Bonn In our GA-English series, we talk to members of Bonn’s rich and engaging international community. Today, Tracy Tollmann tells us about her life, what brought her to Bonn and what she likes about living here.
Part of what makes Bonn so incredibly unique and attractive is its large and engaged international community - of which we are all a part. During our time here, short or long, we are all keen to learn what we can about German culture and habits, and maybe even learn to speak the language – if we can get our tongues around all those syllables.
Of course it is more fun to go out and explore with others and many of you have already met up with transplants from your home countries, or made friends with your German neighbors. What’s always amazing is that one can talk to ten different people from ten different countries or backgrounds and their perspectives will always be different.
In this GA-English series, "Five Questions", we hope to give you a little glimpse into our diverse international community. This time, we talk to Tracy Tollmann, who lives in Bonn for 31 years already. She works for the UN Climate change secretariat and has done so for the past 20 years. The 58-year-old says she considers herself „very fortunate to be able to work with such a diverse and interesting group of individuals, as well as contributing, in my own small way, to the fight against climate change“. Before that, she worked for the American Embassy for eleven years during the time when Bonn was still the Capital of Germany.
As she loves the theatre and is a proud member of both the Bonn Players and the Bonn University Shakespeare company (BUSC): „I am currently rehearsing three times a week for the Bonn Players’ next production “Ghosts” by Henrik Ibsen, a scathing commentary on 19th-century morality, which will be performed from 12 to 16 November
at the Brotfabrik in Bonn Beuel.“ She also directed a short play “The Man in the Bowler Hat” by A. A. Milne for the BUSC, which was performed at this year’s Theatrenacht in May. „We then took the production to the Festival of European Anglophone Theatrical Societies (FEATS) Fringe in Munich in June.“
What brought you to Bonn and how long do you plan to stay here (or how long have you been here already)?
Tracy Tollmann: Akin to many expats that I speak to, I came here for love. I met my (ex)husband (German) in the August of 1987, rowing in the UK at a regatta and, after a whirlwind romance and much toing and froing between London and Bonn, came here to be with him in the January of 1988.
It was a huge step and I arrived with hardly any German, no job prospects, and only knowing him. A big believer in the old adage, “nothing ventured is nothing gained” however, I thought, well, I can always go back if it doesn’t work out. I quickly fell in love with Bonn though, and constantly think how lucky I am to live in this beautiful city with the Rhein, the Siebengebirge, The Ahr valley just next door, and the multi-culti flair thanks to the many international organizations located in the Bonn area.
Now, as a disenfranchised, Brexiled Brit, I have decided that I am here to stay. I became German in March of this year and am very proud of my dual nationality!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Tollmann: As mentioned above, acting and directing are my main hobbies and I am very grateful that there is so much on offer in the Bonn area, as far as English-speaking amateur theatre is concerned. This isn’t a given by the way. My daughter, also a hobby actress, lives in Berlin and often bemoans the lack of a similar company; amazing in a city of this size and given the number of English-speaking Embassies there.
Another theatre related activity that provides me with much joy is voice coaching for both acting and public speaking. I have worked with the BUSC on a number of productions to enhance diction, pronunciation, pacing, and interpretation of Shakespeare. It gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction to see how individuals (many are German students studying English) progress and improve their performances and delivery of the Bard’s words.
What part of the lifestyle here has been easiest or most challenging to adapt to?
Tollmann: One of the things I love about Germany is that everything is so organized and predictable. I really appreciate it when I make an appointment with someone, knowing they will be on time and that things will happen when they are supposed to. Friends who have recently moved back to the UK reported that this is most certainly not the case in the UK, and they seriously miss Bonn for this and many other reasons. One of the things I find the most challenging however, is the flip side of this famous German bureaucracy.
I recently had solar panels installed on my house and, three months, 25 highly technical and hard-to-interpret forms later, I finally have my electricity meter changed by the Stadt Bonn, which allows me to use my own electricity and sell the remainder into the grid, just in time for the end of summer!
I have to admit here that I knew I had become truly “German”, when I stood in front of the “green man” at midnight, with not a car in sight, waiting for it to change so I could cross the road!
Which season of the year is your favourite in Bonn and why?
Tollmann: I love the summer here, although the past couple of years have been almost too hot (climate change!). There is so much on offer in the way of music in the parks, open air concerts, movies on the roof of the Museums Meile, beer gardens; Rhein cruises; bike rides; and sitting out at restaurants or bistros, to name but a few. Walking in the Ahr
valley is also lovely in the summer, especially when you can stop off at one of the many Vintners (Weingut) along the way. Radio Bonn Rhein Sieg have a nice saying “Wir leben, wo andere Urlaub machen” – “we live where others come on holiday”, and that is exactly what it feels like!
What’s your best insider tip for people living in Bonn?
Tollmann: Being completely biased on this one, I would have to say the theatre scene. Bonn is very fortunate to have an opera and numerous theatres, concert halls etc. I am sure many of your readers will also be happy to discover that there is a thriving English theatre community with at least four plays being performed in the English language every year –
two by the Bonn Players and two by the BUSC.
This not only provides people with the opportunity to watch plays in the original language, but also to actively participate; either on-, or back-stage, as well as engaging with some lovely, enthusiastic people in English. Both companies have varied activities and the Bonn Players offer play reading groups, workshops, rehearsed play readings, and regular gatherings for members, such as a Christmas party, where Christmas
carols are sung, and members can recite poems, perform skits, and eat typical yummy British Christmas fare.