By Eva Sidickie
East Kilbride, Scotland
In the early ’60s, I moved from Germany to Great Britain. Life in Britain was vastly different from our rather provincial life in a small German town, and it appealed to me. My younger sister came over quite often, and we liked to explore the English countryside, which differed so much from the landscapes we were used to.
At the time, the British had not yet got over their war victory, and, unfortunately, prejudice from this was present in many situations. The worst thing (for us) was the constant screening of war films against the “evil Germans” in cinemas and on television.
One day my sister and I wanted to explore the Kent coast. We walked a lot, were tired by the end of the day, and decided to stop over. There was no rush to get back to London.
As we were walking through the town of Folkstone, not quite sure where to look, a friendly lady approached us and asked: “Are you lost, and are you looking for a place to stay? You can’t walk here in this district, at this time of day.” We “innocents” only realized much later that there was a row of red light bulbs illuminating the street and its houses. We never found out whether this was really a so-called “red-light district”.
The kind lady said that she knew of a very good and not so expensive bed and breakfast place outside town. She guided us for 20 minutes, and finally stopped at a very neat house. Unfortunately, the proprietors could not take us because they were renovating the place. There was nothing to it, we had to return to Folkstone itself.
She accompanied us on another 20-minute walk to a hotel. She spoke with the hotel manager, and we got a pleasant, reasonably priced room. When I asked her why she was doing all this for us, she said that her son had been to Germany, and had lost his passport and most of his money. The German people had been so friendly to him and helped him to get back to England. She was so happy to repay this kindness to us German girls.
But that was not the end of the kindness we were shown in Folkstone. The hotel did not provide for evening meals, and we were starving. We asked the receptionist whether she could recommend a restaurant. She knew of one and said that she would be off duty soon, and would show us where it was. We took a bus, and she did not allow us to pay for our fare ourselves. At the restaurant, where she knew the owner, she arranged a nice table for us, and we had a lovely meal.
For me, the kindness that we received was an eye-opener. It proved that one should never generalise about anybody or anything, for it’s always the people that count.