Are you wondering what it is like to be a black man in Germany?
Germany is a landlocked country in Western Europe with a population of 80 million people. It is bordered by several countries including France, Belgium, Poland, and The Netherlands.
Let me introduce to you Kwasi Henderson, a fun-loving 24 year old Computer Science major attending Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, AL.
He recently spent a year living in Germany while attending Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Professionals.
The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) is a fellowship funded by the German Bundestag and U.S. Congress, that annually provides 75 American and 75 German Young Professionals the opportunity to spend one year in each others’ countries, studying, interning, and living with hosts on a cultural immersion program.
Read his personal experiences while living in Germany as a black man.
Being a Black Man in Germany – 14 Things I hate
Although there are several great things about living abroad, there have been certain things in Germany that have gotten on my last damn nerve.
I thought it would be fun to do this post in a B*zzfeed fashion. You know how b*zzfeed and similar websites have a way of keeping people interested by listing things?
For example, these days news articles are formatted in such a way that it almost sounds like a 12 year old wrote them.
Something like “8 reasons you need to wax instead of shave your pubic hair” or “90 ways the 90’s are better than the 00’s”. Anyway, without further ado, here are 14 things I HATE about Germany.
I hate, let me reiterate, HATE the smell of cigarettes. I wouldn’t date anyone who smokes and I usually keep my distance or hold my breath around friends who do smoke. Yet for some odd reason Europeans seem to love those cancer sticks.
They smoke one after a meal, when they’re happy, when they’re stressed, shortly after getting dressed, while they’re waiting on a train or a bus, on a boat, with a goat, while they’re shopping for new soaps, while they’re in a club or at a party, in-between classes, constantly blowing smoke out of their asses.
With every given opportunity I have to avoid the omnious cloud of toxic fumes, I somehow, in one way or another, ALWAYS get stuck walking behind someone who’s practically French kissing a cigarette and blowing the smoke right in my direction. At least the labels on cigarette packages here are dead on.
2.) German customs.
Things have a way of getting lost in the postage here in Germany. If you order something online and are not at home to recieve it, you have only 1-2 chances to catch the post otherwise it may get shipped back to where you ordered it from. I lost my phone back in August. Since I had insurance, I was able to have my iPhone shipped from America in Oktober and even that took over a month to arrive.
Once it finally did arrive, I found out I was not able to pick it up because quote:”this phone will not be able for your usage here in Deutschland”. As if I did not have plans on having it unlocked the moment I could put my hands on it. Ugh. Nonetheless, I had to AGAIN wait for it to be shipped BACK to America. That was in November 2013. It was not until February 2014 did it finally reach back to my mom in Sweet Home Alabama.
3.) Buying groceries.
Buying, bagging, and paying for groceries in Germany has to be one of the most intense and stressful experiences. Do you remember that TV show from the 90’s, “Supermarket Sweep“? The panic those contestants felt while trying to make sure everything made it into the shopping cart within the time limit is similar to what it feels like when you in the check out lines here in Europe.
The moment your turn approaches and the cashier begins scanning your groceries, you have only a small window of time before she calls out your total and gives you that evil glare. There usually isn’t any room at the end after your groceries are rung up, so if you don’t bag up your shit or get it into a basket you’re out of luck. The cashiers move faster than you can blink. I can say however, that the experience is less tense when there are less people behind you in line.
4.) Everything is Closed on Sundays
Not a single damn store being open on Sundays except for gas stations and stores/shops closing early during the week. I still do not fully accept this concept. I mean, I guess it is easier to relax and find piece of mind on a Sunday when there are less things open to distract you. Coming from a country where almost EVERYthing is open 24/7, it takes a LOT of getting used to. Sundays are meant for unnecessary trips to Walmart, cruising through the mall doing countless window shopping, not walks through the park or worse… hiking.
5.) Overly affectionate couples.
The PDA is ridiculous in Europe it’s like being forced to watch soft core porn while you wait for your train or bus or dinner or in line for the bathroom or even while you’re just out getting ice-cream. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Or to be more specific, none-air-conditioned homes/trains/buses/buildings during summer. I know it saves energy to utilize natural resources like wind and such, but can we get some cold air and circulation of some sort while I’m on this bus going from one side of town to the next? It’s hotter than four big girls in a Ford Focus and Deutsche Bahn has the NERVE to not so much as crack a window. I now have learned that Air Conditioners are a right, not a privilege.
7.) NO FREE PUBLIC BATHROOMS.
In Germany, and most of Europe, it can cost about 0.50€ (roughly $0.68) to 1€ ($1.30) to use a public restroom. That includes most (but not all) restaurants, malls, gas stations, train stations, festivals, even some Port-o-Potty’s charge you to utilize that unsanitary death-trap. I cannot even begin to fathom how much money I’ve spent on emptying my bladder. The only exclusion being trains where you can pee for free, but once you get off the train and arrive at the train station, you may want to gather them coins. I have suffered from extreme dehydration on more than a few occasions in attempts to save a euro or two. Which I know sounds ridiculous, but that’s money! Imagine being charged to breathe? I’m going to start a website and petition to get Chancellor Angela Merkel to change this. Look out for it on free2pee.de, coming to a web browser near you.
8.) No Mesh Screens.
I first arrived in Germany in what seemed to be the hottest month of the year. In August it was SCORCHING HOT. I grew up in the South so of course I’m used to high temperatures, drenching sweat, and those flying pests known as mosquitos. But do you know how I survived this long in Alabama dealing with all of that? AIR CONDITIONERS AND MESH SCREENS ON MY WINDOWS! The idea of having a bug/window screen on doors or windows is a foreign concept here. Did you Germans think there was no possible way you could stop bugs from coming into your house? Put those Engineering degrees to good use and make mesh screens happen!
9.) Export/Import fees.
Sometimes I miss those super unhealthy snacks I grew up with. You know the good stuff. Oreos, Cheetos, Reese cups, etc. The lack of Cheddar cheese, Jalapeno Peppers, among other things make me cringe. You can find American stores in various cities here in Germany, but the prices are INSANE. Check out the cost for just a package of Golden Oreos in an American store here in Reutlingen.
|This store better pick another number, because I AM NOT THE ONE. Who in their right mind would pay 10 euros (damn near $16) for a package of oreos? Somewhere there has to be a diabetic mad as hell, but still tempted to buy these.|
I briefly touched on this when I mentioned the stressful process of buying and bagging groceries, but the most important I forgot to mention… BUYING CLOTHES! Europe has made me take the term “window shopper” to a whole ‘notha level.
Jeans were a Western influence and just became popular probably within the last 10 years or so. Here they are worth their weight in gold. I once had a pair of American Eagle jeans stolen right from out of the gym locker room over the winter break. Didn’t think AE was a brand even worth stealing, especially in Europe. Men’s clothing in general has always been a bit pricey. No matter where I go.
In Europe, there are a large number of guys who you’d typically see in GQ magazine that actually live this life the GQ life in Germany! Of course there are several exceptions, you have your graphic tees and weird american sayings written on clothing deemed “style” among the younger crowd. I even saw a few guys wearing shirts of the Eiffel tower pictured and the text “Niggas in Paris” written across the front plain as day. As luck would have it, the store that sold them is going out of business.
11.) “We’re sorry this video is only made available to viewers in the United States”.
GEMA, honey. listen.. So there’s an organization in Germany called the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (or GEMA for short). Which essentially is just a society of haters. The main job of this organization is to cause misery and heartache to any individual who is attempting to watch a newly released (in America) music video from VEVO or anything of relevancy. I don’t know who hurt them in such a way where I can’t even watch a clip from The Daily Show, but this is some BULL!
12.) “Black Music”.
I didn’t know what to say when I first saw these words on a flyer. My mind instantly thought they were referring to that dark, grungy, Punk/Rock music. I later came to the f’d up realization that any music that is of the R&B, Rap, HipHop variety is referred to as “Black Music”. You’re more than likely to hear that on radios here, and on club flyers/invitations. It takes some getting used to…. Still haven’t completely gotten accustomed to being referred to as “a black”.
13.) “Woher Kommst du?”.
So girl listen, Europeans have this fascination with knowing exactly where you were born and raised. At first it comes off as just a general curiosity, but then it turns into something a bit more… personal. Maybe it’s the media or maybe it’s just plain ignorance, but Europeans have a common misconception on what an American is. For those of you who somehow didn’t know this, here’s a quick history lesson.
The United States is a nation colonized, formed, and sustained by immigrants. About 500 years ago Christopher Columbus got lost looking for Asia and stumbled upon the Native Americans. Instead of being friendly, or just minding his own damn business and going home… He decided to stay and try to teach the “savages” the European way of doing things. Which led to genocide, disease, and overall destruction of almost an entire race of people.
From that point on, more and more immigrants came over searching for a better life (Some forced by means of slavery) and started a new home in what is now the USA. I say all this to point out that whenever me or any of my friends who are of a different ethnicity OTHER than white interact with a German, we’re immediately put into a box based off our ancestral history.
For instance, I was told point blank that I should keep my passport and documents on me at all times. Not because I am an American visiting another country, but because I don’t LOOK either American or like the “typical German” and may get asked for my visa/papers more often when on the street. Which unfortunately has happened on more than one occasion….
I suppose I look like an African immigrant escaping to freedom fully-equipped with drugs to sell. There were other instances where my Asian-American friends were greeted with a “Ni-Hao” and told several harmful things such as “your English is very good for an Asian”, “you don’t look like the typical American”, or even making insulting gestures such as squinted eyes in an attempt to mock the Epicanthal folds that they are born with.
So it just begs the question, just WHAT does an American look like? Well if you type “typical American family” into any Google search you will be hard pressed to find a fair amount of P.O.C. (people of color). Instead, you get this representation of “the American Dream”…
Now this could pertain to every aspect of day to day hygiene, but for the moment let’s touch on the usage of DEODORANT (or lack thereof). I’ve noticed that it’s common for Europeans to go a couple days or so without showering (gross). When it comes to using that good ol’ anti-perspirant, they fall short. The smell of a grown ass man who never wears deodorant, hasn’t showered in days- IN THE SUMMER- is enough to make me vomit. Like come on dude, I know you smell that. You don’t know you stank?
(via Martian Abroad)