River City residents recently had to brush up on their “hallos” and “auf wiedersehens” to welcome a delegation from Evansville’s sister city Osnabrück, Germany.
The delegation of 18 people included the city’s Lord Mayor Wolfgang Griesert, the region’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce CEO Marco Graf, and the Twinning Office Manager Jens Koopman.
“There are cultural, educational, and economic interests that universally are shared,” says Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. “And to the extent we can learn more about a city similar in our size halfway across the world, I think we’re a better community for it.”
Evansville, one of Osnabrück’s 11 sister cities, has had a relationship with the German city for 26 years and mainly is tied by educational exchanges, says Winnecke.
“It’s not a contact between the mayors,” adds Griesert. “It’s a contact between people. It’s a unique thing of Osnabrück that they have ambassadors they exchange with five other city schools.”
In addition to education, the two cities were able to learn and share about local economies and business. The group toured Berry Global and was impressed by the scope of the company in a city the size of Evansville.
“There is no company in Osnabrück which is this size,” says Graf. “In Germany, we have the word of the ‘mittelstand.’ This is a family-owned, medium-sized business, so Berry is not mittelstand. First of all, it is not family-owned, and it’s not small or medium. It’s big.”
Though there are some differences between the two cities, this trip has shown there are many more similarities.
“Both mittelstands and companies such as Berry compete for skilled labor,” says Graf. “This was interesting for me to find out. You are an economically successful region, such as we are, and so we face the same challenges particularly on the labor market.”
Another parallel between Osnabrück and Evansville is that both cities are the third largest in their state. Lower Saxony has a population of about 8 million people with the population of Indiana being a little more than 6 million people.
“Everyone is very friendly and open, and that’s a similarity,” says Griesert.
These resemblances should come as no surprise to Evansville residents with their German heritage permeating many aspects of community life.
“Your ancestors immigrated,” says Graf. “Our ancestors stayed.”
Through all of the educational and economic learning happening with this partnership, one of the most valuable parts of having a sister city is being able to understand how foreign cities and cultures may not be so foreign after all.
“We talk about how we have far more in common than we don’t,” says Winnecke. “Guess what? Every community shares the same kinds of problems whether you’re in Evansville, Indiana, or Osnabrück, Germany.”
For more information about the City of Osnabrück, visit osnabrueck.de.