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Culture

Integration in Germany

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2011 at 6:57 am

Jill Petzinger’s article in Der Spiegel (Dec 29th) draws attention to several arson attacks on “Muslim centres” in Berlin which have taken place over the past few months. Although she claims “the list isn’t long”, the article links the attacks to a wider social preoccupation in Germany with immigration and Petzinger claims that ” many suggest that the series of incidents has its roots in raw rhetoric surrounding Germany’s integration debate”.

The attacks comprised a series of petrol bombs. Targets were as follows: firstly, the Sheitlik Mosque in Berlin; secondly, the Al-Nur Mosque; most recently, the Iranian cultural centre.

Many feel that the 2010 debate in Germany on Muslim integration could have some connection with the attacks –  creating a climate which even Berlin’s interior minister of state Erhardt Korting feels “could have encouraged right-wing extremists or Islamophobes to perpetrate such crimes.”

In spite of his diatribes against Islamophobia, Petzinger points out that Germany’s high terror alert in late November led Kortinger to add his own contribution to the problem: ” If you suddenly see three somewhat strange-looking men who are new to your neighborhood, who hide their faces and who only speak Arabic, you should report them to the authorities.”

Following the publication of Thilo Sarrazin’s book in August, and Seehofer’s ill advised comments in an interview with Fokus in October, where he stated, “It’s clear that immigrants from other cultures such as Turkey and Arabic countries have more difficulties. From that I draw the conclusion that we don’t need additional immigration from other cultures.”, Angela Merkel’s remark that Germany’s attempts at multi-culturalism have “utterly failed” bespeaks a sad truth.

While the debate about Muslim integration in Germany continues, some argue that there is a danger of perpetrating Islamophobia and a culture of covert racism and discrimination within Germany – a situation which could have dangerous consequences.

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Diary of an Oktoberfest Virgin

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Despite having been here in Munich for over two years, I managed to remain an Oktoberfest virgin – until yesterday. By this, I mean of course, that in previous years, I had steered clear of the hordes of people trundling about the city in festive Dirndln and Lederhosen and simply minded my own business during the after work U-Bahn journey home, while elderly, drunken Bavarian men slurred sweet nothings into my ear and dribblingly fell asleep on my shoulder. Not so this year! I took the bull by the horns and really got into the festival spirit…

12:30  The decision was made after the first Sunday beer, so we got our gladrags on and trundled off to the U-Bahn. Fairly busy journey, which gradually turned into a horrendously busy trip comparable with London Underground rush hour congestion levels.

13:30 We arrived at Theresienwiese and followed the crowd into the festival, where we immediately headed off to the Scottish beer tent (I happened to be with a patriotic Scot, so this seemed like the obvious starting point). However, upon arriving at the entrance to the tent we were jammed in, trapped in an immovable crowd with no possible escape; and no ticket. The Security Guard helpfully informed us that our situation was hopeless, and that we would be waiting outside the tent “until next year” before we could get in. Well…Scots are a stubborn bunch, and I really had no major plans for the coming year that couldn’t be put on hold for the chance of a decent beer, so we took his advice and decided to wait…

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14:00 Success and a disturbing close encounter.

We waited and waited and waited, and bore witness to a disturbing altercation between a security guard and a black man who was shouting and shoving furiously. The security guard clutched his hands around the man’s neck, it was pretty brutal. The man started screaming, then the security guard threw his jumper on the ground and forced him to pick it up before ordering him to leave and shouting some pretty nasty comments at him. As the black guy pushed past yelling and screaming on his way out, the security seemed to ease up and we seized our opportunity to get into the tent. Success! Good things do come to those who wait…although a brusque security guard did rudely seize my ID and take a long look at it (yes, I’m 27 but in England people are much shorter than the athletic, leggy blondes Munich is so prized for – it’s often a problem).

15:00 – late    All the fun of the fair; pretzels; several mass (tall beers); terrifying loopy rollercoaster; 55 ft. high swings; Indiana Jones style watercoaster; dancing to Bryan Adams’s Summer of 69 and that German song about everyone being alone (the title of which I can never remember); searching in vain for Kevin Costner; making many frenemies during a 30 Euro plus stint on the bumper cars; inventing a game “Extreme bumper madness“; watching a guy puke after too much “Extreme bumper madness” and beer; getting fake flowers from the shooting gallery. Staggering home…

So much fun!

Michelle Bromley



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Yesterday, I was given a brief insight into what here is called ‘die Jugendsprache’, the language of young people. I was quite happily sitting on a U-Bahn when two people got on, who were younger and very much cooler than me

Finger Lickin' Good - but no German "chicken" here.

I was very surprised by their language, though. It is quite normal for people in English to use the word ‘man’ indiscriminately in conversation. For example:

‘That exhibition of 15th century renaissance art was like well groovy, man!’

I’m sure you’ll all agree that the youth in Britain frequently say such things. However, I was very surprised to hear ‘man’ also being used by these two people in German. I quote directly:

‘Wir sehen uns später, man’

‘See you later, man’

I mentioned this to Natascha and she wasn’t particularly surprised so it’s very possible that I am the only person who will find this funny. If you wish to complain about this section of my article, please contact my agent, Mr D. Liscious.

While I’m on the subject of language, I’m delighted to report that a branch of KFC has opened in Munich city centre. Eating there once makes it far less exciting, but the most notable thing about it is an apparent misconception by the management, who seem to think that the German word for ‘chicken’ is ‘chicken’. Therefore, emblazoned on the wall are slogans such as:

‘Donnerstag ist Chickentag, 6 Chickenteile € 3,50’

‘Thursday is chicken day, 6 pieces of chicken € 3,50’

The problem in my opinion is that the word ‘chicken’ is not German and does not look German. The word is ‘Hähnchen’, or if you’re in southern Germany and Austria, ‘Hendl’. ‘Chickentag’ for me sounds more like a shortened version of ‘chicken with tagliatelle’.

Still, KFC are not the only ones guilty of this. A restaurant that the Drama Group often frequents offers the rather English sounding ‘chicken sandwich’ on its German menu. It can be quite tricky to order this stuff – you have to try and make it sound German even though it’s completely English!

I’d like to finish with a somewhat strange incident that occurred a while ago at my U-Bahn station at Laimer Laimer “>Platz. For some reason I needed to buy something from the ticket machine, of which there are two at Laimer Platz. I walked up to the one that wasn’t in use and immediately sensed that something wasn’t quite right with the man at the other machine. He was standing there looking perplexed and pressing buttons in the manner of someone who has paid for something that they have not received.

Seeing if I could help, I saw that he was pressing the button for an €11 Streifenkarte. Seeing me, he then started making noises about how he’d paid for one and not received anything. I was surprised by this as there was clearly a ticket waiting to be collected from the tray, where there was a light flashing. Realising that he was evidently unable to recognise this, I removed the ticket and gave it to him. For this ludicrously simple act, I was rewarded with the phrase ‘you saved my life’!

I don’t know if the gentleman has to go though the palaver of waiting for someone to get his ticket out of the ticket machine every time he buys one. He must need to allow plenty of time for his journeys.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3658738

Luke Porter

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The Glass Ceiling: Breaking Through

I‘m pretty sceptical of any book which claims to improve my life, either through a revelation about some  major aspect of my career/personal life which I had previously overlooked for the past 20 years or so, or through a didactic list of bullet points dictating what to do and what not to do. Christopher Flett’s  bestseller does just this.

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Photo: courtesy of : http://www.chrisflett.com/

Of course, being a woman, I’m also a sucker for the Alpha Male so I found multi-millionaire CEO Flett’s treatise quite entertaining –  packed with arrogant assumptions and characteristically male self-aggrandizing “revelations” along the lines of “I had to step on some toes to MAKE  MY FIRST MILLION, oh, and I feel really bad about it.” Yeah, right. Still, pretty charming, and it got me talking, which I guess was the aim of the book…

Flett has made a mint in setting up his own consultancy firm ‘Ghost’ to help people to become as successful as him. It is unsurprising that he is fawned over in Germany, a country whose Power Frau’s are seeking upward mobility and a way through that much discussed glass ceiling, and away from the constraints of the gender pay gap.

In Germany, human (and especially female)  falibility is not a charming trait, and dropping a pen or losing a piece of paper is practically a  federal offence which can instantly lose you bargaining chips, and the repect of your clients and colleagues. On the other hand,  if you are a complete moron, who wears an expensive looking suit and spouts a load of loud crap with some measure of assertion, then you will go far. You will remain in control – unchallenged because you must be a deity. This is why the Germans like Scottish people and Americans.

These cultures all have in common the same brand of superficial honesty which, in reality is a personal selling point used to show how in the modern world a sense of detachment is really useful. But of course you can email your aged, craggy boss if say, she breaks a hip whilst skiiing in the Alps or something. This shows your “sensitive” side ie. that you can bullshit that you “care” about people, and that’s a good look for business. Of  course, this only works if you are a man.If you are a woman then it simply serves to show how weak and pathetic you really are.

The Future?

As a woman what can you do to improve your situation? Flett suggests: 1) Don’t do favours for people. This seems to work, don’t waste your time and if delegating will help you, then make other people help you. They respect you more for this.

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Other than that, as a woman you can a) have babies and bow out of working life gracefully, while you still have a shred of dignity and self-confidence, or b) go into consulting, c) write a self-help book for other female parasites looking to improve their lives. From this you could run a series of Women in Business seminars essentially regurgitating the same old crap and thereby inspiring and encouraging a new generation of businesswomen whose lives will eventually amount to…yes, absolutely nothing.

I had almost forgotten option d) spend $22.95 on Flett’s sticking plaster book; an act of retail therapy, a bail out package of premises and promises that will give you hope for about 5 minutes until you wake up and realise that at your age it’s  actually impossible to mould a whole new you from a clay Golem and that you need to grow up and realise your potential in accordance with your own rules and individual personality traits.

Whether this perceived “glass ceiling” is to be smashed through in a fit of feminist rage, or a Sistine Chapel to be stained with blood, sweat and tears is up to you. Maybe there is another route under the ground, an escape away from the ordinary path that won’t see you smashing your head repeatedly against a bullet proof windshield while the other magical morons zoom past you on their penis powered, persian carpets, cackling as the exhaust fumes choke you with their toxic hot air career advice. They have different alliances, different modes of transport, so forget about it. Men will never respect women, and women won’t respect other women either. Make your own life, and choose your own route. That’s the best you can do.

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Pomp and Ceremony in Monaco Di Baveira

Stretching out across the rich, green grass, the blistering sun dries my skin and a gaggle of curious ducks march up to me, quacking expectantly at the prospect of sampling my sumptuous Bavarian lunch – oversized pretzels with lashings of obazda (a strong smelling luminous orange cheese dip), and an obligatory Weissbeer or two.


A somewhat weathered and leathery but otherwise quite robust Bavarian woman temporarily obscures my beautiful view of the expansive water at Fasaneriesee, to inform me of the names and backgrounds of several swans which are nonchalantly floating past. ‘Hercules’, she tells me is the newest addition to the lake, and he is vying for position as the Alpha male. He currently swims only at a safe distance from the other swans as he still needs to gain recognition and acceptance from the rest of the group. As the old woman continued to describe in great detail the relative merits of each individual bird, I began to imagine how the German swans provided a good reflection of hierarchical Bavarian mindset, which places a great deal of importance on status, power, and personal achievement. Beneath the beautiful, calm and clear waters of the Fasaneriesee lies a web(bed) footed judgement of the outsider, and an evaluation of his utility in terms of the rest of the group.

In contrast to Germany’s capital city, which strives to embrace diversity and the contemporary, Bavaria’s capital is far more measured, more cautious and considerably more Conservative. Whilst Berlin provides a cacophony of visually stimulating art and architecture, here in Munich the emphasis is on post-war restoration to maintain the original character of the city. This attempt at cultural preservation avoids Berlin’s jarring juxtapositions, whilst boosting tourism to the city. It seems like a smart move.

Initially at least, Munich may not seem like an obvious choice of holiday destination; however, the city is glorious in the Summer as the wind blowing from the nearby Alps (which Germans refer to as the ‘Föhn’) ensures a warm, continental climate, all year round, albeit with a few sporadic thunderstorms!

The Italian name for Munich is Monaco Di Baveira, and like Monaco, the city’s weath is immediately visible from the number of flashy vehicles and Chanel handbags brandished by the locals. For a little more ostentation, it’s worth heading to the Prinzregentstrasse, where you can see the spectacular gilded statue of the Friedensengel or “Angel of Peace”, which was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of peace following the 1871 Franco – Prussian war. It is quite simply a mesmerizing sight. The city’s Royal Palace Residenz and its adjacent grounds – the Hofgarten – also make for a lovely cultural outing, and on a sunny Summer’s day, nothing could be better than strolling around the beautiful fountains and Renaissance tree gardens to the accompaniment of a stringed quartet playing Beethoven and Bach.

For tourists, Munich has so much potential, the city is culturally rich. For expats, the fact that this is rich city in terms of average income, makes it a potentially lucrative place to work. But if you are here to stay, it’s worth bearing in mind JFK’s inaugural maxim “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. If you subscribe to this mentality, and work hard to fit into the Bavarian culture then it is easy to form strong and lasting connections here, and the honesty and directness of these friendships is well worth the initial effort!

Marisa Deale

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