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How do you say:

I am of Germany.

rather than

I am from Germany.

I want to indicate heritage rather than nationality. Does one of the following fit?

Ich bin von Deutschland.
Ich bin aus Deutschland.

I want to have a ring inscribed with the phrase so it has to be short and to the point. I also want to infer more than just mere descent but also that it is part of who I am, in my DNA. Thus “I am of Germany”.

Es tut mir leid. I should have chosen my words more carefully. I now realize how this comes across to someone in Germany. I thank those of you who commented. You have educated me and I am grateful. I again apologise for my ignorance. I only intended to find a way to acknowlege family heritage.

My urgroßmutter, Nachnamen Kirchner, was from an area in what is now Germany. As I learn more about what State or if I am really lucky what city or town she was from I would like to learn her customs. How people in that area celebrate marriages, holidays and such things. I want to know more about where I came from as an individual and to feel a sense of pride in where I "come from" not in a Nationalistic way but more language and customs of the specific area.

I think I would better express my intentions if I said

Ich bin deutscher Herkunft

Ich bin (stadt) Herkunft

or even just

Heimat

I hope sentiments such as these would not be offensive to anyone. I should also clarify that the inscription would be on the inside of the ring to serve as a way of feeling connected to my ancestors.

If it turns out that my ancestor is from Bavaria maybe I could even use

Grüß Gott

or if from Northern Germany

Moin

or some other local expression might be a way for me to feel connected my family heritage without being offensive.

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    Es gibt kein deutsches Gen und keine deutsche Genkombination. – user unknown Mar 4 '15 at 1:58
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    You probably want something like "Ich bin stolz, ein Deutscher zu sein" or just "88" (code for twice the eighth letter of the alphabet, standing for "Heil Hitler"). At least these are examples of what those Germans would use who believe there is such a thing as German DNA or a genetic definition of being German, or who obsess about descent to such an extent that they would think of jewellery expressing it. Sorry if this answer comes across as rude in whatever your cultural context is. But your question is extremely inappropriate in a modern German cultural context. – Hans Adler Mar 4 '15 at 8:59
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    Oh dear, see cultures clash live on SE! Tony, you'll have noticed that your ring is not a good idea in a German context. We are extremely wary of patriotic displays and have reason to be. I'm guessing your reference to "DNA" was not meant as a biological reference, but rather cultural or whatnot - in the same way that companies refer to their DNA in marketing. Unfortunately, to us this reference in the context of nationality immediately reeks of racial ideology, ethnic cleansing and other horrible stuff. [cont.] – Mac Mar 4 '15 at 9:42
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    [cont.] Please don't take the backlash personally, but be aware that this will be the reaction of the vast majority of Germans - no matter how mild you phrase the inscription, it will always feel to us like a ring stating "I love being white" would feel in the U.S. – Mac Mar 4 '15 at 9:43
  • To "defuse" this question, in case it is desired to proceed to its linguistic core (translation/idiomatic way to express "I am of ..." in German) rather than comment on the context (ring inscription), I suggest to replace Germany with a different, possibly fictional example. You could ask how you could express something like "I am of Rohan.", "I am of Earth." (when addressing an extraterrestrial), or "You are of Bajor.". (Whether the particular ring inscription is a good idea is a different issue that should not be neglected.) – O. R. Mapper Mar 4 '15 at 13:34
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You're tapping into very dangerous waters with this ring inscription. Combining nationality and genetic heritage especially concerning Germans is close to National Socialism and its variant of rascism.

Let's see your proposals.

Ich bin von Deutschland.

This phrase does not exist in German.

Ich bin aus Deutschland.

This phrase can mean anything in the range of

  • I'm currently living in Germany.
  • Germany was the last place where I lived.
  • I'm of German nationality.
  • I was born/raised in Germany.

You can emphasize the nationality by

Ich bin deutsch.
Ich bin Deutscher.

You can emphasize the heritage/ancestorship by

Ich bin deutscher Abstammung.
Ich stamme aus Deutschland.

If you want to emphasize a particularly strong identification with Germany, Germankind or Germanhood, you can say

Ich bin durch und durch deutsch.
Ich bin Deutscher durch und durch.

But this does not go beyond nationality, heritage or cultural association. It rather means, that you combine all these features.

As I don't see any objective connection between genetic heritage and nationality, I cannot give you any advice on how to express that.

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    What do you think about "Ich stamme aus Deutschland."? That would have been my first idea. – Chris Mar 3 '15 at 20:01
  • @Chris Thanks, I adopted it. – Toscho Mar 4 '15 at 10:31
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I totally agree with Toscho and would suggest another / a different approach. Since "Germany" can stand for so many different things and has been everything but a clearly definable "Nation" in the past decades, people seem to tend to rather refer to regions or cities when they want to express their origin.

The phrase "Ich bin ein Berliner" became worls famous – and it stands for so much more then just the geographical information. It's a feeling – no matter what nationality one has.

Similar to this people also refer to other regions and cities – e.g. "Ich bin ein Hamburger Kind" ("I'm a Haburg child") or "Ich bin ene kölsche Jung / Mädchen" (I'm a cologne boy / girl"). Especially when combined with some local accent those expression can be rather charming. At least in Germany people tend to understand immidiately that there's someone who 'just' wants to let you know where he/she's from – and the he/she seems to like that region or city.

So in my opinion in a small talk situation it would be totally ok to say you're from Germany – but the idea of having a ring inscribed with "Deutschland" or "Deutsch" gives me goose bumps – and not in a good way.

PS: also there's the opera / saga "The Ring of the Nibelung" by Wagner which is another context you probably want to avoid – but going into that now would go to far (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_Ring_des_Nibelungen).

2

Germany has a tradition of "Jus sanguinis", ie. you're considered German if you have German ancestors. That is the reason why "Russlanddeutsche" can "return" to Germany, even though their ancestors lived for centuries in Russia and even though they sometimes have little in common with German culture. If someone with a dark skin tells white German that he is German too, this will often trigger the question of what he is "originally". This can be explained with the fact that Germany never had a vast colonial empire such as Great Britain or were founded on immigration such as the US. Now telling people that you *are/ German will mean that you have German blood for German people, while US inhabitants will possibly most likely understand that you're just from Germany and don't care as much about ancestry. We're talking about two different concepts which I think have their own right and are not necessarily "racist" or whatever.

But Germans are not that strict about it. We had influxes of immigrants before, such as Poles coming to work in the coal mines / industry or french protestants fleeing persecution. So there are foreign names in Germany, but no one would considering them as not being German.

So in the end, the question cannot be answered easily, since there are different concepts of "Germanhood" in the world.

  • "This can be explained with the fact" - In addition to what you explained, I think one more explanation that could be added there is that to many Germans, what's written on your passport is rather an uninteresting administrative issue than something that actually has any meaning in everyday social life, whereas one's experiences and background with respect to other places, cultures, languages, and food may be seen as a much more interesting topic for conversation. – O. R. Mapper Mar 4 '15 at 13:44
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I cannot relate at all to having something like this inscribed in a ring, so you have to do a little research for yourself as to whether the following suggestions match your intentions:

  • Meine Heimat ist Deutschland.

    The word Heimat is untranslatable and cannot be easily defined – there is a reason why it has its own, long English Wikipedia article. Almost everybody understands this word slightly differently and what you want to say is almost certainly part of the spectrum. In particular, this word can be used to refer to a place the respective person has never been to (though there probably are some people out there disputing this). It’s mostly up to you what you regard as your Heimat.

    On the other hand, this makes the above sentence very fuzzy and thus without any context, there is no clear way of telling what that inscription is supposed to express. But as you may not intend other people to read and interprete this inscription anyway, this might be fine for you.

    There are negative connotations to Heimat, but using this word does not automatically make you sound like a nazi.

  • Ich bin deutscher Herkunft.

    Herkunft roughly translates to origin, ancestry, descent. This means that some of your recent (i.e., not hundreds of generations) social or biological ancestors were German. It is rather technical, but has few negative connotations. A person can have more than one Herkunft, like e.g. most US-Americans nowadays, if I am not mistaken.

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    @Tony F: This might be a good direction for you to think further about your inscription. Just having the word "Heimat" engraved in the ring could, for example, very well convey the idea you described. It could still be construed along uncomfortably nationalist lines, but as Wrzlprmft says, it is vague enough (especially when worn by an American) not to be offensive in itself. (Always assuming you avoid unfortunate font choices like Fraktur or something... that would change the meaning considerably.) – Mac Mar 4 '15 at 14:40

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