Those cold Germans!!!

02. Februar 2015 | von

In keeping with the tone I had in my last post, I would like to talk about a popular belief, one that we have heard over and over, especially when talking about people who just arrived, be it tourists or new students: Germans are cold people, sometimes even rude.

Whenever I hear someone say these words, I feel like I am getting punched in the stomach, and I feel the need to fight back by saying something to let people know how far from the truth this statement can be… after all, it is nothing but a stereotypical sentence that, as it tends to happen with stereotypes, is all about lacking real knowledge.

People seem to mistake being careful and reserved with being cold. Based on my own experience, German people can actually show a great warm heart that moves them to help totally unknown people for the very sake of doing what they think is right. Granted, it can take some time for foreigners to earn a place in this society and while that happens, Germans might move carefully around us, they might want to know exactly what they are getting into, not wanting to feel too involved before they know you well. Once they get to know you, probably you will be nicely surprised by the kind words and actions you will be the object of, but even when they barely know you, you might run into people who offer you a friendly hand without questioning the whole story of whatever you are going through.

I dont talk just from a subjective point of view; rather, I recall the times when I have received a humbling lesson on selfless kindness from those people others find joy in discrediting with senseless preconceived ideas. I have experienced this kindness, and by talking about it I am not trying to paint them under wonderful colors, I just want to pay homage to those who deserve it… even if they will not read about it.

The first example that comes to mind is that of one of the darkest nights I have ever experienced: I had arrived just a couple of months earlier, I had no friends, no idea of whatever my life would become, I had no real place to call home, and the only person I had to talk to wasn´t around to hear what I had to say… and how far from everything I had known to be my life I was. Aachen is kind of a small city, but when you are feeling lonely, it can be a whole world that seems to get bigger and bigger while you feel smaller and smaller. I decided that the best thing to do was just walk, let the road take me wherever it wanted, as long as it was away from my thoughts.

I ended up at some church door, sitting on the steps, in front of a crowded street. The funny thing was that, even though the whole street bulged with people and cars, I felt as lonely as one can feel. I spent a good while in silence, in fact, I realized that I had spent at least a couple of days in complete silence, not having anyone to say anything to. How can something as simple as speaking, something that we take for granted become such an important issue? I didnt know, all I knew was that I wished I had someone who´d hear what I had to say. And then it happened: an old lady who walked her dog came towards me and, while the little pet sniffed around, she asked if I was doing okay. I had a bump in my throath that didnt let me talk and start the whole story of how I ended up there that night, so I just replied that I was fine, that I needed some fresh air. Even though my answer didnt seem to convince her, I guess she judged it was better to just wish me well and continue her way. I wished I could have told her, I wished I could have spoken, but I didnt, I couldnt. However, a few minutes later, a man passed by and came directly to me, sat down and asked if I needed help. By that point I had to ask myself what my appearance suggested, did I look that bad? In any event, he sat and even before I could reply, he started to talk about difficult times and how life can drag you up and down… I could only agree, fearing that any attempt to answer would make my voice crack. „So, what´s your story?“ he asked, „I guess you lost your job or broke up with your girl?“ he offered me some of his fries with mayonnaise – A detail I fondly remember, since he seemed to be one of those persons who dont have too much for themselves – and got a beer out of his backpack, which he opened and put on my hand. I didnt drink too often and wasnt feeling especially hungry, but given the circumstances I felt accepting them was just right, and somehow needed. He stayed there just long enough to make sure I was feeling better, which I really was. Suddenly, the city didnt seem to be that big and cold anymore.

Months forward, I had a job and was on my way to town on my scooter. One of the worst investments I have ever made, the engine of that old thing worked whenever it felt like, so it happened quite often that I was in the middle of nowhere struggling to get it back to life. One of those times I was lucky enough to have the problem while driving through Breinig. It happened on a Sunday afternoon… so I was unable to do much more than feel hopeless and call to let my boss know I would arrive late. Still on the street waiting for the ground to swallow me, I saw an old man who came out of the house I was standing by. He had heard the noises my scooter made and saw my troubled face, after just a few words and explanations, he went inside his house, picked his keys and drove me to my job… I felt overwhelmed and unable to thank him enough, not only did he drive me there, but also offered to pick me up if I needed help later that night. I was speechless, and I knew I could not just let it stay that way… so I went back to thank them some days later.

And then there´s the story of my student´s mother who´d also drive me back to my house whenever she thought it was too cold to wait for the bus; or the one about the couple who wanted to give me a bicycle because they saw me walking by their front door often and asked how far I needed to go; also the one about the lady who works for an social organization and sends me a card on my birthday, even though we barely know each other. The list goes on, but the point is, whenever I hear people say that Germans are cold, I think of someone saying that all latinos can dance salsa or that every dog eats bones or that every tree bears fruits… because the truth is that there is much more to know, there is much more to learn, there are too many stories that need to be heard before anyone can have an objective opinion.

Germans aren´t cold, they are… well, people.

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