A good thing about living in Mexico is that we finally are living in a soccer enthusiastic country. Hence, we can watch the Euro 2012 everywhere right now – which helps, since we didn’t sign up for cable.
How I missed soccer! I never got into football or baseball, and since Seattle had lost the Sonics, there was no basketball to explore. Yes, Seattle got their soccer team the Sounders, but that wasn’t the same… Only too well do I remember the worldcup 2006 in Germany that was BIG. Really BIG. Worldcup and Euro are THE times when Germans put out flags, paint their faces and wear silly clothes in German colours. And for once, we don’t feel bad about it. Because let’s face it, other than during important sports events, Germans never display patriotism. I even daresay that Germans don’t feel patriotism. At least, I don’t. (I guess, I am up for some mean criticism now. So ok, let me have it!)
Living abroad, though, has taught me a valuable lesson: Germans are in fact well respected. Huh, that was a huge surprise to me, because for me being a German always meant to live with a feeling of shame. Maybe I am just a little stupid, for I know that other fellow Germans don’t struggle the same way that I do, but ever since I learnt about the cruelties of the holocaust, I hated to say that I am German.
A lot of people, Germans or non-Germans, don’t understand my dilemma. After all, it wasn’t ME committing all those terrible crimes. Not even my generation. Not even our parents’, nor possibly grandparents’ generation. But to me, that doesn’t matter. To know that seemingly ordinary people (in my case, my (great-)grandparents) were able to act that way or, if not acting, to look away so persistently, for me was always enough to feel ashamed.
I remember my first trip to New York (my dad lent me his credit card, oh, he shouldn’t have done that!): I had bought so much that I needed to buy another suitcase. Where better to go than to Macy’s? The guy in the luggage department asked me where I was from and upon hearing that I was German, he started laughing saying: “Oh, yeah, yeah, Germany. Hitler, Hitler.” I felt my cheeks burning and tears dwelling up in my eyes, so I left the store. And I remember thinking that it was a terrible fate to be German. So next time when someone asked me where I was from, I would say Switzerland, and everybody would just think chocolate and cheese. Hooray. As Basil Fawlty would say: Don’t mention the war!
Maybe the next generations will do better on this subject than I do. Who knows. But our history was not the only reason for me to be so unpatriotic. For me, it was also the image of “the Germans”. Italians are said to be funny and sensual, the French are supposed to be gourmets and great lovers, the English have their wellies wearing Queen and that alone makes them delightfully quirky – but Germans? It’s all about puncuality and efficiency, isn’t it? Oh, and bad clothing when on vacation. Amen to that.
At least the image thing is something that I apparently share with many fellow countrymen: We try to get away from each other when travelling. My husband and I shut up the minute we hear German language somewhere. We just give each other a meaningful look and refrain from talking until the danger is averted. The danger of talking to someone in GERMAN! God forbid! I have noticed those looks, too, when apparently German couples overhear us talking in German, and I keep thinking: Germans are like old people.
You know, the way old people always try to stay away from other old people? They say, oh, I can’t go there, there are only OLD people! And you think, what the heck are you talking about? You ARE old! That’s how Germans act abroad. Oh, I can’t go there, there are Germans!
So honestly, what do we do once we get old? We will have no place to go, because there will always be either old people OR Germans OR both. But I guess, if we go back to Germany then, at least our meals on wheels will be on time!