Whether she is relaxing in her river-side apartment after a long day at the Reichstag or mingling with international premiers, Angela Merkel's day-to-day life is a far cry from her experience of growing up in the German Democratic Republic. But in a new interview, the German head of state admitted that her habits are still influenced by her experiences under communism.
"Sometimes I buy something because I have set my eyes on it, even though I don't really need it," she told the German magazine Super Illu, which is widely read in the former east. "This penchant for stockpiling lies somewhere deeply inside me, because living amid the shortages (in the GDR) you just took whatever you could get."
She added that her culinary preferences were also firmly rooted in the past. Her evening meal often consists of a bowl of Russian Solyanka soup or Hungarian Lecso stew, dishes typically served up in East Germany.
Her loyalty to GDR brands also remains intact: Until this day she uses a washing up liquid made by an eastern firm.
'Everyday Life Turned Upside Down'
Although she concluded that the past 20 years of unity have been "a largely positive experience," she said the transition was full of upheaval, especially for easterners.
"After reunification there was a certain feeling of foreignness because everyday life had been turned upside down, from the retail sphere to bureaucracy to the working environment. Since 1990, East Germans have done unbelievably well in adapting to it all," she said.
On balance she defended former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's 1990 famous prediction that the former east would be transformed into "flourishing landscapes." Soaring unemployment rates made the expression hard to apply to the east in the 1990s, she said. "But in the meantime I find his phrase captures the reality of large parts of eastern Germany."
Merkel, who learnt fluent Russian and took part in compulsory Marxism-Leninism courses, said her personal transition to reunified Germany took time. For example, she continued to use the east German expression 'Kaufhalle (shopping hall) for years after the Berlin Wall crumbled. "Only about 15 or 16 years after reunification the word did the word 'supermarkt' (supermarket) easily pass my lips," she said.
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