Tag Archives: Germans

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…?!

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Zagreb 50h

So far, I spent a bit over 50 hours in Zagreb, Croatia and thought, it definitely is time for a first statement:

I am so overly positively overwhelmed!!

To be honest, I haven’t really done anything here so far. I took 2 cabs to find my final destination (I get to that later) and did a bit of grocery shopping here and there, but for the most part of my 2 days, I spent them at my new, overly dusty, attic room a good 5km outside the city center. The room is…something else. Roughly 30qm I reckon, it is packed with dust and old broken furniture. Since I won’t be needed much, I simply dragged all those boxes in the one corner of the room I most likely never again will pass by, and set up my bed and desk close by the window. Now I use the bed, the desk and something that looks remotely like a cupboard to store my clothes. My 4 house mates seem to be pleasant companions, but I only met 2 so far. However, I explained my reasons for being here and instructed them (nicely) that within short time, I shall practice my Croatian language skills on them!

Back to my being overwhelmed. I have spent two weeks in Ljubljana, Slovenia over the past 4 1/2 years and the mentality I got to understand their seems to be much applicable to what I saw from Zagreb and its people so far. Every single person I talked to so far is so friendly. And it is an honest kind of friendly, the one that makes you want to just smile at strangers and talk about everything. My first cab driver asked me whether I am married and what brought me to Zagreb. He liked the reasons… 🙂 He continued telling me that Zagreb is a safe city with no harm for strangers. Just imagine a somewhat similar conversation with any (!) German cap driver, I dare you.

Okay, since I don’t want to reveal too many emotions at this first of many posts, here are two more things that I find worth mentioning:

a) The weather. I was told that the Balkan are in the middle of a severe snowstorm. I write these words on my shiny, -3°C cold balcony! It hit +7°C yesterday, so much of the snow has turned into brownish mud, but that is okay. It is very very slippery here, guess that compensates for missing out on the white beauty.

b) The burek. I tried 2 different places already. They were good, the one I had in Ljubljana in ’07 was better! Guess the first one is always the best and the most memorable.

Oh yeah, pictures. Next time… 🙂


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!