When the change occurred, I was at the perfect age. I was 13 and the new system meant I could take my Abi (A levels) and go study, which is what I wanted to do. It was also easier for me to adapt to the new system than for people who were older. 13 was also a good age for naive consumerism. And I fully took advantage of that.
As a child, I was absolutely fascinated by the advertising we saw on Western TV. But this was always accompanied by disappointment as we couldn’t buy any of those things, of course. In my childish naivety, this was something I couldn’t understand.
We were living in Magdeburg at the time and in December 1989 my family went to Braunschweig, just to see what it smells like. Because the West always smelt a certain way, kind of like plastic, which for me was the smell of promise.
There were huge crowds everywhere and we went into the first supermarket we saw. My highlight was a chocolate Santa Claus made from white chocolate – for me a dream come true. We didn’t buy much more than sweets. On the train journey home my father sat down on a piece of Western chewing gum. My mother was effing and blinding. I, on the other hand, was fascinated with how perfectly blue chewing gum could be.
At 16 I started becoming a bit embarrassed at how greedily we had been chasing everything. But today I am no longer ashamed. For nostalgic reasons, I still buy white chocolate Santa Clauses at Christmas, but only ever a small one. Because I’m actually sick of white chocolate.