(© Gunter Klötzer)
Car Mechanic and Soccer Referee
Long Beach, CA
Born and raised in Singen
Portrait: July 13th, 2004
Where are you from originally, and how long have you been in the US?
I’m from Singen on the Hohentwiel, and have lived in Long Beach, California, since 1969.
What made you move to the US?
I was invited to Long Beach for professional reasons, and opened a business of my own there—a garage for car repairs, service and sales in 1974. Singen - Long Beach, CA (© Gunter Klötzer)
Is your German background important to you?
My German origin is very important to me, and has helped me a lot in my jobs, in business and soccer. I also still hold my German citizenship after thirty-five years in the USA.
What do you appreciate most about German society, and what don’t you like so much about it?
I appreciate the punctuality, diligence, and persistence as well as the cultural opportunities in Germany. What I don’t like so much is that my German friends, especially the ones living in Germany, aren’t as tolerant as Americans are.
What do you appreciate most about American society, and what don’t you like about it?
I appreciate the openness of Americans, which is sometimes a little too naïve, but is usually friendly and tolerant. I’ve never noticed any negative attitudes toward me. What I don’t like so much is that people here tend to live very high-paced lives, are sometimes rather superficial, and are too caught up in the rat race for the almighty dollar. The poor things are often up to their necks in debt.
What were your expectations when you first came to the US?
I counted on getting golden opportunities in California. Being a highly qualified and experienced master mechanic specializing in Mercedes, I used to kid people I was a "development aid worker" for Mercedes in my early years here. In the '60s and '70s there wasn’t much of a Mercedes service network in California. A lot of highly qualified German mechanics filled a gap with their garages.
Business was booming at the time, and still is (in 2004).
What defines the American Dream for you? Are you pursuing an American Dream of your own?
I’m no dreamer but, sure, the American Dream still exists. It’s very easy to open your own business. Dealing with bureaucracy is a cinch compared to Germany. You go to your city hall, and one hour later and about $500 poorer, you’re a licensed businessman, and you only need to renew your license once a year. If you don’t do a good job, you’re broke in less than a year. A driver’s license costs you about $25 and a photograph, and you’re done within two hours.
What changes have you noticed since 9/11?
People are still shocked, and have gotten more nationalistic and critical, and they show less tolerance toward Muslims.
What influence does Germany have on the US?
To my mind, Germany’s influence on America is enormous. Americans have great respect for Germany, a virtue we would do well to learn. German products and German workmanship are still very popular even though German quality isn’t what it used to be.
What influence does the US have on Germany?
I believe America has a huge influence on Germany. During the last thirty years, many English expressions, slogans, and American manners have crept into Germany. On the business level, a lot has been adopted from the Americans. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out the same way as far as tolerance is concerned, especially on German roads.
Would you consider going back to Germany for good? If so, why?
I’ll probably keep on going back to Germany every now and then, for a few weeks or even months. But my children and grandchildren live here in California, and it’s very beautiful here, after all. And we still need German "development aid workers" here in the States.