Category Archives: Germany

The Roman, the Greek and the Nazi(s)

How overdue this blog is can easily be defined by the time past between my last publication here (August ’12). But even to a wider extent by the strong urge I have had to write this piece – which dates back many, oh so very many years. It may have first manifested itself inside of me during the school-year 2003/04 that I spent living in Cork, Ireland. Over there, in a overly catholic boys-to-men-school I was first being introduced to the idea of having foreigners tell me what they know – or thought to believe – about Germany and its past. Spoiler alert: it is not a very happy story! Of course not, how could it be?! Well, truth be told: my classmates back then were 15-16 years old and still had a few years of school in front of them. And even I had three more years to go afterwards. But then again, these 3 years – speaking about the history class in particular – were filled with one subject: Ze Zermans.
Okay, now here is, what I remember from all in all 9 years of more or less intense history-learning in various schools:

There once was a German Empire. Then they fought a war, lost it, got blamed. Started a second war, lost it. And rightfully so: got blamed. And then there were two German countries until David Hasselhoff miraculously reunited them, full stop.

Well, this is mind and taking those few weeks in middle school into account, during which the teacher would playfully explain the Romans and the Greeks (and we are talking a few weeks only!) I have absolutely no idea about any other country or historic events. For all I know, Germany could be only 150 years old and the riverbanks from where I am currently typing these words got drawn here like in SimCity. If it was not for the English classes in which we scratched on the surface of history of all major English speaking (and the U.S.) me knowledge would be even more limited.
What is bothering me immensely is my lack of wisdom regarding my own national identity and how this may be perceived elsewhere. I was being “honored” by Estonian nationalists back in 2010 with them telling me that I should be proud of “the” past. Shocking for a person like me, being brought up in a school system that for 9 consecutive years indoctrinated my mind about Germans and Germany being the source of all evil.  That persons’ believe put aside, I wish I could, in that very moment, have been able to explain my knowledge more thoroughly – but nah. I was merely given the tools to accept all blaming and beating for something in the past.
But in today’s day and age, I strongly develop the urge to educate myself about the history of others, coz I want to understand the bigger picture. And maybe, just maybe, it will help me to understand why the German-centric view in school is as it is. For I am still afraid to raise my voice about the international beating I sometimes had to endure abroad. Don’t get me wrong, what happened was the ultimate hate crime – yet the school system still teaches us that it was my personal fault. Mine…?!


UEFA Euro 2012 – National pride reloaded

2 more days. 2 more days waiting for the sport event of this summer (London Olympics, what?). 2 more days waiting to see Greece take on Poland in the 1st match of the 2012 UEFA Euro tournament. Only 1 day later: Germany. VS Portugal. Really, we love Portugal. Beaches, Sun, you know…the perceived ease of living. Germany? Bureaucracy, Socks in Sandals, Sauerkrauts 🙂 But who cares about how Germany is being perceived in the world? Who cares that we still believe to carry some sort of guilt? In those 3 weeks that shall follow, Germany discovers its own national pride. Flags on cars, flags on bikes, flags on faces… One does not simply walk outside the house without noticing the change in colors. All over sudden, the backyard is being renovated, a grill is set up and beer is cooled down. We rediscover the collective idea of friendship and common love for something, football. We hug strange people on the town square when Germany scores, we (will) cry together when Germany will (!) lose against the Netherlands and we will wish nothing but mean stuff to that Christiano Ronaldo bloke yet secretly liking him for his talent.

In short: we are one! We are Germany! Hurrah!

This post is valid till July 2nd…


The strange case of Germans in Holland

He said he was sorry for having made me listen to his stories for almost 2 hours. I don’t believe him. In my opinion, these – actually first – words he directly spoke into my direction showed just another attempt from his side to find another target, willing to listen to his glorious life, including all achievements. Starting from the time when he was 15 and stole his dad’s fancy shiny new car for a ride. He is grinning mischievously when he announces that they caught him speeding 260km/h in a 30km/h zone (or 62 in a 30 zone, I really tried to not pay attention). From his driving experiences, he is taking us (me and those other less fortunate people who carelessly chose to sit in the back of the coach) on a rapid journey throughout the first 22 years of his life, including his time abroad (yeah mate, I was in Austraaalia) to his promised 60,000$ tennis scholarship in the U.S.A and finally to his success in seducing women, preferably Ukrainians.

Of course he studies “International Business and Management Studies” here in Groningen. Most of them do. It looks good on their CV when it says you have studied in a foreign country. But they barely do so. Many Germans I met in my years in Groningen (though I understand it is the same in the Germanized cities of Maastricht and Venlo) study in German in the Netherlands, avoiding any language barrier by not socializing with the natives and forming sub societies. You can see them on their bikes in groups of 5-10, invading the supermarkets (Aldi more often than Albert Heijn) and especially on the buses and trains towards Groningen on Sunday evening, when they collectively complain about the teachers in Groningen, the leisure activities in Groningen and most commonly, the non-germans in Groningen. That fine young man who made me listen is an example par excellence. Openly, he led half of the coach know that his main reason of having chosen the German track over the Dutch one was due to avoiding “working with those lazy Portuguese or Koreans” (his words) who would most certainly cause him to fail any group project. In addition to this remotely racist comment, he continued complaining about the injustice of the Dutch government in supporting the Dutch students only, the current method of increasing the tuition fees each year and concluding with the statement that “we foreign students cannot earn money here and need to take a credit to finance the studies”.

He then paused a second and decided to proudly present to us his latest purchase, a 70€ swimming trunks, which he bought from the 1,500€ budget he is receiving on a monthly base from his father to get “the best education possible” (again, his words).
People like him do not want to be in the Netherlands I believe. They often don’t like it here much, but it is cool to say that one is studying/living abroad and barely anyone is considering staying after graduation.For us, the Netherlands is like a cash-cow: We take advantage of its benefits and once we are saturated, we harvest other places.

In the special case of the fine young bloke who unintentionally spoke for many of his kind, I am confident that the Netherlands can easily spare his departure. One final note before the end of this post: When he apologized, I told him I was going to blog about him; he became overly excited but asked me to not mention any names. No problem, Tim…

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PS.: I have uploaded a new SOCIALVIBE cause – Blood:Water Mission. Do the activities and help communities in Africa continue to fight back HIV/AIDS. That is more important than anything else!


Day #4 after arrival – Comparing Estonia and Germany

It is Monday noonish so I have spent about 100 hours in Tartu so far. The city is still rather empty (since classes won’t start for another 9 days) but especially at night there is a lot of traffic on both roads and pedestrian streets. The main reason for that may be the film festival Tartuff, which had its last day of action on Saturday evening, when locals performed what I would describe as singer/songwriter music. Besides that, of course, films were shown on a huge (huge!!!) inflatable screen in front of the municipality. May it be the heavy rain caused the moderate amount of people interested or it was due to the movie, which stared Corinna Harfouch and Bruno Ganz in the 2009 “Guila’s Verschwinden”but attendance was low. Myself, however, capable of understanding German enjoyed the evening a lot 🙂

Well, after four days living in Tartu, I dare to make first initial comparisons between both countries, if possible, despite knowing that neither country share many similarities.

#1 – the rain: when it rains, it rains a lot! For hours and hours, including thunder and lighting. The streets are empty (luckily for most pedestrians, cafés are omnipresent and cheap!) and the air cools down much quicker than in Germany.

#2 – eye contact on the streets: While being in Oldenburg, I experienced that most people keep their eyes straight and avoid holding eye contact for too long. However, in Tartu it seems to be considered impolite to not at least give the passing person a quick glance!

#3 – acceptance towards customers in cafés: Since I am still waiting for the internet to be made available in my appartment I am spending most of my day in the nearby kohvik metro and refreshing my webmail account, hoping for salvation – but nothing so far. However, I am sitting here for hours only rarely drinking my coffee, ordering even more rarely and taking up space for more “suitable” customers. But so far, I have not experienced any hard feelings from the staff nor the other people. I have witnessed differently in Germany.

These are the first differences I could come up with. Surely over the next few months, I will find more; they shall find its appreciation here, too. Now I will get my residence permission done!

Nägemist!