Tag Archives: Human behaviour

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…


Zagreb: Ideas and Images

A firm handshake, 1 second, 2 seconds. Eye contact. Straight. Sincere. Little blinking, every now and then. The coffee arrives on the table. The usual glass of cold water as well. You light a cigarette with a match. Inhale.  Breathe out in the clear summer air. Sunglasses disturb your vision, do not use them. The book is almost over, you read it for weeks and weeks now. Clearly. It looks like being tossed around too often. You like that idea. Smile secretly. A smile. The most honest thing one has to offer. You take a sip of water, while letting the spoon find its way to the bottom of the coffee. A small pack of sugar accompanies your cup. Do not open it. Coffee wants to be pure. The cigarette in the ashtray keeps burning down. You take a hasty pull and start reading. Lose yourself in a book. Trams keep speeding by, so do people. You look up, once in a while. People change. Your coffee gets cold. You still drink it. Cold coffee: a metaphor for time leaps on rusty chairs in moments of pure alienation. Detached from notions.


Addicted to a certain kind of kindness

Now, there is a different connotation to living in a Slavic country, I really have to admit. I only been here for, what, 2 weeks and I already feel another wave of honesty that I am exploring. Of course, I have been familiar with the kind of kindness, openness and ease of living for many years, but I somehow could never fully accept and/or appreciate it. To little congruence with my own culture, my way of being and my style of communicating was visible and so I did what I was best at – I stuck to what I knew and what I felt at ease with.
After those 2 weeks in Zagreb, I can say I found 1 real friend yet. 2 weeks! Real friendship does not come easy to me and it normally takes quite a while before people make the transition from being a “close acquaintance” to becoming a friend. Not here. I felt accepted and liked by the people I met so far and despite my different upbringing and history, I am welcomed immediately, That 1 guy I consider a friend, he has a girlfriend. We talked twice, I told her about my study and what I have to work on while in Croatia and she, in an instant, told me, she would help me! I was perplex! I told her, I was. She stared at me with surprise and simply replied, “that’s what friends do”. 🙂 Wow!

I came here for a reason. I start to understand a culture that really should have been familiar to me by now. I will try to incorporate every inch of this culture. It means the world to me.


how the age outgrew me

I have been a passionate football supporter for many years now (and still plenty to come from here). Throughout most of these years, I was lucky enough to still be of a certain age here most players I’d know and even see in town every now and then would be somewhat older than me, more experienced than me and, well yeah, much much cooler than I could ever expect to become! For the greater part of these years, I’d dedicate my “childish” passion to those players aged 28 – 30+, because they were much older, much more talented but would also say the occasional “hey” in the city center, giving me a good feeling about myself.
In short, I saw people I could idolize, very important at the time being when a youngster like me longed for identity and recognition.

Today, however, I wake up, seeing most players just graduating from school, starting a (professional) career or playing football at the side. And let’s face it, they are all much younger than me. A personal connection to any of them is not possible for me anymore, though I would not deny any.
The youth outgrew me, making me see football less a passion with people I’d define as “special cool guys” but a bunch of youngster willing to play for money/fame/fun who might even see me as a person of an indefinable older generation soon. Which is good, I reckon. After all, it is not the players that I should idolize, but the team I am passionate about. Players are just a commodity for a much wider plan. i do realize that now.
But I had to outgrow first…


How the liberation on business hours affects traditional family values

I clearly lost the pole position during the qualifications. I could have made it right there at 4pm, when the doors opened for the supermarket. Now I have to take what they left over and wait in long lines with them at the cash point. Them, that is literally hundreds of people, being overly excited about the opportunity of shopping on this rainy Sunday afternoon. Since in Groningen there is only one supermarket open on that particular day, it seems as if half the city is getting on its feet to do what they could have been doing during the previous 6 days – spend money. While the idea behind opening trade on Sunday is not new, it seems to have a major impact on what used to be the traditional Sunday setting – a day spent with the family and loved ones (and of course the obligatory visit to the football ground!). Limiting the opportunities for doing the groceries to one supermarket only creates this bizarre image of an entire city eager for shopping, while the other days of the week are rather calm. Of course they are, the activities are spread across many places and many hours. So what makes the idea of shopping on a Sunday so special and why do people experience it as something spectacular? During my time in Tartu, Estonia I saw shops being open every day, sometimes only closing a bit earlier on Sunday evenings. People were accustomed to it and acted (=spent) accordingly. Now back here in Groningen, time and leisure have a different connotation on a Sunday. You normally spend that day sleeping in long, cooking something nice for supper and maybe meet a friend in the center for a cup of coffee. Now with the extra option of doing the groceries, the ease of a Sunday afternoon life gets more and more attacked by those that want you to like spending money in every moment.
Of course I am not complaining, why should I? I just bought my dinner at this Sunday afternoon supermarket. You will most likely find no one complaining about it. Because after all, there are only beneficiaries: me, who gets his pack of cottage cheese, the cashiers who earn an extra shift and uncountable numbers of people who deliberately decided to turn their backs at values that once met the world to many and that now has become a distant memory in times of unlimited opportunities.
Oh, the line of people in front of me has slightly moved closer to the cash point…


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…

_________________

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!


Warhol 2.0 – 15 minutes of anonymity

In times where people wish their “friends/followers” a good night via twitter and in moments, where Maltese real estate agents want to professionally interact with a communication intern in the Netherlands, you cannot stop but notice how public your private life has become. I can barely browse the internet without stumbling upon a Facebook thumb or a small blue bird. Hold on, I stumbled upon it? What seems as a nice usage of semantic turns out to be the latest gadget in the social media theme park. This service offers you (by logging on with your FB account) websites that mixes your personal interests and hobbies, so you can be exposed to even more news, tweets, updates and thumbs up than you even did before.

15 minutes of fame

While I personally have only joined LinkedIn to create a professional network which might come in handy for future jobs, recommendations and the usual “hey, let us stay in touch” idea, I come to regret it more and more these days. With smart kids, who seem incapable of understanding the difference between FB and LinkedIn (and thus publish seemingly meaningless nonsense regarding formula 1 or pressing the “i like” button on a “i go to bed” comment) I considered deleting my account for good. However, this action will be non-beneficial. Not for me, not for my “business partners” which whom I might engage in professional interaction at some point in the future (left aside the mysterious invite from the Maltese real estate agent) and certainly not for these geeks who need people like me (or in general, people) that are able to see their comments posted on various websites, blogs and forums. I will not delete my account at LinkedIn nor will I ever have one on Facebook. The reason for that is that I do not want to get sucked into the whole “show the world who you are” nonsense any more than I already have.
In 1968, when the great Andy Warhol coined the widely used expression of “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”, his idea was far from being realistic. Fame was something remotely known to the younger generation.

I now want what my generation has come to learn but has forgotten even faster: 15 minutes of anonymity…

15 minutes of anonymity


The old man and the window

Living in a street covered in red lights in a medium-sized Dutch city offers room for interesting observations of human behaviour.

I stare out of my window in the 1st floor. My window is huge and beautiful, but that is not the point. The point is that I am looking out of the window, knowing that only a few meters from my window I find windows covered in darkish red lights, the color provided by neon tubes. Each evening after work, I spend some minutes at my huge and beautiful window, staring at the traffic of people passing by, slowly, insecure, looking for people like me staring at them, hoping to not catch eye contact. One day, I watched a man (I reckon in his late 50’s) passing by my window more than 10 times within 1 hour, his facial expression showed loneliness at its core…

The “elderly” are being substitutes by young blokes once the dawn sets in, either making sure the prostitutes are not being harassed or, even more often I came to understand, trying to sell hard drugs. It never gets dark at night, it never gets silent at night. I don’t know who intimidates me more; those who actively seek the red lights or those who try to make a living with the lights. But nonetheless, old men, loitering down my street, longing for cold lights with cold eyes; this street is interesting for observations of human kind. provided that you have huge and beautiful windows…


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!