After I sent the link to my blog post on Ireland from St. Patricks Day to an Irish friend of mine, I got very, very negative feedback from him. He said my post was arrogant, condescending, bigoted and patronising and basically just one big cliché. I admit that this was tough to take because it certainly was not my intention to insult anybody. But I also thought it was pretty clear that this post was just an exaggerated and pointed summary of first perceptions. Plus, those were impressions from 10 years ago and mainly gathered in Dublin’s night life and at parties.
So here is for the record: of course Irish people do not drink all the time, just like Germans do not drink beer all day (well, some do, but we’ll get to that later)! The general Irish woman does not harm her unborn baby with alcohol and not all Irish men do usually walk around with track suit bottoms and chequered shirts. Of course not! I did not spend all my time there at parties with people singing old ballads. I had great times in Dublin and later in Cork with my friends M. and J., a couple that I had met in Germany and who then moved back to Ireland. What I remember about them is mainly great conversations and, for some reason, hippie music. I recall an excellent weekend with K. and J. also in Cork where we – amongst other things – went to Cobh and sat on the cliffs. I also remember an occasion where I went for a walk when the sky was bright blue and 5 minutes later rain was pouring down on me. I tried to hide under a tree when all of a sudden a man opened his front door and offered me an umbrella, saying ‘Just drop it back when you’re in the area again’. I had a fantastic time an my friend C.’s wedding last year in Dublin and witty talks with M. and D. about linguistics and science. My friend C. from Donegal is one of my dearest friends without whom I would not have survived university in London. Irish hospitality is outstanding and people in general are a lot friendlier than in other places. That’s why I love the country and my Irish friends – of which a few guys wear said shirts, but none of the girls underestimates her size in clothes 🙂
But still, there was a lot of truth in my first article because there is truth in every cliché. They happen! That is how they evolve. And usually, when you go to a place for the first time, you have expectations based on the stuff you read or heard. And when those expectations are being met, you notice. And you remember. Because it’s either shocking or funny or both. And these are the stories you tell. There are loads of clichés about Germany and I face them everywhere I go. I think there was nearly no place in Europe where I did not get any stereotype remarks about being German when I revealed it. It ranged from ‘Don’t mention the war’ (- oh really? Never heard that one before!), ‘What do you mean you don’t like beer??? You’re German!’ to great stuff like ‘Go back to your Führer where you belong’ (that one I got in Ireland by the way). Stereotype Germans are stubborn, impolite, efficient, organised, wear leather trousers or dirndl dresses at all times, drink beer and eat Sauerkraut, speak English with a horrible accent and reserve their sun loungers with their towels. And there is truth in every single one of these clichés, but usually not every single one applies to every single person. Some apply to me, some don’t. But I can imagine – because it is hard for me to tell since I live here – that you will encounter a lot of examples of what I just mentioned. And when I see them, I am embarrassed or amused, depending on what it is.
And – at least for me – this is the humourous part of it – that you do actually find truth in national stereotypes whenever you go somewhere. And every nation also plays with their clichés when presenting themselves to others. The Polish talk about vodka, the Italians about fantastic food, the French talk about something that you only understand if you speak French, the Spanish are great dancers and the Scandinavians pass out drunk. And they joke about it.
But when you get to know people better and in daily life, then we are all pretty much the same. We work, we try to keep our lives together. We are happy, sad, scared and struggle with certain obstacles in our private live. We are assholes or try to be kind people and that is not down to any nationality. That is just human.
I hope I made myself clear now. And I would, by the way, be very interested in perceptions about Germany by others!
Yours truly, madly, deeply!
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