Friday, July 24, 2015

"Ich bin ein Canadian"

Around twenty years ago, I had an American associate who traveled around Germany and Europe itself, and in the conversation one day....he admitted that when introduced himself.....he referred to himself in German circles as 'Canadian' (he was from Ohio, which is about as American as you can get).

The reason?  He went into a ten-minute discussion on this negativity that you'd get with certain Germans.  There are various slants via journalists and news media types in Germany, and he'd get what he perceived as stupid comments and people trying to push him into defending some US comment/position/situation.  He reached some point and just said 'enough', and from that day forward when he traveled (even with his wife)....he was Canadian.

What he said was....that people felt that was very unique and they didn't run into too many Canadians.  Oddly, no one ever challenged him on anything after he started this stupid practice.

I said to the guy (this being twenty years ago)....I didn't perceive this type of German attitude and felt it was a comical way of handling the situation.  We discussed this for a while but it was obvious.....he felt it worked and was a legit lie to use in everyday travel situations.

Over the past twenty years.....I've sat and watched thousands of news pieces on German TV and gotten a fair dose of German perceptions of this US situation or this negative US event.  Half the time....if you use the New York Times reading of some event......it'll be the same story used in the German press.  While I give the NY Times some credit...they usually are the ones with half the story and a minimum number of facts (unlike the Wall Street Journal or the London Times).

If I came across a negative German comment or attitude.....I generally didn't say much and just let it slide.  It's their perception, and it's best to just let them be happy in their thoughts (faults would be a good replacement word).

In the past two months, I came across another American who noted that he always claimed he was from Saint Kitts (the island in the Caribbean).  His family came from there originally and he had a slight accent.  But privately.....around a week later, he admitted to me personally that he'd grown up in New York City and was an American.  He used the Saint Kitts angle here in Germany because he'd come to notice too many slanted attitudes about Americans.  This is a guy who'd lived in Wiesbaden for roughly fifteen years.

I thought about his comment and just accepted it.  He was happy being a Saint Kitts guy and Germans felt that was 'special'......so he never had anyone toss any criticism into the conversation.

Over the past month.....I've come to note a couple of comments directed around me at occasion.....they weren't sharp or really negative comments.....just the type to 'prick' you in some situation and just be a bit obvious that the German wanted to let you know something.

I finally had some event on Wednesday morning occur, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.....the kinda thing that you sit there....pause over....feel a bit negative.....and kinda wonder why they had to make some stupid comment like that.

So, today.....I've decided that these former associates were right.  It's best not to be an American in Germany.  I admit.....it's stupid, and I'll probably regret this decision.....but starting next week....I'm posing as a Canadian while living in Germany.  Ja, ich bin ein Canadian.

I expect the stupid questions.  I've picked some rural farming area in Alberta as my fake homeland....where wheat grows almost to your armpits.  I've established twelve lines of info.....growing up in the heartland of Canada....surviving in my youth with snow storms....drinking Canadian beer, etc.  I left at eighteen and traveled around America and Europe, and here I am today....retired in Germany.

Oh, I do agree....this shouldn't be necessary and Germans are warm and friendly people.  That statement probably works with ninety-odd percent of Germans.  Sadly, on some morning or afternoon.....after some pointed news episode from last night on state-run TV.....you have some someone with an odd agenda and wanting to point something out, and their clever but ignorant and artless statement would draw a sharp response.  But why would you want to mess with some German who has shown some lack of intelligence?   So, being a Canadian makes it simple.

You ever noticed....on German news.....Canada barely gets mentioned more than six times a year?  If they hold elections....there might be a two-minute report the night before the elections.  If there was some blizzard....it'll get mentioned.  If some tanker runs aground on the Pacific side.....it'll get mentioned.  If some train wreck occurs....it'll get mentioned.  But that's it.  If you asked ten-thousand Germans who the Prime Minister of Canada is....one might say Stephen Harper, but the rest have no idea.  If you asked a dozen Germans what they know about Canada....it usually leads to a 3x5 inch card,with hockey and beer being mentioned somewhere on the card.

Germans don't get disturbed by Canada.  I could probably quiz over 50,000 Germans and I doubt if any of them have a complaint about Canada. For the US.....there's probably over 300,000 complaints....with George Bush listed for 10,000 of the complaints (he's been gone for six years now and they still get hyped up and negative about Bush).

So, I'll toss around a maple-leaf flag occasionally, put a fake cover over my US passport, talk up Stephen Harper, and note that Alberta is a fine place to grow up.  I know....it's fake.  But it comes off making Germans happy, and I guess it's a good fraudulent way to keep Germans happy.  My only worry is that the 150,000-odd thousand Americans who live in Germany will get the same idea, and eventually.....the Germans will realize there's way too many Canadians in Germany and the ARD news folks will suddenly jump into this mess to investigate where the heck they came from.  Who knows.....they might even make a sixty-minute documentary over the fake Canadians, and try to warn Germans on how to recognize a true Canadian and a fake Canadian.

I should note.....the German word for inconspicuous.....is unauffallig.

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