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.

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

Wanderlust 

 

WanderlustAuf meinem Rueckflug von Vegas nach Boston habe ich am Flughafen diese Tasche entdeckt. Noch immer bin ich erstaunt darueber, welche Worte sich im Englischen behaupten konnten.

Gestern habe ich lange mit meiner Mama telefoniert. Viele Leute haben mich in letzter Zeit gefragt, wie ich es so weit entfernt von meiner Familie aushalte und irgendwie hat mich das zum Nachdenken gebracht: Sollte ich zurueckkehren? Vernachlaessigt man automatisch seine Familie und Freunde, wenn man weit weg ist. Pauschale Antworten auf diese Fragen gibt es keine.

Meine Mama sagte dazu gestern etwas, was mich erstaunt, mit ganz viel Dank erfuellt und bestaerkt hat, sie sagte:

“Dein Vater und ich haben Dich doch nicht erzogen, damit Du bei uns bleibst. Wir haben Dich erzogen, damit Du machen kannst, was Du willst und immer weisst, wo Deine Heimat ist.”

 

 

 

The small things

I have this sunny saturday Boston tradition: After my 90′ endurance workout, while walking towards the Boston market along the waterfront I am usually on the phone with my Dad or Mom or sister, catching up on life. It is a scenic walk with a brisk ocean breeze in your face, almost always sunny. At the market, you can get veggies and fresh caught fish and by now the people at the market know me. As much as I love the anomity of a city, the fact that the farmlady calls me “honey” and knows what I am buying makes me feel very much at home!

Yet as of lately, since I learned that I would have to cancel my trip back home, every time I get off the phone with family in Germany, I have this lump in my throat. And although I love freshly shucked oysters, all I want right now is fresh German bread with German (or Irish) butter, a Hefeweizen and all of that while I am sitting outside :-).

When I first felt that way, I thought I was homesick. But the longer I think about it, I subconsciously feel trapped. Although it was my dream to find a company to sponsor my H1-B application, the very fact that I am not allowed to leave this country without giving up that chance feels like a deep cut into my freedom of movement.

And that makes me realize that I do not function as well as I am used to functioning when I feel this way. At the same time, it makes me appreciate the small things: That I will be able to go back soon, that I receive packages from Germany with my top ten list of things that I have a very hard time living without, that I can live stream German radio all day long to get a sense of what is going on in Europe (something that is not captured well in the international news) and that despite the distance I have a wonderful family supporting me.

Tooi im Spiegel, Teil II

Ich freue mich, Euch von meinem Interview mit dem Spiegel berichten zu duerfen:

Vergangene Woche wurde ich von einem Spiegel Online-Redakteur interviewt. Wie es so ist als Deutsche in Amerika mit Donald Trump als potentiellem Praesidentschaftskandidaten.

In 2002 wurde ich von einer Spiegel-Redakteurin interviewt, wie es ist als Deutsche Austauschschuelerin in den USA, nachdem Deutschland sich nicht am Irak-Krieg beteiligen wollte:

 

Gesucht: Politiker mit Leidenschaft

Ich vermisse eine charismatische Persönlichkeit in der Deutschen Politik! Der es nicht hauptsächlich um Machtsicherung geht. Die für etwas steht! Inspiriert! Willkommen in meiner naiven Vorstellung von Politik…

Brüssel, vor ein paar Jahren. Feedbackgespräch. Er, weiß, Mittvierzig, Kleinmannsyndrom, sagt mir, ich sei zu frech! Hätte eine naive Vorstellung von Politik. Karriere hier sollte ich mir abschminken…nach dieser Woche der Schreckensnachrichten möchte ich meine frech-naiv-leidenschaftliche Vorstellung von Politik mit Euch teilen.

  • In meiner leidenschaftlichen Vorstellung von Politik wäre es Mutti gewesen, die mit Joko & Klaas ein #mundaufmachen-Video dreht.
  • In meiner leidenschaftlichen Vorstellung von Politik stellt sich endlich mal ein Politiker hin und sagt: Danke! Danke an all die Helfer, Unterstützer, Spender, an alle, die in den sozialenn Netzen keinen einzigen Spruch rechtes Gedankengut unkommentiert lassen.
  • In meiner leidenschaftlichen Vorstellung von Politik muss ein Politiker Zeit darauf verwenden, seine Rhetorik zu verfeinern. Kein Amtsträger sollte von gerechter Umverteilung sprechen, wenn es um Menschen geht.
  • In meiner naiven Vorstellung von Politik zeigen Politiker wofür sie stehen, sie inpirieren: Auf der Seite www.bundesregierung.de, vom Bundespresseamt betrieben, ist alles 0815, die Woche der Kanzlerin im Video. Eine Nüchternheit, die mich traurig macht.

In der Grundschule wollte ich Karla Kolumna werden, später über Politik schreiben, dann gern selbst mitmachen. Das war, bevor ich das Spiel um die Wiederwahl verstand: Ziel des Spiels ist die Wiederwahl. Strategie: Zwischen unzähligen Sitzungen in einer Vielzahl von Gremien muss sich ein Amtsträger eine Mehrheit erkungeln für die Kompromisslösung, Das Finden einer vernünftigen Lösung bringt zwar Bonuspunkte, ist aber nicht entscheidend für die Wiederwahl. Tipps: Mit einer mehrheitsfähigen Lösung, stringent oder nicht, kommen Sie am ehesten zum Ziel. In der Variante seit 2005 gibt es Bonuspunkte fürs Ausmerkeln. Was wäre das für eine Spielvariante, wenn jemand mit einer Inspirationsstrategie das Spiel durcheinanderbringen würde? Ich weiß, wieder so eine naive Idee. Aber irgendeine Freche muss ja geben.

Martin Luther KIng-Memorial in DC

Father’s Day

It is Father’s Day. And since this is the 30th year of my Dad’s fathership, it is time to reveal some special moments, those that stick in your memory and make you smile (I am sure that lots of Dads and Daughters can relate to this)

  • When I was in third grade, my Dad gave me my first career advice. I had to write a paragraph about what I want to be when I grow up. I had no clue what to write. I vividly remember him sitting down with me, asking me about activities that I enjoy doing and finally saying: You choose something that makes you happy and you will be excellent at it. 
  • Every time we went to the bakery together to get fresh breakfast rolls, we shared a “Berliner”, a jam-filled donut on our way home. It was our well-kept secret. Father's Day
  • When I introduced my first boyfriend to him, Dad was very polite and welcoming. Yet,he gave that poor boy that stare that only Dads can do. The “if you break her heart, I break your legs”-stare. It made me feel very protected.
  • When I had my first skiing accident, my Dad climbed up that steep Austrian ski slope to be there for me. When we were buying new ski boots for me this winter, I was trying on racing boots. The shop owner, an elderly Austrian all mountain guy, said to my Dad that these boots require a lot of strength and he would not recommend them to women. My Dad looked at him, smiling and replied: Well, you do not know my daughter.
  • This is my third year living in the United States and we do not see eachother often. I miss my Dad a lot and I know he misses me. Never, though, has he asked me to not do something, to not go places if I wanted to do it. His parental love is unconditional and I can only thank him for that.

Today is Father’s Day in Germany. Actually, it is a national holiday called “Christi Himmelfahrt” (Ascension of Christ), which is broadly recognized as Father’s Day. If you were taking a walk through the fields in Germany today, you could see hordes of men, pulling a child’s wagon filled with beer, celebrating father’s day.

Vier Tage “raus”

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Für Lesefaule: Mit dem Fahrrad vier Tage durch Deutschland war für mich entspannender als ein Strandurlaub. Für die nächste Tour halte ich gute sowie schlechte Ideen fest… Gute Ideen: Strecke und Etappenziele vorher festlegen (insbesondere am Tag 3 habe ich … Continue reading