Echo Germanica

Things German

Many immigrants face the same dilemma when they arrive and settle in a new country: How much should they adapt to the new country, and how much should they preserve of the old one? The immigrants highlighted in this book were no different. What practices traveled with them from Europe? And which ones stayed home? For many Germans, the local German clubs and church congregations provided that necessary bridge between new and old. German language schools helped pass the old down to the next generation. And food, well, it acted as the tie that bound all generations in the family.

This chapter looks at various areas where culture was preserved, including holidays, food, religion, language, and the social clubs. You’ll either take a trip back in time or learn more about the diversity inherent in German culture (hint: it’s not just Oktoberfest and beer).

The Old Country

This chapter examines the intersection between “the old country” and the new one. Immigrants who grew up in one place and spent a large portion of their life in another may often feel that they live in a third “country,” i.e., one that is a combination of the two real countries. What did these oral history project participants do to stay in contact with their first home? And what about their children? Did they make an effort to maintain that cultural connection for them? This chapter answers these questions and more.

Speaking the Language

What happens to a family’s native language when they move to Canada? Do they keep it up? Let it die out? And how do they navigate the sometimes murky waters of their native language vs. the community’s language?

This chapter answers all of those questions and more as the participants in the oral history project discuss their experiences with speaking both German and English in Waterloo Region. You’ll read about some participants’ encounters with Germany’s Nazi past, old-school practices like setting immigrant children back a year or two, and the history of the German language school. (Today, it operates under the Waterloo Region District School Board as the Concordia German Language School.)

German is still Waterloo Region’s second most commonly spoken native language. Find out what’s happening to it.