Open Jaw’s Canada Day Series – Antje Splettstoesser, German National Tourist Office
by Martha Chapman
It’s a far cry from growing up in communist East Germany: This newly-minted Canadian can’t wait to paint a maple leaf on her face and truly celebrate Canada Day this year.
Where do you live? In downtown Toronto, near Lake Ontario.
Where were you born? In the former East Germany on Germany’s biggest island Ruegen, which is located in the Baltic Sea and has a population of about 50,000. So I grew up in communism - I was 9 when the Berlin Wall came down and remember it clearly. The changes after that were amazing, getting western groceries. We would actually cheer when we saw them in the store. Before that, for example, we used to get bananas twice a year.
When did you come to Canada? 7 years ago. I was working in Toronto for the German Canadian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, specifically for a Dusseldorf trade show organizer to get Canadians to come to our shows in Germany.
Why Canada? A funny story. I backpacked through New Zealand for about 6 months and met a Canadian journalist who told me, “If you are so fascinated by New Zealand, you’d love Canada.” After that I thought about Canada a lot and when during my studies there was the opportunity for a semester abroad and I chose Thunder Bay for the “real Canadian experience”.
Did you consider other countries? I really badly wanted to move to Canada. I loved the sense of community in Thunder Bay, the openness to other countries and religion and the love of the outdoors.
What were your 1st impressions? Can I be very honest? I had a picture of the beautiful wilderness of Canada and thought I had landed in [industrial] Springfield – the home of The Simpsons! Like a lot of foreigners I also really struggled to grasp the immense distances here. Germany would fit inside Canada 27 times!
What do you appreciate most about being Canadian? I got my Canadian citizenship just in December (I cried during the ceremony, I was so proud) so now am a dual citizen. I really love the values that Canada stands for and I feel deeply about it. We live peacefully together and we are, I think, a great example of how to accept and understand each other.
If you could live anywhere in Canada, where would it be? That’s a difficult question! How does this sound? 6 months in Toronto, 2 months Vancouver and 4 months down east. That would be my ideal wish! It took a while for Toronto to grow on me but now I cannot imagine a better city.
What do you think would make Canada an even better place? If we could improve a little bit our public transit system and airfares. For Europeans it’s very easy and affordable and I find it very sad that travel within our own country is so expensive.
What do you think you’d be doing if you had remained in your home country? Wow. A good question. I definitely would be in the travel industry… but I can’t imagine I would have ever stayed. I was born to move somewhere else.
How do you traditionally spend Canada day? I don’t have a tradition. I’ve spent each one so far differently, one year spending the night on the Toronto Islands which was a highlight. But this year, my 1st as a Canadian, I will go to Ottawa – I have to! I will be as Canadian as I can be and wear red and paint a maple leaf on my cheek. I will be full on!