As you might have guessed, I am from Germany. I don’t define myself by being German since there are a ton of different things that make me “me”. But lately I have been thinking about what being German means for me these days.
German. If you ask people from other countries what they think of Germans you get answers like “Oktoberfest” and “Beer” and “Lederhosen”. Well, to tell the truth: I have never been to an Oktoberfest in my life and frankly, I’m not planning to go, like ever. From all those stereotypes about Germans I can’t see one sticking with me short of being punctual. Am I not German because of that?
In school there were a lot of kids that grew up in bilingual households. To us, it didn’t matter if you did. You got along or you didn’t. When we weren’t that far from graduation, there was an addition to our class. The girl had moved to our city from Russia. She was well included from day one and she didn’t really want anything to do with the other Russians in our class. We made an effort to include her and so did she. Including someone into a community has to be a two way street or it won’t work. You can’t just judge people by where they are from or what language they speak. They are not all the same. Germans aren’t all the same, neither are Chinese people or Muslims or… The list could go on forever. Sure, a great deal of who you are is defined by the culture you grow up in. But each and every single human being has his or her very own personality. A nice person is a nice person, no matter what they believe in or what language they speak. But (Sorry for the language) it’s also true that an asshole is an asshole no matter where he or she is from.
Whenever there’s talk about Germany you will inevitably cross the topic of the Third Reich. Yes, it happened. Yes, it was horrible. I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors the Jewish have had to go through. (And not just them!) I have been to Israel and I have had guests from Israel stay with me. It didn’t take us long to become friends. What really made me angry was that obviously a large number of them was still scared to be in Germany. They were afraid to speak Hebrew in public and to be recognized as members of the Jewish community. When some random idiot who I still want to slap for doing that called “Juden raus” near them, some of them were panicking like their lives were at risk. That was something that just made me so angry… Yes, Hitler happened. A long time ago. Most of the people alive today didn’t take part in the events and didn’t even witness them. We are just caught in the aftermath. I’m not saying it should be forgotten because no one wants to see this happen again. But it shouldn’t be kept alive, either. Today’s youth shouldn’t still have to pay for those horrible crimes.
It makes me so angry that today’s life is still so influenced by what happened decades ago. As a German you can’t show any national pride without being labelled. Sometimes being German in Germany seems to keep you at a disadvantage. In the last couple of years there are more and more scenes in every day life that make me feel like a stranger in the country I was born and raised in. In the area I live in there are many immigrants. So I am pretty much used to hearing other languages on a daily basis. (I don’t see that as a problem in general. Growing up bilingual is great.) But when I spend the afternoon outside it’s possible for me to come home and not having heared a single German word. A Turkish mother I sometimes talk to told me she wasn’t going to send her daughter to a certain school cause there were too many immigrants attending. I know it’s not like this everywhere in Germany. I have been to other regions where the numbers of immigrants are much lower and you see people there handle it differently. But here, I can feel the anger slowly burning its way to the surface. I have heared immigrants say they hate Germany and Germans are all filthy shitbags. Why live here? I mean… Seriously. Why move to a country where you hate everything. Oh wait. Money. I have heared it myself that people said they miss home but at home they won’t get paid money for taking care of a disabled child, for example. I don’t mean to offend anyone with this. I am just repeating what I heared and had to witness. I know not all people who immigrate here are like this. I know there a lot of Germans who rely on those payments and don’t make any effort to get a job.
What I am gonna write about in this paragraph I have heared from people who work in the medical system. I have problems with my back and I would need to get massages regularly to ease the pain. But my doctor won’t prescribe them because they’re too expensive. Just one of the many examples for doctors being on a low budget. And there they are: the Turkish, Polish, Russian… people that get things on prescription that aren’t even really necessary. Also getting a handicapped ID isn’t that easy nowadays. Especially for getting a “G” on it, saying you’re not able to walk (much) and permitting you to use public transportation for free and take someone with you for free as well. On the busses the most people with those IDs are Turkish. And I can assure you: Most of them can walk just fine. Makes you wonder why it seems so much easier for them to get those IDs or prescriptions. Same seems to go for getting social aids. When you have to claim social benefits as a German citizen, you have to find your way through all of those piles of papers on your own. Sometimes you don’t even know which kind of benefits you can claim. When you are not German you get an interpreter, you get help finding filing the claims, you get help finding out which benefits you can get… And when you apply for job in the social service you get an advantage being not from Germany.
Answer one question for me: Working in a factory, is “Work a bit faster, would ya?” a racist comment from your superior? Some immigrants here seem to think so.
Having said all this, I now have one final thing to say. Moving to another country (not just talking Germany here) means to leave your home behind. That doesn’t mean you have to leave every single thing about your culture behind. That is a part of who you are. But moving to another country also means adapting to how things are going there. Becoming a member of the society there. It’s NOT trying to make everyone in that country live the way you used to. You can believe in whatever God you want (or not) but don’t take people who don’t have the same beliefs as you for human beings with less worth. (I had a Turkish neighbor who got pregnant very young and wasn’t married. She was shipped off and it was all denied. When the child was born it was taken care off by the family lovingly and still is but the point in this story is: Other muslim neighbors wouldn’t let their kids play with that child because for them it was impure. But when you state things as they are as a German, you are racist.)
Oh, and to answer the question that started this whole piece: Being German for me means sometimes feeling having the wrong citizenship your own country.
Since writing more about this would just make me mad and sad… I will publish this and wait for the “you’re such a racist” comments to roll in.