How German is Santa Barbara?

By Safin Ilyas 




May 2019

When you fly 15 hours as a student from Germany to Santa Barbara, California, you expect a place decorated with palm trees and beaches, a student life according to the stereotypical "Californian lifestyle" and an excellent education at UCSB.  What you don't expect are the many small German components and influences you encounter in everyday life.

Whether it’s professors at the university, campus library staff, bus/uber drivers or spontaneous encounters on the streets of Santa Barbara, the probability of meeting people with German roots is relatively high. In most cases, their grandparents emigrated to America in the late 19th century and settled here. They still have German surnames and, despite their American identity, are very open with their German roots. In personal conversations, it’s clear that people themselves know their German places of origin and wish to visit. For example, a firefighter told me that his grandparents are from Bielefeld, just like me, and they plan to visit there this year.

If you keep looking around on campus and in town, you will see German drink names in many bars, and even a German snack stand directly on campus. The pretzel and bratwurst stand “Die Bretzel”, directly in front of the library under a palm tree symbolically shows a "little piece of Germany" in the Californian atmosphere. 

All in all, there is great intercultural diversity on the campus of UCSB and in the town of Santa Barbara, which is very welcoming to an international student, especially, in this case, from Germany!