Stereotyping Germany

Watching the Euro 2008 games. Yes, many days late.

The Germany-Turkey game was an interesting one. The entire time watching I was reminded of our European trip, oh, about 10 years ago.

We spent a lot of time sharing trains with lots of people from lots of countries. Twice with Germans.

The first was with 2 excellent, lovely guys who were traveling the world riding roller coasters. They were very excited when they found out we were from California, apparently home to some of the world’s best. They really turned out to be nice guys and we spent a long time chatting.

They made a point of talking about the changes in Germany; the fall of the wall, the changes in attitudes, and the new-found tolerance. It seemed the shadow of the Nazi legacy weighed on their minds and it was important for them to erase it.

Fair enough. I know a number of people living in Germany, both natives and foreigners, and they all seem to like it. A good friend of mine, of Iranian descent, found his soul in Heidelberg. Anyway, I had no trouble believing what they had to say.

Then, some time later, the discussion turned to the Turks.

It turned out the Turks were the cause of all evils in Germany, usurping German jobs, dealing drugs, stealing, and generally not being very neighbourly.

I didn’t think much of it; every country has a group they blame for everything.

And then they said something like “… and we have to round them all up and burn them”.

Huh.

The second German we spent time with was a female DJ touring Europe, apparently a well known one. The pattern of conversation was similar - the tolerance and changes, followed by a clear, although much less harsh condemnation of the Turks.

A few weeks ago I met a young man from Germany. I asked him where he was from, and he told me he was Turkish. I asked where he was born, and he said Germany. “Then you’re German”, I said. “No”, was his simple reply, and his expression told the whole story.

Obviously a sample size of two doesn’t mean anything, but it’s come to flavor my impression of Germany. I hope to increase my sample size and dispel this impression.

Anyway, I was rooting for Turkey.