November 27, 2012

onto the ja...

(I am the only native speaker in the photo, I'm wearing red)
*** Written in September 2012 ***

Germany is full of white people, yep, I said it and I’ll let that sink in… call me whatever you’d like… observant perhaps? However, it is a necessary blanket statement that needs to be made, partially said to help differentiate you, the hopeful longtime reader, from my last (blogging) country of residence, Korea, where I was a visible minority, and in order to give you a proper mental image of my surroundings.

Anywho, Visible minorities stand out, whatever their height may be. For example, I was able to stand out amongst a crowd of Koreans. I was easily recognizable not only because I was taller, but also because I was naturally whiter than my surroundings. Well my friends I don’t stand out anymore. Neither my height nor skin colour help to differentiate me from the German populous. I’m as white and as tall as the Germans around me. I wasn’t naïve when I stepped of the plane a few weeks ago in believing this wouldn’t be the case, but after living abroad in Asia for two years being seamlessly integrated into my new surroundings, and still a foreigner, feels odd.

 While it’s cool to blend in, I enjoyed several of the benefits of being a visible minority in Seoul. It was for the most part accepted that my level of Korean would not be that great, or non-existent, and extra effort would be required in basic communication. Though this was a fact that became annoying as hell towards the end of my time in Korea, a visible language barrier did exist.

As you can imagine, and correctly assume, there are no visible clues that I don’t speak German. I’m tall, and white, and don’t give of f a foreigner vibe. Basically every conversation starts off with a German talking to me (in German), and me mumbling a response. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’m merely trying to produce a phonetic pattern that pleases them. I have no bloody clue what I’m saying, despite the fact that several words are very similar in English.

I almost feel like I am letting people down, they have hopes that I’m German, and can communicate with them. Then a realization hits that I don’t, there is even a look! I call it the ‘oh, he’s a foreigner’ look. You can practice this by talking to small children about sports, or any topic prominently lost on children, which for me as a child was anything but Lego, and action figures. First, rattle off (quickly) some terms, and then stare at the child with large, wide eyes. Repeat yourself, and then wait… as you realize that you’re not getting anywhere, RIGHT as you feel your chin start to lower, grab a mirror (look at yourself, no duck-face or you'll ruin it! it's not a vanity check).

It is strange, but I feel that a small part of these people gives up hope in humanity, and like most things in life, we are only given a limited amount of hope in humanity. Because of this I feel a lot more of a social pressure to reply (properly), and not let down the coffee shop and bakery workers I’ve constantly been depressing.

 One major hurdle in my path is the written language. I can recognize what’s written down, but I am horrible as fuck in pronouncing it. The ability to at least come into the country with knowledge of a kindergartener ( A German word I can correctly pronounce) is more than I brought with me to Korea. Right now my pronunciation problem occurs because I speak in a Konglish accent. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s basically a vowel exaggeration, and adding vowels to the end of words, that have never, ever, had vowels there. It’s as if my mind seems to believe that any culture that doesn’t speak English, understands Korean. I have had several occurrences where I have replied to Germans in Korean. I think it’s my body’s panic reflex, and like a muscle I could wean myself off the 네, and onto the JA....

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