post Ethiopian Identity in Germany

April 9th, 2008

Filed under: Behind Adoption — Binyam @ 19:54

My personal Ethiopian identity in Germany!

This article is meant for all Ethiopian children and students who are adopted by a German family and all other people who are interested in getting to know the point of view of one Ethiopian-born in Germany. More than that it should be focused on the general question whether and how an adopted child from Ethiopia should be confronted with his or her historical background. It will not concentrate on blaming parents that appear to be having difficulties in educating a child from Ethiopia neither should it evoke a feeling of pity in every person that reads that article as an objector. It is just made up to inform you how one could see the main issues of an adoption in general and also in some ways specified.

In this respect the opinion of most of the Ethiopian Germans that live in Germany should not be taken too much in account because as there are many problems in the Ethiopian community most of them would rather recommend the children just to avoid getting into to much contact with the so called “Habeshas”. But my personal question is if these considerations are as relevant to a German Ethiopian who could not be as easily involved in the inner conflicts. Let us compare the main issues of an Ethiopian child and then return to this point.

At first glance it seems as if there is no difference between adopted children who grow up in this country and German ones except for their outer appearance. In addition, many adopted youth deny taking any considerations in matters of their origin. However, I take the guess that there has to be an inner conflict in every child that experienced the destiny of losing its parents and being educated in a new and different world. At the beginning of the German education it is no secret that adopteds especially that ones that grow up in rural areas, may be faced with the same kinds of racial discrimination like all immigrants. Of course, this problem cannot be contested in general but must be specified in special regions and areas (e.g. some parts of the Eastern Germany). But what is special about this discrimination is that an African who has their family with them can always be consoled by his or her comrades that experienced this racism in the same way. In the contrary for an adopted child that feels and thinks like a German it is at this point really difficult to defend itself because it considers itself simply to be German. If it was the fact that the adopted was an immigrant it would have possibly distanced from the Germans as being an immigrant, but how is it with the ones that have no other cultural background?

The identity of a human being in a society plays a very important role but my question to these children is if they really have an identity that is comparable to the Germans or to Ethiopian-born immigrants? Most of them speak German fluently and no Amharic; they act, talk and think German but, however, their outer appearance is different. Although most of the people in their surroundings don’t mind this difference it still exists and somehow disturbs the development. The great conflict is e.g. that in the surrounding of family and friends and relatives the child is a German and outside this circle it is an immigrant that is faced with all the same features and problems like the other immigrants. So is there is a mixed-identity? And do the children that got used to being just German really want that? Especially the pressure from outside may be very irritating for someone who tries to be German but just manages to be it in 80 %. On the other hand what is about the country one derives from? In the Western countries the majority considers Ethiopia to be solely one of the poorest countries of the world that suffers from Aids, diseases, sicknesses, war with the neighbours and so on.

The first step after deciding to follow the tracks of your roots is the question what is supposed to be the best way to get along with the Ethiopian people in Germany? I would recommend to the Ethiopian adopted that are interested in getting to know Ethiopian people not to let themselves be confused in matters of religious and political issues because we as German raised will probably never really understand the actual problems. In addition many Ethiopian Germans people tend to mistrust each other because they fear from enviousness and rumors that are afloat concerning their behaviour and way of life. That’s usually nothing interesting for adopted children because there is no inner family structure that is comparable to the Ethiopian one and enviousness is less important for them. So the adopted do not have to be afraid of negative influence if they are friendly and outgoing and constantly pay not too much attention to problematic issues. Me, personally have never experienced that often portrayed bad behaviour of Ethiopian Germans against myself because I just enjoyed my time with them, put up many questions about culture and honestly asked them for help in matters of my language skills. Although I still do not understand every cultural aspect in some ways I know that politeness and respect just as religion and cultural aspects is very important for the people in contrast to the German mentality that is sometimes set up upon a critical honesty (whether it is sometimes inappropriate or not). Furthermore, I would claim that a freshman does not have to try to understand and discuss every issue and controversial matter but sometimes just has to accept that things are like that although he may think that this is weird at first glance. Moreover, it will always be helpful if he concentrates on cultural questions like the coffee ceremony, the eating habits, literature, art and music that are very variable fields.

The first impression of me when I met Ethiopian people in restaurants and on the street was completely different from the facts I got from the media. Despite the illustration of some media which still uses to present a folk that is supposed to experience nothing but despair and problems these examples seemed so friendly and outgoing. This aspect may not be interesting for those Ethiopian adopted that had much contact to their comrades during their upbringing. But for someone like me who first came in touch with these people after the age of 20 years it is and was important. The Ethiopian mentality and behaviour like the history of the country cannot and must never be compared to other Africans and is in this respect very special. However, this must not lead an inexperienced adopted to participate to some extreme views of Ethiopians that feel superior to other African nations or even to other inner tribes. Never forget that we adopted were raised in a sheltered German home and never participated in the war and the sufferings of many Ethiopians. If you stick to that rule you may get to know many cheerful people that will help you to find out about the Ethiopian “bahel” and way of life. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend to everyone to visit Ethiopia as soon as possible in order to really understand what the Ethiopians here are talking about. There are so many things one cannot imagine without experiencing them and feeling them by oneself. It is therefore important to carefully organize a travel to Ethiopia in advance in order to see also the countryside out of Addis Ababa, the rural areas and different cultural places. If the German parents are not willing to join the travel you will have to convince them kindly that it is important for every human being to get to know about his or her origin although there is always a risk of confusion. Being in that wonderful country the ones adopted that may have always lived in doubts about the fact whether there is no progress and happiness in Ethiopia will discover hoe he had been taken in. Of course there is much poverty visible and there are these problems that the media portrays but the way you are treated over there, the hospitality, the warmth, the taste of food and the happiness will show you another Ethiopia that is not mentioned in the German every day life, at all. And you should never forget that Ethiopia is three times bigger than Germany, which means that you probably will not experience any border conflicts with the neighbouring countries and political issues.

In addition, it is important to explain that adopted children do never have to worry of being rejected by the Ethiopians because of the fact that they grew up by German families. In fact the people are curious about their destiny and they are always ready to help them and sympathize with your difficulties and plans.

The last question I want to deal with is the task of the German parents. As most of the people either react with pity or with words like “you must be very thankful about what your parents did for you” you should just ignore these comments to avoid getting confused or angry at them. Of course an adopted child is always thankful and this must not be pointed out by other people neither the parents because it may impose a feeling of guilty to the adopted child. Secondly parents must never forget that the outer appearance (in the respect the dark skin) always plays an important role in a society apart from language skills and the slowly abolishment of racial problems in Germany. Therefore an adopted child must always have the opportunity to stick to his or her culture and it is in the responsibility of the parents to provide an atmosphere out of prejudices and fear from other cultures. That does not mean that families have to travel to Ethiopia and confront them with that country at every time, which probably leads to an engorgement and the negative effect of disinterest. There are always some children who simply see no importance in getting to know their origin but the door to that decision has to be open the whole time of their life. Parents must never worry that closer contact to the origin people means a loss of feelings towards the German family. How can they ever forget what they did for them and how they cared for them but, however, to complete their search for our identity they require the contact and experience about our origin in order to gain and keep a special self-esteem. Being faced with the fact that one will maybe never know their parents is hard but on the other hand the new life in Germany offers many chances and opportunities that are not available in our country. However, we adopted should never forget where we come from; never forget that many children unfortunately will never have any chance or parents to console them. Don’t you think that it is somehow in our responsibility to share our luck with them?

Anyway, if you had contact to mixed Ethiopians who often suffer from the same inner conflict, you would see how nice and also difficult it can be experiencing two cultures at the same time and feeling at ease at many places at the same time. For me it was and is nothing but an enrichment to my personality and this article should egg on every adopted who feels like me. So all in all, I recommend to those children who have no contact to Ethiopian people to enlarge their mind in favor of this country. Our ideas and different point of views may be useful to improve the situation in and out of Ethiopia. We must not be afraid of anything since our trust in God led us safely to a new life here and since we have not been better or worse than other Ethiopians and Germans. But according to our different skills we may construct a new bridge between two completely different cultures. Let us in the name of God try our best to be an ideal to both peoples.

Binyam-Tedla Hecke


  1. Daer Binyam-Tedla Hecke;
    Just a week ago I had a discussion with some Ethiopians,about adopted children by Austrians.Most of the conversation was discouraging. I know families ,who have adopted Children from Ethiopia and seen how they love,care & chrisch their babys. I lost my tempre in the discussion and accused them of being pretentious and sheer jealeousy or envy.I know , there are problems and the problems are diffrent,but given the Ethiopian situation,what chances do the Ethiopian kids habe as alternative?Most of us have fled our country for many differen reasons,there are others living still there.Most of us are looking all meanses to bring our beloved ones out side of the country; Typical Ethiopian Psychology not to “Gönnen” to use the German expresson.This Psychology of not gönnen is being used ,even by the Ethiopian present government.There are two centers for adoptation facility:Just to give you examples one in Mekele the other in Awasa. It is very easy to adopt from the Mekele region than the Awassa region;” blood is ticker than water”. I am sure & aware there are genuine & constructive critics concerning adoptation, but should not be hiden behind “qinat”-if not for me & my relatives,do every thing & anything to sabottage”"Koso bemar lewuso” Koso =Medicine for tape worm,Maar:Honey; for the rest I hope your Amharic will suffice !!!
    Gudifetcha & Madego ( just to use the Oromo & Amharic words)
    these are popular terms frequently used in the Ethiopian familyhood.It should not be diffrent & problematic, because of race (German, Austrian or American) .Important thing is in the” interest of the Child”.
    The adopted should not shy away from getting involved in political discourse and be modest, after all the root cause is politics.The adopted childeren should have vested interest in their own original homeland.
    I will recommend your writings to those Ethiopians; well done you have made a good job to enlighten, those Ethiopian prejudiced to Adoption.
    ST Vienna

    Comment by Tsehay — 7. December 2008 @ 10:25


    Comment by mm — 17. July 2009 @ 21:11

  3. hey, this is Shreyas from India, M luking for one of my good friend her name is Samrawith, can u help me plz… plz reply to mail id shreyupd@gmail

    Comment by Shreyu — 23. September 2014 @ 22:23

  4. Gut gemacht Bruder!!!!!!

    Comment by Abdiyu — 10. June 2015 @ 16:43

  5. Am in london and your Hamble work in respected. Can I also ask if you are engaged with ethiopean living in london or around the world. I sincerely hope that you are bringing frish energy life to all ethiopean perhaps eritrean to. Give me information what sort of information you need for articles to be printed.
    Your Sincerely

    Comment by Abraham — 7. October 2016 @ 21:43

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