Sometimes I forget that humor is not cross-cultural; that people of certain cultures are more sensitive to history or stereotypes than expected. I’m a half-black, half- Irish, all American New Englander, I’m not new to the world of stereotypes, it’s something I laugh about now. Being in Europe, you come across a lot of people with a lot of ideas about Americans. We can either take it seriously or get pissed off (which would lead to being pissed off quite often) or we could laugh about it. I like laughing about it. But to think everyone can do that would have been wrong. And it was wrong.
The G-Man and I love laughing about stuff. I like to do this German accent of a rich guy, where he says ohhh ja I love driving super schnell in mein Audi (you can almost hear how that would sound reading it right?) And this isn’t original. This is how I thought Germans spoke because of watching The Simpsons growing up. We thought Germans love chocolate, bier, always wear lederhosen/dirndls…. anyway, when you grow up you realize that these are just stereotypes, but that’s what makes it funny. It’s not true but it’s funny. I’ve laughed many times about Family Guy’s use of the New England accent, or the way they poke fun at Black culture. And you know, everyone makes fun of the Irish. There are moments when people vehemently believe these stereotypes and treat you poorly because of it, I don’t like that. But I’m also not like that.
So what’s my point? My point is that I made a joke and I offended “my friendly” Germans with it. They took it so deliberately, and believed I was being malicious. What was the joke? Just a play on German stereotypes saying that Germans love driving fast in their cars, bier, pretzels, World domination/ war starting, and telling other countries and cultures why and how they are better (This last point was G-Man’s- not mine at all). He thought it was funny, but is it true? No. These are generalizations, humorous but not true overall. I lost a friend for posting this joke, I cried for an hour straight this morning, and I offended others with it. And I felt like such a fool and a jerk because of it. I deleted it and I felt guilty most of the day.
But it got me to thinking. Are we supposed to sit at tables here and have Germans tell us what’s wrong with our political system, make jokes about how are culture is overweight, how we are loud, obnoxious, poorly dressed, how come all of our states have such different laws (?), why do we always have big toothy smiles in most of our pictures….? (You name it, I’ve heard it) Yes, we are supposed to sit there, disagree but play it cool, offer answers and not take it personally. So why can’t they? And how could friends feel that I was being so rude, disrespectful, and inappropriate —- they know me, they know how I am, why would I purposely try to hurt them? Why, for that matter, would I go on a serious bashing of all Germans?… Lest you forget, I’m marrying one and living here! I will have a whole new German family soon. It makes absolutely no sense.
No I’m sorry if I’m using this platform to be a whiny expat blogger, but I find this situation confusing, emotional and irrational. I apologized as best I could, I spent time reflecting and feeling upset for being so callous. But now I’m unsettled. Was it inappropriate? Was I a big fat jerk? Because right now, I couldn’t be happier to be leaving this country tomorrow for a short trip to NYC and I’ll be dreading that moment when I have to come back here. Maybe Nürnberg is not the place for me, maybe we ought to move to Berlin or Ulm or something. I need to actually make friends and feel like I belong here. What do you think?