Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mmm, mmm Good.

In Europe these days there is a lot of discussion about foreigners and integration. The French just banned full burquas and in Germany a (used to be) respected banker wrote a very stupid book that sounded a bit like Pat Buchanan circa 1992.

I am a foreigner. However, I have been told that I am a "good one." I have no idea what that means, but I think it has something to do with the fact that I am "integrated:" I speak very good German and can complain about the Deutsche Bahn with the best of 'em. Actually this kind of offends me and I sometimes really want to be one of the "bad ones."

But that does not mean that people, including close friends, do not sometimes stick their foot in their mouths and say really offensive things.

A few weeks back I was relaxing with some of my mommy friends. The kids were playing in the corner and we were drinking coffee and complaining about something. I do not think it was Deutsche Bahn; it might have been about our husbands. (You do not have to be an expat blogger to be whiny.) One of the little ones was playing at the toy kitchen. He attempted to beckon me over.

Cute Kid: "Come play with me!"

I thought it was terribly cute and was about to get up, when one of the moms commented on the situation.

Eager Mom: "What? Claire's cooking? I guess that means just muffins and pancakes."

The room got very still as everyone turned to me to see how I would react. Dude, I was offended, but I tend to let these things go. Besides the women who said it is someone I like. But then I sat up a bit straighter. Wait a minute!

Defensive Claire: "Hey! The only person who makes pancakes in my house is the German . . . and he's German!"

I think this made her realize that sometimes you cannot generalize about people based on some of the things that their idiotic fellow countrymen do. For example, not all Germans wear Lederhosen and eat Sauerkraut. Unfortunately, as she attempted to walk it back, she stepped into it again.

Eager Mom: "I saw a documentary on fast food in the U.S. I know what Americans eat."

Mind you, I do not think that the person who said this has actually been to the U.S. However, I just smiled and attempted to let it go. Upon returning home, I did vent a bit to the German. Yes, Americans do eat crappy food, but the other day I was standing at the S-Bahn station in Bremen and watched a women walk by eating a McDonald's cheeseburger . . . at 10am!

But that is the thing about integration. Even though you feel like you fit in, there will be moments when you might as well be wearing a pink burqua that says "foreigner." I am still friends with Eager Mom and our kids still play together. However, when she comes over next week, I am thinking of making muffins.


G in Berlin said...

The only fast food I find edible is the UK and Netherlands variety: fresh bio sandwiches made without added pork and lard. Any German who mentions American food negatively will get a footnoted dissertation on how absolutely horrible most German food is and how exclusionary (let's just throw a little pig into that vegetable soup- but let's still label it vegetable on the menu!).
The best food I have had in Germany was Thai.

tqe | Adam said...

This reminds me of a movie about teen pregnancy at a Christian high school.

The one Jewish girl in the school has a terrible reputation, not helped by the fact that one day, in the cafeteria, she slams her legs together while shouting at some guys, "The muffin shop is closed"

Maybe you could do that?

annonamoose said...

Since we're being whiny - naqib, naqib, naqib!

:) - they're not burquas.

The native said...

Sadly true, but a lot of fellow countrymen are experts for everything. Something they watched on TV makes them have a PHD on the matter. Let me tell you that also bothers Germans, like me. I can't stand the attitude: Better always honest and direct than a wrong superficial friendliness. Blablabla!!!! Am I interested if someone likes my apartment style or not, is it really something he or she has to tell me???
I disagree with G in Berlin that most of the German food is horrible. I think food in the so called Gut-Bürgerlich-Restaurants tend to be overcooked, meet-based and not spiced very well.
And i love a good curry-wurst:-)

Anonymous said...

It would appear that both garments are now verboten, but it's the facial covering that's critical. "Frauen, die auf einer Verhüllung ihres Gesichtes bestünden, sollen zudem für Frankreich weder ein Visum erhalten noch die Staatsbürgerschaft annehmen dürfen."
I was under the (mis?)apprehension that the burqua was the primarily Afghan garment (something I have seen in multiple articles), but wikipedia disagrees. The women I have seen have been wearing three different black outer garments.

I bring brownies to work - reinforcing every terrible stereotype. To heck with em - muffins and pancakes are yummy, and I get compliments. (My husband also does all the pancake baking around here.

The German said...

Muffins and P.cakes......if we had p.cakes more often, I wouldn´t mind it.
Burka: This is something, my liberal heart says....everybody should live like he/she wants it but.....Burka could be okay but
there are some situations, where a Burka is really not the way you should be allowed to dress.
(In oral Exams, who can you prof the ident???)
Driving a car!
And on the other hand: That means, if everybody is allowed to wear what he wants, you although can run around naked or.....wear an SS Uniform...this is forbidden to...well I do not have to decide it.
Food: Good food or bad food. German foof like: Asparagus with new potatoes or a real good Schweine oder Rinderbraten with potatoes and Rotkohl....or Spätzle or Grünkohl......that rocks.
Even some Pommesbuden are not so bad. Sure there are many Fettpuffs in Germany but those are everywhere, in the Netherlands or in France.
It always depends on the owner.
Claire: You really can do a lot more the pancakes and muffins and You ore a great cook.

Lilabet said...

Dude I must be dense because I didn't even understand the muffins and pancakes comment until you explained it. I suppose there are worse things to be known for. And I kinda love that Supersize Me is now the calling card of the US. The delightful students in my Gettysburg class have made me the unofficial voice of the south since I come form SC. My favorite comment was a serious inquiry about whether we eat grits everyday. Idiotic comments know no geographical boundary :-)

sarah1976 said...

"I think this made her realize that sometimes you cannot generalize about people based on some of the things that their idiotic fellow countrymen do. For example, not all Germans wear Lederhosen and eat Sauerkraut."

Wearing Lederhosen is not idiotic. It is awesome.

That is all.

G in Berlin said...

@Sarah- I think Lederhosen and dirndls are the best and if I lived in Bavaria you would see us wearing them as frequently as possible. The Germans Chef just told him that it was no problem to wear Lederhosen to work (when his group went out en masse to buy them).

Anonymous said...

Of course one can generalize, often it is a good first bet. For example, most hunters like to kill, and when I meet a hunter, it is very likely that he enjoys killing. But insisting on the implications of social categories in the face of contradicting individual information is - stupid and at times insulting. So if I ever meet a buddhist hunter, I'll do my best to appreciate his peaceful nature.

As for this particular eager mom: Is is possible that she was joking?

Carrie said...

This is why you can't believe everything you see in the media. Yes, there are fat Americans who eat nothing but fast food, however the McDonald's website will tell you there are McD's all over the world...even in 3rd world countries. I mean, hell, if I believed everything I heard on TV, and god forbid documentaries, I'd believe Germany was full of closet Nazi infantry. Puh-leeze. I'd like people to get off the fat kick...may I suggest the American stereotype that we are all gun toting rebels?

Oh, and lunch should consist of thick German beer and Sauerkraut. And say, "I thought this was what every German wanted to eat."


Anonymous said...

The eager mum's behaviour was annoying. However, let me assure you that the inhabitants of the Anglo-Saxon world are not immune to stereotyping.

Oh, you're German? Oh ja, the Octoberfest. Oh ja, sausage! Damn it, I really don't like sausages!