carbonated water is rather uncommon in the US. Only Europeans drink sparkling water. Janina emigrated to the USA. for love Not for the country, not the chance to go from rags to riches, but just for her husband.

They met on the beach in Spain, love at first sight. “He was sitting there with friends and I knew immediately: I want him.” He, the soldier, she, the student. “Actually, he should remain stationed in Germany,” she says. “But now he’s been brought to the United States and is now working at the Pentagon.”

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Her husband is not a simple soldier who fights in wars and wants to distribute democratic values ​​on this planet. He’s an office worker, reviews job applications. She works in a German-speaking company and takes care of marketing.

“I’ve always wanted to leave,” she says. The USA would not have been her first choice now, but the main thing is to get out of Germany. Janina always liked being on the move, it was a driving force in her life. Study abroad, travel around the world.

The foreign was often closer to her than home. She talks about it without feeling bad, it wasn’t an escape from Germany, rather: The world out there is so exciting. Actually, she thought, she would go abroad for work, but not for love.

“Of course, that’s also a risk,” she admits. To follow a man, to fit into his life. “But if it doesn’t work out, then I’ll just go back to Germany.”

Much more important than this, well, learned self-confidence in love, is another insight that Janina gained in the USA. “Here I am a migrant,” she says. In her voice no disparagement, no criticism, simply: a fact. The biggest difficulty in emigrating is fitting in.

“In Germany there was always this debate that you shouldn’t ask where someone is really from,” she says. So the situation that many children of migrant parents in Germany have to deal with. The parents from Vietnam, Turkey or Angola, but the children from Leipzig, Berlin or Gera. Still, the question remains: “Where are you really from?”

Janina used to think this was a silly discussion, but the question was perfectly legitimate. Now she knows: That’s not the case. This question hurts. You are reduced to where you come from. Even if she knows that her perspective on this poisoned question is a privileged one.

“The Americans know straight away that I’m not one of them, even though I speak English with almost no accent.” The question of where she is from, what it’s like to live as a German in the USA keeps coming up. “In the beginning I found it very interesting, but now it hurts me.” She is always just the German, never just a party guest or conversation partner. The origin as an invisible barrier.

Thilo Mischke was born in Berlin in 1981. He works as a journalist, author and TV presenter. He has received numerous awards for his journalistic work, for example he won a Bavarian television award in 2020 and was named “Journalist of the Year” in the “National Reportage” category.

You would get used to it, but you would always be reminded of being a stranger in your new home. “But the most difficult thing about America is this huge gap between rich and poor,” she says. It would miss the social justice that is often confused here with socialism.

Despite everything, she is happy in this country. “But just because of love,” she says. And even if she doesn’t hope so, her stay in this country, her new home, is tied to the duration of this love. “So far it looks like I’ll stay a little longer,” she says, pouring more sparkling water.