On March 22, 2016, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Germany to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Dr. Hans Carl von Werthern. We were also welcomed and joined by the Second Secretary (Cultural Affairs), Ms. Andrea Finken, and the Attaché (Cultural Affairs and Public Relations), Mr. Djamel Touré.
Germany-Japan Relations (By Madoka)
When we expressed our thanks towards the amicable relations between Germany and Japan, H.E. Dr. von Werthern commented that he “thank[s] Japan equally”. H.E. Dr. von Werthern mentioned that Germany and Japan are very close friends, not only in the aspect of culture but also in science and technology. He believes that although Germany and Japan have different opinions in some fields, such as in the use of nuclear energy and the stance of accepting foreign immigrants, both countries are open-minded without the belief that either country has “the solution that benefits all”. H.E. Dr. von Werthern explained that the ability to understand and discuss with each other as friends and to learn from each other in various fields is the most important aspect of amicability between two countries.
H.E. Dr. von Werthern wishes that more German students visit Japan, and vice versa. He mentioned that German and Japanese students are similar in a sense that both are eager to “produce good results”, and are “focused” on their studies. Yet he also mentioned that German education focuses more on discussions, as it encourages the exploration of different points of view. His message towards Japanese students is to spend more time abroad. “Every person must find their own way”, he explained, “Learn foreign languages. See other countries. Know other people, [and] mentalities.” Traveling outside one’s home country allows for a very fulfilled and unique adventure that cannot be experienced otherwise. H.E. Dr. von Werthern therefore encourages all students to travel and “see what the world outside looks like”.
H.E. Dr. von Werthern commented that as “democratic and wealthy” developed nations, both Germany and Japan have “a special responsibility” in contributing to solve global issues. He explained, “[Countries must make] enormous joint efforts to solve conflicts in a peaceful way… [and] strive for economic prosperity all over the world.” Germany is currently involved in numerous partnerships, organizations, and fora that are working towards solving such problems, such as the G7, G20, and United Nations. Howbeit, H.E. Dr. von Werthern commented that it is still “hard work”, and that we must increase cooperation as “no country can do it by themselves.”
Ambassador’s Goals and Passions (By Madoka)
H.E. Dr. von Werthern holds great devotion and keenness to his job, and his position in Japan. When commenting on his passions of being the Ambassador of Germany to Japan, H.E. Dr. von Werthern explained to us, “I don’t think anything better could have happened to me”. H.E. Dr. von Werthern has worked in Japan multiple times before in the past, but it is his 1st posting in Japan as the position of an Ambassador. He said that it is the “best job [he] has ever had, and that it is the “fulfillment of the dream [he] never dared to dream”.
H.E. Dr. von Werthern explained to us that his goal as an Ambassador is to undergo “tasks that represent German interests” and to “promote cooperation between the two countries [of Germany and Japan] in all fields”. He wishes to explain Japan to his own government, and to build friendships and exchanges between the people. H.E. Dr. von Werthern also mentioned to us that his his personal goal is to “understand Japan better and better”. He aspires to continue learning the Japanese language, and to travel in Japan.
H.E. Dr. von Werthern commented that he was most taken aback by the efficiency in Japan when he first arrived in the country. He said that Japan is the “only metropolis [he] know[s] with clean air, no traffic jams, and punctual transportation”. Another surprise he had was regarding the Japanese cherry blossoms (sakura). He had never understood the overwhelming attachment Japanese people had with the cherry blossoms until he saw the flowers in full bloom. The understanding of the beauty of sakura trees had been a formidable and enchanting surprise for him.
Globalization (By Madoka)
When asked to share his views on globalization, H.E. Dr. von Werthern passionately exclaimed that he could spend three to four hours talking about the topic. H.E. Dr. von Werthern described globalization as being “a phenomenon that is happening whether you like it or not”. H.E. Dr. von Werthern observed that both in Germany and Japan, there have been discussions in which people express their feelings of wanting to “fend off” and “put up barriers” against globalization. Yet he believes that because the impact of globalization is unpreventable, it is more important to find strategies to cope with the consequences.
Consequences of globalization can be both beneficial or disadvantageous. H.E. Dr. von Werthern mentioned that national policies concerning globalization should help minimize the detrimental effects of globalization. He commented that he sees “a lot of potential” for German-Japanese cooperation.
World Peace and Resolutions (By Madoka)
According to H.E. Dr. von Werthern, the first step to world peace is “to make young people know about each other”. He mentioned Germany and France as an example. “We were arch enemies before, but now, we are closest friends between two sovereign states,” he stated. H.E. Dr. von Werthern commented that the key to their amicable relations was to make friends from the opposing country. He mentioned that the reason why the two nations were able to become friendly to each other was because at a young age, many German students had visited France for homestay and vice versa. “Once you’re friends, you can never hate on them. I feel that educational exchange is an important proposition for peace,” he added.
Although he believes that not many global issues will be resolved by the year 2020, H.E. Dr. von Werthern is confident that the global situation will be more organized by then. Even if some conflicts do not yet learn to diminish, he predicts that there will be some sort of “conflict resolution mechanism” that will take place.
H.E. Dr. von Werthern stated his hope for Germany, together with other nations, in contributing to such a goal.
Nature (By Madoka)
Ms. Finken introduced to us the varying landscapes of Germany. Firstly, Germany borders the North Sea in the North where the waters are shallow. Ms. Finken explained to us that the tide can “go out for kilometers” which allows for a “unique ecosystem”. In the South, Germany has the Alps mountain ranges, which is home another very different ecosystem. Ms. Finken commented that the natural features of Germany reflect how diverse the different parts of Germany are.
Tourist Attractions (By Madoka)
Ms. Finken explained to us that due to the diverse characteristics of the regions in Germany, tourists visit various different places depending on what you’re looking for. She mentioned that a very popular tourist attraction in Germany is the castles. “They are an important element of history and culture”, she commented. Germany works hard to preserve such historical sites. Ms. Finken also mentioned Berlin as a “very vibrant city” and exciting tourist attraction. She remarked her appreciation for the “modern architecture” and “interesting history” of Berlin. She then also introduced to us the natural landscapes in the South, another one of her recommended tourist areas.
Furthermore, Ms. Finken noted that her personal favorite spot in Germany is Aachen. She strongly recommends visiting the cathedral, which is older than year 800, with a gold “spectacular” interior, with a shape she describes as being similar to that of a church in Istanbul.
Mr. Touré introduced to us his personal favorite tourist destination in Germany: Heidelberg. Heidelberg is known for its historic city centre. He commented that Frankfurt am Main is “the only city [in Germany] that has a skyline”, which he found “quite interesting and unique.” Mr. Touré is also very fond of Munich, which he describes as a “wonderful” city, full of “history” and “colorful festivals”. According to Mr. Touré, Munich is the perfect place for an amiable walk and picnic, where one can cherish the gardens and architecture.
In the winter time, Mr. Touré recommends tourists to “go to Christmas markets in Nuremburg”. According to Mr. Touré, the medieval city hosts the “most extravagant” and “recognized” Christmas markets in the world. He is sure that visitors to Nuremburg will receive a warm feeling that is the German Christmas spirit
German Products (By Madoka)
Germany is well known for its world class quality products. Mr. Touré explained to us the importance of the engineering sector in Germany. He explained that technology is the source for technological innovation in Germany, taking a large role in the production of various items such as cars. He believes it is the reason why such products are greatly “admired” and “well-built”.
Music (By Kurumi)
Germany is widely known for being the birthplace of many world-class composers of classical music such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven. Ms. Finken and Mr. Touré also agreed the significance of classical music in Germany. Ms. Finken mentioned that many of the theatres and concert halls are still cherished. However, German modern music has been gaining attention as well and this is apparent from the fact that the nation currently has the third largest music industry in the world. “Modern music in Germany is based on classical music and electronics, as Berlin is the center of electronic music,” Ms. Finken explained. In addition, Mr. Touré mentioned that the music industry is not only a market for classical music and that recently, a German singer, Helene Fischer has been gaining popularity. She performs Schlager music, which is a type of German pop music that incorporates essence of traditional sounds. This makes the sound more familiar to even the elders and as a result, Helene Fischer is loved by not only the younger generation, but also the elders who favor the nostalgic music that they had once known.
Gender Equality (By Kurumi)
Ms. Finken firmly stated that equality is “enshrined in the German constitution” and that the nation is “working towards it”. The German government is making efforts to reduce gender gap by establishing laws that set gender quotas on corporate boards and the seats in the Parliament. This was due to the fact that the boards of companies quite often had a male majority. Additionally, Ms. Finken commented that the pay gap between the genders are “strongly debated”. She believes that Germany have come a long way, but the country still has a long way to go. “Japan and Germany should discuss possible solutions. I feel that we can learn a lot from each other,” Ms. Finken commented.
Cuisine (By Kurumi)
Previously, when Germany was apart of the German Empire, the nation consisted of many independent states. This is reflective in the uniqueness of German cuisine. There are foods that are only unique to a specific part of Germany. According to Ms. Finken, in the Southeast, one can find delicious cheese and sausage. Mr. Touré especially recommends the Spätzle, which could be found in Hamburg. Ms. Finken and Mr. Touré also listed the green sauce in Frankfurt as one of their favorites. The sauce consists of different herbs and seasonings that could be extracted in between May and June. The dish is commonly prepared with hard boiled eggs or meat and potatoes. Also, because Germany owns a number of islands, Ms. Finken commented that German cuisine is very much influenced by the countries that surround the islands.
Education (By Madoka)
The educational system in Germany is different in every region, as each federal state is in charge for their regions. Ms. Finken explained to us that the ministries regularly meet to discuss education. She described the general educational system of Germany as “interesting”. German students often undergo a dual education system, where they spend time at school as well as at a working environment to learn a variety of fields. She says that this is especially established for occupations that require high technical skills, such as chefs, accountants, and laser technicians.
Cultural Values (By Madoka)
Ms. Finken explained to us that an important German cultural value is the value of the individual. She stated, “Human rights are ingrained in the German culture”. She mentioned that most German people hold great value in human dignity, as written in the constitution.
Ms. Finken also commented that Germany is working hard to preserve its culture and traditions. Germany is trying their best to balance modern technology and development with the preservation of tradition and heritage. Ms. Finken mentioned that this is exemplified by the dual education system of Germany. Apprenticeships had been undergone by people from the medieval times in methods similar to the ones undergone today by students learning relatively new topics of education such as laser technology and engineering.
The Berlin Wall (By Madoka)
The Berlin Wall was a defining barrier that separated families and opportunities between East and West Germany for almost 30 years (1961 to 1989); a great symbol that represented the relations between the Communist-controlled East and Democratic West during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was torn down when Europe faced political changes: the Soviet Union fell as the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev lost control.
Mr. Touré explained to us that even though the German people were one, the wall had prevented them from “knowing each other”. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall was a very important event in history, as it allowed families to reunite and treasure the meaning of freedom. Mr. Touré commented that Germany having “had this experience” allowed the people to “cherish freedom even more.” Ms. Finken added, “The wall not only changed Germany, but also all of Europe”. The Berlin Wall had
Madoka Nishina 12th Saint Maur International School
Kate Shimizu 12th Seisen International School
Kurumi Onishi 11th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 6th Saint Maur International School