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20 November 2017

Gwlad – An ongoing romance

Blog by Michael Klein, a scientist and journalist from Germany who now lives in Wales -

No. And no.

Two short answers to the questions, we keep hearing since we came to settle in Wales.

No, we do not regret having left Germany.

No, we do not want to return to Germany.

We, that is my wife and I and our then four cats arrived in the United Kingdom almost 11 years ago, On the 23 of November 2006, we moved into a cottage in Odiham, Hants, we ‘d been renting four weeks earlier. And there we were. No regrets, no worries.

Self-employed as we were and still are, the only thing that really matters to us is a high-speed internet connection. We work from home; doing mainly statistical analysis and evaluative work for customers we acquire from the internet. With this kind of work comes the freedom to settle wherever we like. Our move to the United Kingdom had been a deliberate one. It had not been forced on us by job requirements nor by any other necessity. We’ve chosen the UK on purpose. Back in Germany, where I worked as a freelance Journalist mainly writing about scientific discoveries, while my wife was an assistant professor at the Universities of Leipzig and Munich we planned it all. While listening to the BBC World Service, the only British Broadcaster we could get at the time, we imagined how it would be to settle in the UK, to live in what we still consider to be the freest country in Europe.

[Michael Klein]

And there we were.

We settled in nicely. We became members of the RSPB, the National Trust, regular visitor to their sites, we lived on the edge of a cemetery, had a badger and a fox as regular visitors, got adopted by a stray cat, worked as scientific consultants, provided statistical expertise where it was lacking, gave scientific recommendations and economic advice where needed. We weathered the financial crisis rather unfazed and got quickly accommodated the British way of life, this as it appeared to us easy-going and live-and-let-live approach to life that is based entirely on goodwill. In sharp contrast to life in Germany.

[image - Brecon Beacons]

Then, in 2012 my wife got this curious notion of it being the best time to buy a house. So we went house hunting, in Kent, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey. We went as far as Scotland.. But we settled for Wales. We found just the spot we’ve been looking for: the coast in easy access, the seaside at our door step, the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons in front of us, woods behind us, the National Botanic Garden, Aberglasney, Llandeilo in South West Wales. The house we found sits in almost equal distance between Carmarthen and Llanelli, it’s the perfect location.

We bought it, moved in, got to know the neighbours, met many craftsmen in the process, and we have been living in Wales ever since. Sounds like a fairy tale and sometimes this is how it feels. We do have a working class background. [CH1] “So, you won’t go back then?”, is one of the two initial questions. Usually preceded or followed by the question. “What made you settle in Wales?”

Now that is a question, that is easy to answer.

[Laugharne Castle Carmarthen]  -

Let’s start with the Welsh. We have yet to encounter an unfriendly Welsh person. No doubt, there must be some unfriendly Welsh people. But we have yet to come across them. Instead we had many pleasant encounters at National Trust sides, beaches or the castles, gardens or fairs we visited - not to forget the local stores. You keep forgetting the people in the local stores. Considering the time you spend shopping this is extraordinary, and, I hope, redeemed. You can’t talk about Wales without reference to the great countryside. You get used to the narrow countryside lanes that make your heart jump, when you first encounter them and pray for no oncoming traffic. Then you get used to it and realize, that – contrary to German roads – it’s not survival of the fittest that rules Welsh roads.

[Tintern Abbey in the Autumn]

Our first visit to Wales was in 2009. We went to Tintern Abbey, a mystical place that has my wife captivated ever since (in the meantime, we’ve been there four times). We decided to make our way back to Hampshire and the M4 via Brecon. Somehow, we managed to find one of the aforementioned narrow lanes that went directly through the Brecon Beacons. It was in the middle of summer, but a cold day at 14 degrees Celsius. The Brecon Beacons looked simply marvellous. We shared them only with sheep and the odd Land Rover Defender coming our way. I guess, this was when we fell in love with Wales. It’s an ongoing romance.

[Principality Stadium hosts a Wales international rugby match]

No, we will not go back to Germany. We enjoy being Welsh in our own way. We learned the Welsh Anthem defying (or defeating) all problems of pronunciation. We’ll sing it later on, when the Welsh play Australia in one of their Autumn internationals. Rugby, of course, another revelation. It took us some time to realize, there is such a thing as rugby. It took us much more time to understand the difference between the Union and the League, and the rules, the scrum and the line out and what it means to form a ruck or to collapse a maul. But we are literate now. We know it all. Sometimes we know it better than the referee, especially, when Wales is at the receiving end of his whistle … provided it is not Nigel Owens.


We will apply for citizenship next year and formalize our relationship with Wales. To make it official that we will not go back. Home is where the heart is.


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