Racism in Germany

I’m supposed to be writing for my final paper that is due later this week, but there is something that I can’t stop thinking about. In a few days I’ll celebrate my one year anniversary living here. For the most part, it’s been a good journey. Germany is a country full of history and culture – and don’t get me started on the delicious baked goods. What bothers me is the amount of blatant racism from daily living.

I’m Canadian but physically I look Asian. This results in questioning looks from people when they ask where I’m from. I’ve almost made it a guessing game now as to whether they’ll take it an answer or ask again about where I’m ‘really’ from. To be honest, this question doesn’t bother me.

What boils my blood are the individuals that come up to me that bow or do a peace sign and proceed to say “ni hao!” Just because I look Asian, doesn’t mean that I come from China. There are more countries in Asia than China! This action also completely baffles me because no Asian person has ever done this to me. This action, along with the idiots that walk past me and say “ching chang chong” are probably the most common forms of racism that I’ve experienced here… and now onto a couple more serious ones that I need to get off my chest.

A few weeks ago I took the train and sat opposite a guy. He pointed at me, said “Ho Chi Minh” (a city in Vietnam) and then started laughing. I’m not even Vietnamese and even if I was, what is so funny about my race that you have to point at me and laugh at me.

Another time when I was travelling around with my brother, we went to eat at a traditional German restaurant. At some of these restaurants, sharing tables is a common practice. The waiters sat us down next to a German couple, who then proceeded to jeer and mock us. They told us this was only for Germans.

Seriously?

I’m finding it more and more discouraging to live here. These are just a few handpicked examples out of many that I have faced here in my short little time. I know there are nice people here, but these racist encounters are making it hard for me to enjoy studying and working here. Does anyone have any tips or tricks on how to deal with racism?

 

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Growing up and growing apart

Friendships come to an end not just because of distance. Sometimes it’s due to different stages in life: friends who graduated early and started working, friends who married early and started a family…

As I grow older, it seems more inevitable that friendships are always evolving. It’s not like high school, where you see the same people everyday; eat lunch everyday and hang out on the weekends. It requires more effort to keep in touch with those around you. We all have different responsibilities as we grow older. Maybe from work, or from our own families…

I seldom talk to my high school friends and except for a few, I barely talk to my friends from university. Friendships are a two way thing, and I’ll admit my personality is part of the blame. I don’t like texting, I prefer talking on the phone. I don’t like small talk, I prefer serious conversations. I don’t like staying in one place for too long, I prefer exploring.

The latter gets me in the most trouble. It gets hard to keep in touch when you’re always moving. It feels like I’m always making new friends, always getting to know someone. I miss being able to know someone like the back of my hand. I miss being able to call friends late at night and talk about random things…

I’m not the type of person to get attached to people, but it still hurts a bit when a friendship comes to an end. Regardless of how the friendship ended, the relationship is over. And sometimes that realization is harder to come to terms with than anything else.

Reflections upon the 13th floor


Many of my undergraduate days were spent studying on the top floor of the main library. It’s one of my favourite spots to study as it overlooks the city. A picturesque view to study from morning till night, sunrise to sunset.

The last of my results came out today. I’ve finally finished all the required courses to graduate. It’s a totally different feel walking around my campus now that I’m done. My university is known for it’s architecture, a Hogwarts-like feel to the older buildings. But I never came around to fully appreciate it. It’s ranked within the top 20 universities in the world, but I spent most of my studying days hating this place.  The disdain was largely due to my poor health. In my third year of undergrad, my body completely shut down, and I didn’t have much energy beyond my studies. I never went out much from my campus, to see all that this city had to offer. Whenever I reflect upon my university career, there are things I wish I did differently. I could have… I should have…

There’s no point dwelling in the past. In hindsight, I don’t regret studying here. I moved to this city at 17, a four hour flight away from home. The independence from the last four years both had it’s ups and downs; learning to stand up for myself and how to pick myself up after falling.  I don’t remember what I learnt in first year organic chem, or how I even managed to pass that course. But University has taught me skills in other avenues: self-discipline from those late night study sessions and self-control in dealing with pesky roommates….And perhaps these life skills are what matters the most.

An open letter to an ex-best friend

I got the invitation to your wedding today. Has it been nine years?  I remember the first time we met. I was convinced that you thought I’d been following you, as we entered the gym, we sat in the same row and wound up in the same class. I remember our first conversation, we were waiting in line for our welcome BBQ’s and I shyly invited you to join me. I remember our first sleepover, where we stayed up late gossiping about boys. I remember our first trip overseas; the excitement, the fatigue and the culture shock. I remember our fights, our petty arguments, neither one of us wanting to relinquish and our prides got in the way, always wanting to be the sole victor.

Maybe it’s a result of our competitiveness that we’ve grown apart. We both strive to be of a higher caliber than the other. Maybe it’s the fact that we never fully respected each other. We took each other for granted, a loyal companion thrown away the second a better offer came around. Maybe I was too hypocritical. I judged every action with cynicism and failed to see the repetitions in my behaviour.  Or maybe it’s just plain old distance. I  didn’t want to be in a controlled environment, switched high schools and shamefully chose academics over religion. Different universities across the country only separated us even more.

We’d use to talk for hours on the phone, and now a simple one line text from you is rare. We’ve been reduced to acquaintances, the type that meet up once a year for a coffee date. We exchange fake smiles and feign enthusiasm or sympathy depending on the occasion. There’s a new wall between us but it strangely has the same boundaries as before. That familiar competitive spirit, that age-old yearning for praise.. And yet it’s redefined with new experiences and polished with a false sense of maturity.

I guess that’s why our friendship ended. Because despite the intimacy, it’s hard to form a bond with a jealous heart. Is it sad to say that I knew this would happen? Unspoken but communicable, we both knew we were going to cut ties. Our dodgy behaviour, purposefully missing phone calls, cancelling plans.. It was a bit all too easy wasn’t it?

Even then, I still miss you. I miss the way you could read me like a book. I miss the way we knew each other inside out. I miss our serious talks, our petty arguments and our silly code names. I miss talking about our future, our dreams and wishes. I miss gossiping and trading stories.

But it’d be greedy for me to want more, to pursue the past. We’d both put in so much in this relationship to fully commit to walking our separate ways.  Yet we’re both too scared to rekindle our friendship for we know what the other is capable of.

Friendship, relationships… Aren’t they all just a bitter paradox?

Home, a casualty of circumstance

An indescribable yearning to return to
where my skin feels at home,
where my identity isn’t questioned
where I’m not expected to assimilate,
or told to behave like citizens,
the very same ones that never fully accept
me.

But in my country of birth,
I am ostracized
they judge my migrant soles, a traitor
for neglecting my ethnic roots.

And I’m reminded that
No city is ever home
I am the nomad, the wanderer, the chameleon
A foreigner,
Even in my own (home)land.

My soul misses Seoul

Is it possible to miss a country this much when you don’t even have the right to call it your own?

I spent my summer in Seoul, half studying, but mainly sight seeing. I made friends using a language outside my mother tongue, and my heart skipped a beat whenever anyone assumed I was Korean. I’m not sure what exactly I’ll miss the most. The feeling of being lost, new discoveries, or the joy in finding familiar things in a distant land…

I miss going to Hongdae and hearing the clubs boom with music
I miss going to the fish market and tasting weird delicacies
I miss staying out all night with friends
I miss seeing the couples walking along the Han River
I miss the familiar chime of the convenient store
I miss the luxury of shopping in underground subway stores
But I do not miss those pesky salespeople
I miss being able to see my favourite celebrities and hearing Kpop blasts in the streets
I miss the burning taste of Soju
I miss the cute accessory shops.

One summer. That’s all it took for me to fall in love with this country.

Welcome to the real world

As I’m finishing up my degree this year, I can’t help but think of where to relocate. I moved around about 6 cities growing up, and feel a bit of restlessness in being stationary. I’ve never had a permanent “home” and while in my teenage years I hated this lifestyle, there is a sort of excitement in starting anew.