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‘The world may respect us more’: How Americans in Germany reacted to US elections

'The world may respect us more': How Americans in Germany reacted to US elections
An American at the Brandenburg Gate on November 4th, at an event urging every vote to be counted. Photo: DPA
We reached out to American readers around Germany to hear their thoughts on the US elections.

Germany counts over 120,000 American residents – not including military personnel – many who tightly tuned into the tense US presidential race last week.

Following four days of vote counting which began on Tuesday November 3rd, Democrat Joe Biden and vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris were officially announced the winning candidates on Saturday November 7th. 

The race inspired many Americans throughout the Bundespublik to cast their absentee ballots as early as September

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“These past four years have been incredibly stressful and we're ready to start a new chapter,” Candice Kerestan, Munich-based head of Democrats Abroad Germany, told The Local last Wednesday as votes were still being counted. 

To get a sense of how the elections impacted our American readers, The Local published the survey “Americans in Germany: How do you feel about the US elections?” to which we received 202 responses. 

Out of the respondents, 94 percent said they voted, and seven percent said they didn’t – in some cases due to not yet turning 18.

A total of 82.9 percent of respondents said that they voted for Joe Biden, while 14.5 percent indicated they voted for Donald Trump. A further 2.6 percent marked “other”, such as third party libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen. 

Here’s what our readers, who ranged in age from 17 to 88, and lived all around Germany, had to say. 

Proud of both countries

Several Democrats in Germany told us they again felt appreciative of both their adopted home in Germany and Heimat in the US.

“I’m appreciative to live in Germany, proud again to call the USA my country of origin,” said Carla Mortensen, 66, an English-language instructor in Berlin following the result. 

“We can stop being the joke of the world and hopefully things and attitudes will begin changing. Science will become important once again,” said Lisa, 45, a nurse in Stuttgart. 

Mia Szarvas, 27, a software engineer in Bremen called the win “a sigh of relief- I’ve been holding my breath since 2016!”

READ ALSO: German far-right see hope in Trump election win

“I’m feeling very hopeful that the US will restore good relations with world leaders so we can work together on solutions to big world crises like the Covid pandemic, global warming, and immigration and conflict issues,” said Joanne, 58, a former real estate agent from New York who moved to Germany with her husband who works for the US military. 

Viktoria, 31, an environmental scientist in Rostock, said that a win for Biden “will not solve all of our problems, but given where we are at, it's a step in the right direction”.

Katie Cantwell, originally from Wisconsin and owner of the Cookies and Cream American-themed cafe in Berlin, said that the results made her “proud to be American, as I feel like the world is watching”.

An existing divide

While some Biden supporters said they were relieved about the results, they also expressed worry about the ongoing polarisation they saw in the US. 

“While Trump may be out of the White House, I fear that Trumpism is here to stay,” said Jeff Antonucci, a sales director in Rotweil, Baden-Württemberg, who added he’s “grateful to be away from the chaos”.

Other readers also expressed “shame” that over 70 million Americans cast their vote for Trump.

Larissa, 41, a self-employed teacher in Hanover, said that she was “so disappointed that so many Americans continue to support Trump, despite his breathtaking xenophobia and ineptitude”.

“I’m sad that after all Trump has said and done, there wasn’t a stronger statement to tell him that he is wrong for this country,” said Edward, 35, who has lived in Cologne for over 10 years. 

“I’m exhausted and frustrated that regardless of the outcome that the country is in critical division over a myriad of topics,” said John, who works for a tech company in Berlin, before the results were announced. 

“The fact that a rapist, racist con-man could compete in a national election is a disgrace,” said David Greer, 29, an editor in Berlin.

“Trump handles himself like the authoritarian leaders we know from other countries, and I simply do not understand why people think that he deserves to be our president,” said Alexander Chockley, 32, a graduate student in Cologne originally from the swing state of Michigan. 

READ ALSO: 'Worlds between us': What Trump's German family's town thinks of him today

Trump supporters in Germany

Yet a handful of readers said they cast their vote for current US president Donald Trump, with some strongly supporting him and others simply not satisfied with other options. 

Blake Evan Merchant, 23, a soldier in Baumholder, Rhineland-Palatinate found third-party libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen “a fantastic candidate who would have tackled some of the biggest issues in our country without any of the opposition from Democrats and Republicans”.

Yet he cast his vote for Trump instead, fearing that military funding will likely be cut under a Biden presidency and that “my rights to acquire a weapon for home defence when I get back to the States will be meddled with”.

Monica, 60, in Rhineland-Palatinate said that, while she voted for Trump, she did not have much faith in either candidate. But she added: “Biden has been a senator for 40 years, if he could accomplish great things for America then why hasn’t he?”

A woman reads a newspaper following Trump's election as US president in November 2016. Photo: DPA

Joshua, an engineer in the Düsseldorf area said that, “I freely admit that Trump is not a likeable figure. But I have a great amount of sympathy for Trump voters. Trump voters comprise most of my friends and family back home in Ohio.”

These are the same people who would have voted Democratically 20 years ago, but switched their ballot due to “feeling like they don’t have a voice anymore,” said Joshua. 

He hoped that “Europeans will make an honest effort to understand why people — my people — voted for Trump rather than disparaging or mocking them”.

Randy, a 60-something resident of southwest Germany who works for a car rental company, said “I enjoy watching and listening to Germans moan when they ask me what I think of Trump. Biden has prematurely claimed victory.”

Yet Trump voter Elaine, 59, near Mainz was open to a Biden-Harris win even though her candidate did not win. 

“I do feel the world is breathing a sign of relief,” she said. “The world may respect us more.”

What a Biden win means for Americans abroad

Some respondents voiced their hopes that the Biden-Harris win would slowly re-patch growing anti-Americanism they’d experienced.

“Anti-American sentiment toward Americans living abroad has grown much worse under the Trump administration, in all countries, including Germany,” said Austin, 30, a controller in Munich. 

“Joe Biden may not be the perfect fit for the US but if he does nothing whatsoever,” added Austin, “at least he will not be actively harming relationships”.

“The relationship between Germany and other EU nations and America I believe has been damaged with the current sitting president,” said Mary, 57, a nurse near Kaiserslautern who was had hoped “for a Democratic win to repair the damages”.

Jay, 17, a student at a US military base in Wiesbaden said that “everyone in my high school has been following the election very closely since we are almost adults”.

He said said the results affected how likely he was to return to the Washington, DC area where he hails from. “It affects how much I want to go back to the US, and as an African American, how safe I would feel in the US.“

“With the fabric of the American political system deteriorating year by year, increasing polarisation threatens peace and security of its citizens,” said Lindon N. Pronto, 31, a father of two in Bonn who ran for a Berlin Sanders delegate in 2016. 

“I am happy to be raising my family in a country like Germany where the government still works for its citizens,” he added.

“Who we vote for and wins is our representative to the world. If my president behaves poorly, it reflects poorly on me as an unofficial diplomat of my country,” said Jasan, 42, a former teacher also in Kaiserslautern. 

Leading up to the vote – and in the transitional months going forward – several readers said that they still worried about friends and family back in the States. 

“I feel a level of guilt for being in Germany ‘safe’ from the mayhem,” said Sabrina, 46, a healthcare advertising executive in Freiburg.  

Some readers also said they were glad friends in Germany would stop asking them their opinion of Trump. 

“Germans love to ask me what I think about Trump. I always tell them that a Trump supporter wouldn't be living abroad,” said Harrison, 30, a finance consultant in Hamburg. 

A lot of work ahead

Most Biden supporters agreed that a win was not a panacea. Some feared of “damage” that Trump could still do in the months ahead, in a worst case scenario winning a court case against Biden to claim himself as the election winner.

Others simply said that many small steps were ahead – and that for the time being they appreciated living in a country that took aspects of life seriously that the US does not.

“We have much work to do to return to being a world leader,” said Marina, 37, in Mannheim. 

“I would like to say how grateful I am to be in a country that takes the virus seriously, respects science and reason,” said April, 46, a dietician in the Kaiserslautern area. 

“I am thankful to be away from the US during these very divisive, ugly times. I am most thankful to be in Germany for our children's sake,” said Erin, 42, a self-described military spouse and former kindergarten teacher in the Stuttgart region. 

People celebrating the Biden-Harris win at the Brandenburg Gate on Saturday night in Berlin. Photo: DPA

For some readers, the results cemented their decision to stay or return to Germany.

“My wife is German and my children hold dual citizenship. We are two gay parents and I feel safer in Germany with the current state of the US,” said Kayla in Frankfurt, who moved to Germany in July partially seeking a better life and education for their children.

“I love Germany and have had several friends here in Florida who want us to take them back with us!” said Charles Sayre, 77, a pensioner in Pompeo Beach who is moving to Saarland “to get away from this insanity” in March 2021. 

And for some readers, a Biden-Harris win meant they finally felt comfortable booking a return ticket to the US. 

“I am now 62 and have been living in Berlin for 14 years. I wanted to go back to the US four years ago but because of Trump I did not return,” said Robert Huth. 

“Now I will return in April and start my new life.”

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey about the US election. We aimed to include a representative sample of the responses, and whether or not we included yours, we read every one and appreciate the time you took to share your story and help others see they are not alone. The Local is here to report on the issues that matter to you and affect your daily lives in Germany, and you are always welcome to email us at [email protected] with ideas or feedback.


Member comments

  1. This does not accurately represent how the U.S military affiliated people feel. The vast majority of the U.S military voted for Trump and were happy about him wanting to move us to Poland. Civilians living over might prefer Biden, but the military members don’t.

  2. The decision is on 14 December, after the recounts and law suits. Every legal ballot should be counted. If there has been fraud, it must be exposed for the sake of transparency and fairness. After the Electoral College votes, we will know the result. Until then, the media are simply guessing. Remember, TIME magazine had Hillary on their front cover at this stage, as MADAM PRESIDENT. Be patient and allow due process the happen.

  3. No one has been “officially’ declared the winner of the US Presidency election. In fact, I’d be very surprised if any state has yet announced “official” results. Only press organizations have yet declared a winner. What has been announced are unofficial, raw vote counts. I hope and expect that Mr. Biden will be the next president, but please be more careful in your use of terminology in your stories. Nothing is “official” until the Electoral College has voted.

    Mark Nasha

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