Hi, I’m Markus from Regensburg, which is only 100 km from Nuremberg, but there is a lot of traditions that are completely different from Franconia. I am team lead of the documentation team, and we are located in the first floor of the East wing. I love traveling, writing and talking to people all over the world about our cultures. Languages (though I don’t really speak that many) are a nice hobby of mine, too, and since lots of my really close friends are from a variety of countries and cultures I have been collecting funny, sometimes mind-blowing stories of other countries that I’d like to share.
“You are so multicultural”, said the Californian – wait, what?
My strangest moment was when an American friend from California visited me for the first time. After her first three hours in Nuremberg which we mostly spent in the beautiful old town I asked her about her first impressions of this country. She thought a few seconds, looking around and said: “Germany is so much more integrated, multicultural and peacefully mixed ethnicities than many environments in the US.”
At first I thought I had misheard, since German media tended to be full of other stories and opinion about us, with right-wing parties rallying in the summer of 2016. “Look”, the lady from Sacramento pointed to a group behind me. “Look at these kids.” I turned around and saw a group of students of college age, six guys and three girls, passing by.
Skateboards, Icecream, Chai and the world
Two of the boys carried huge skateboards, some ate colourful icecream, a mini skirt girl held up a bright brown chai latte kind of coffee, while another one wore a blueish head scarf. They happily chatted in the kind of language that our youngsters think is German, they laughed and had fun, just as we did ages ago. I hadn’t noticed what my guest saw: The little flock seemed so diverse to her, with probably African, Arab, Turkish, Russian, German and Italan dinner waiting for them at home. To me it was just another group of teenagers on their way home from afternoon fun in the city on a hot summer day.
That was the moment when I realized that in the US concepts like race, ethnicity, heritage and lots of other group membership are so much more present and important in daily life than they are in Germany. And I found interesting proofs for that ever since.
Ethnicities and discrimination
For example, anti-discrimination laws require citizens in the US to fill in their ethnicity in many standard forms, while the same laws explicitly forbid that question in Germany. If I hadn’t been to the USA, I wouldn’t know what to write in this field (Am I Caucasian?). On the same ground, applications for a job in the US should never ever contain a photo – this might be considered an attempt from you to discriminate other applicants by showing your ethnicity. Oh, and please don’t ever ask a stranger about his ethnical background. On the other hand, African Americans often are warned when visiting Germany about that, and told to not take such questions by Germans as an offence. “They will ask you if they may touch your hair… don’t worry, that’s just friendly.”. Yes, this is true, as strange as it may sound.
Since that day I’m pretty proud of the mutlicultural nature of this country that most people here don’t even realize anymore. Yes, we’re friendlier and more helpful than we tend to think. And yes, we can be really good hosts.