Stereotypes

Today is the kick off of the biggest Royal Wedding medieval spectacle you will ever watch.

Every four years the Bavarian city of Landshut, Germany, transforms itself into a medieval scene of a big Royal wedding with over 2000 actors in historic costumes performing the wedding as it took place in 1474 including knightly games.

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My German town of birth …

So maybe you can still get some tickets on Ebay and enjoy some knight tournaments or games at the fire – the festival lasts for a whole month.

A good opportunity to chat about stereotypes tonight!

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I come from a cosy small town that’s over a 1000 years old and hosts a lot of historical festivities. Around the lovely town of Nordhausen are picturesque countrysides, fruitful plains and mountains with amazing hiking trails. I practically grew up on a mountain bike!

Traveling a LOT I painfully realized that Germans are mostly stereotyped by Hitler, Kraut and Wurst.

“Propaganda” (what else can we call the never ending BBC history version) is doing their best to keep Germans in the black-and-white WW2 documentary zone. The 60th cultural revolution? Never heard of. Arts? Music? Beautiful nature? Inventions? The miracle of the reunification? What’s that. English people actually believe Georg Friedrich Handel was British. The miracle of the reunification? Do not teach it!

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Many totally quiet spots at the Baltic sea invite you to ponder about life and creation …

Time and time again I get incredulous looks when showing pictures from my German home town: What, you have colours there? Trees? We thought it was always snowing.

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At every corner you can buy amazing delicacies … scrumptious pastries and freshly pressed juices … sauerkraut and sausage is more reserved for the Bavarians who are a distinct, loveable tribe of their own in Southern Germany. To reduce all Germans to Oktoberfest and Wurst would be a shame. Germans are also quite adventurous in their taste and love trying international cuisine. Every town has their favorite “Italian”, “Chinese”, “Greek”, and a turkish “Doner kebap” is probably more popular than a “burger” which originated from the “Fischbroetchen” (fish bun) sold in Hamburg …

And yes, it hurts a lot when “the boy in the striped pyjamas” is discussed over every dinner you are having with new acquaintances.

Never mind the fact that Germans are generally much more supportive of Jewish culture and appreciate modern Jewish literature. German kids have student exchanges with Israel – I myself have been send to live in a kibbutz my my German High school!

The horrible war is over for 70 years now and all German kids still have to go on educational trips to the concentration camps and are taught how horrible their ancestors were. aStuttgart 018I haven’t heard of an English primary school sending their kids to commemorate the South African camps the Afrikaans people were interred in. Oh, wait, there were no museums build to keep that guilt alive, right?

German is still paying big amounts to all victims and is the country whose war criminals have been painstakingly taken to court and punished which we can not say for the atrocities others have done in many nations …

aStuttgart 030Ah well I am just trying to say, please do not break out your great-uncles svastika flag when I come to visit.

Rather, let’s talk science and education, free state-of-the-art healthcare for everybody and playgrounds everywhere…

It is hard having to fight stereotypes every time. If  the only German you know is the evil European in any given Hollywood Thriller actor, it might be time to widen your horizon. Just saying. Stereotypes are so 1933.

That’s why I act a bit over the top when people talk like all Russians are thieves (been there, met amazing musicians and poets), all Chinese know martial arts (been to Asia and learned a thing or two) or all Americans are shallow (traveled almost all of the states and was surprised by the variety of culture – and if you want something DONE, an American will tell you that you can do it …) the list goes on and on.

We all need stereotypes to quickly have a frame of reference at hand to know what to expect. But don’t expect a grey, stiff, work robot when you hear German. That’s not what we’re all about. Please.

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4 thoughts on “Stereotypes”

  1. It all gets so tedious doesn’t it? How much time must pass before the stereotypes die? My guess is not until Hollywood is replaced as a cultural force. Walk the streets of London or New York and ask random people about the firebombing of Dresden, you will get blank stares. Does this mean Americans and British love killing women and children? The broader principle is that man’s inhumanity to man has no limits in a broken world. There is nothing inherently evil about the Germans anymore than you will find in any man on the planet. It was the legacy of the French Revolution and the idea that man is the measure of all things that led to the unspeakable acts. The man that believes that is the real threat.

    1. Oh my, don’t get me started on the heartbreaking events at Dresden … no military base even nearby, only civilians, and, of course, enormous cultural treasures … hit them where it hurts. Not Frankfurt, not the banks … but the castles, museums, opera house and art galleries … Ah and to blame the French … mmh. What about the ever-so-greedy British colonialism that left the civilized world under the impression that if you do not conquer another nation, you are nothing? But it is futile to muse about the then and what ifs … today counts … I am sure we could have long discussions about that! 😉

    1. It is nice to keep some heritage alive. I often regret that abroad, Germans are stereotyped regarding food and history, rather than being known for their education standards, love of music and poetry …

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