About franziskaschwarzmann

Grad Student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

The generally accepted level of racism

Today I had lunch with a friend from Boston who moved to Munich with her husband and two kids in June. Without a doubt she is in full cultural shock mode. This is not the first time she had left the US. As a matter of fact she has lived in Europe for many years already.

When I asked her how she feels she told me that what seems to be so picture perfect (look at the highest rated passports, or countries with the highest quality of life, Germany always ranks high), is actually quite harsh. For example, she said people give her “stinky eyes” all the time when her kids are too loud. And that on multiple occasions the family has noticed other people mumbling things like “Auslaender”, which means foreigners but is usually not meant in a delightful way. And then she said this: “I feel like there is a level of racism in this country and people talk about it so openly as if these are facts that everyone agrees with.”

That really got me thinking. For my last blogpost I have been given a surprising amount of feedback. Not surprisingly, lots of snarky comments from Germans and a multitude of internationals encouraging me to keep on writing. Some of them asked me if I could explain why a party like AfD, a populist right party with strong ties to the Neonazi organizations, is now in every state’s parliament and in the German Bundestag, the national parliament. Of course, if I had a good explanation, I would probably work somewhere else. All I have are observations. And they have a lot to do with narrative, and the organization of Germany.

The founding order of the United States, the very idea of the country was freedom. The founding idea of the Federal Republic of Germany, was to not repeat the past. Whereas the degree of individualism knows almost no boundaries in the US, in Germany there are written and unwritten boundaries. One very written example is that denying the holocaust in this country is a felony, not freedom of speech. My favorite example of unwritten rules and restrictions in Germany is the German mama saying to toddlers: “One does not do that.” It is a society that is raised with a lot of “one does not do thats” and, believe me, there are lots of them, like the situation my friend from Boston finds herself in when the kids are “too loud” on the streets.

So how can one challenge existing orders, boundaries, rules, customs when they fall under the “one does not do that” category. That’s right, one does not. What if somebody does do it, addresses the fears of people, says what one should not say? AfD has done exactly that, in a very dangerous way. They address fears while presenting their own worldview with their own explanation. Explanations that lack any proof or sense, but that most likely does not matter. As long as someone addresses something that has been under the cloak of Germany’s hidden rules for too long.

It works the other way as well. Challenging things that are “ok” to say as not acceptable does not make you a lot of friends here. The other day after one of my rants on Facebook somebody asked me: “Then why did you even come back here if you don’t like the way things are.” An interesting question, which I did not understand at all. This is the country I was born and raised in. I think the status quo is unreasonably shitty and I would like to change that, critique that, but instead I get asked why I am even here. One does not do that!

Diaspora Blues

Diaspora Blues

By Ijeoma Umebinyuo

So,

here you are

too foreign for home

too foreign for here.

never enough for both.

It cannot be denied that we who have walked those formative years in foreign lands may find that we are a bit foreign no matter where we are. (Full post here)

More alienated than ever before I am living my life in Munich. Moving to Munich was a good idea: I started learning Farsi, people are on the streets after 8pm, and in my office there are many internationals. On the streets of Munich one hears predominantly English, it makes me feel at home.

I posted the “Diaspora Blues” on Facebook the other day and a German friend who married an American and now lives in the states texted me that I am in reverse culture shock. Within the first year of being in Germany I would have agreed. It has been longer, though, and I simply think that this is not my home anymore, it is the country where I was born and raised. Ultimately, there are more things that I find despicable.

Maybe Expectations play a big role when it comes to my relationship with Germany: I expect a country with such a history to be better than it is. I am noticing that I have lost touch to “the German” – the one that votes for right populists, the one that thinks that state is responsible for pension, the one that washes his car every saturday, has a tidy garden with little garden dolls, and everything in order. The one that, to me, is so scared of loosing that he will also never gain.

Lately, I have found myself in so many situations that left me in anger and disbelief that I have decided to write it down, and take all the criticism from Germans I might get:

This is the way it is in Germany

Today I had a phone call with an employee of the department of taxes. I had inquired about a common tax statement for married couples. She answered that there is no common tax statement, there is a man’s tax statement and he can allow his wife to be part of it.I asked her: “Why?” She answered that this is the way it is in Germany. Solid answer. My answer is that it is about time things change in Germany!

Racism

I have multiple times now overheard statements from professional people that refer to other nations as “ching chang chungs” or “Raj’s”. Believe me, having worked in a jewish start-up in the states, we have had some politically incorrect jokes. But this is different: This is open racism. And these people are not aware of it and this is where I have issues. In a country in which an openly racist and Hitler-loving party is now in every state’s parliament, this is not ok!

I am not yet decided how to position myself. Shall I be a guest, shall I be an advocate of my beliefs and speak up? Overcoming my constant anger is the first step, I guess.

Five Lessons learned from our storytelling approach (German only, for now)

Video

I had the honor of speaking at two content marketing conferences about ZEISS Stories, the storytelling project that I am strategizing and implementing at ZEISS. 

My talk was perceived very well and I have been asked to share it with my fellow content marketers – all trying to figure out how to work the area of “owned content”.

Enjoy!

Oh, January

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January is a hard to deal with month for me. I might also face a couple of intimidating thoughts right at this time and blaming the one month that usually motivates people to eat healthier, smoke less and work out … Continue reading

India

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I have been writing so much for work that my private headlines are not really the most creative. But this one sums it up pretty well. Pouya, me, India. Naturally, the minute I told my body I am going on … Continue reading

The German World – through His Eyes

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Be careful what you wish for: When Pouya and I decided to relocate to Germany we were telling our friends that it would be an adventure. It’s surely been adventurous, but maybe not the adventure that we had associated. Schorle! … Continue reading