We’re in the process of moving to the Bavarian capital, and the rent is crushingly high, so I started to look for a second job.
I was pretty happy when I actually got a few replies, but then it all ended the way it often does: the person on the other end looks at my name on the CV, clears her throat and asks the one question that equals total demolition, “ahm, and… what’s your nationality?” That just makes my day every time. Not to mention people reaching protectively for their pockets when I give the answer. Because there is no way around that answer, no matter how nicely I attempt to package it.
What can I say? Sure, I have German citizenship, but they can hear my accent. And my name has too many vowels, apparently. It’s so lovely to be rejected for a job for which you were overqualified to begin with, simply because you were born in a country that everybody wants to avoid like the plague.
It caresses my soul to be told they’ve already found someone and then to find the ad still in the window two weeks later… I applied for an evening job as an English tutor, and the lady on the phone told me “one can hear you’re not German”.
Well, wtf? You don’t need me to teach German, do you?! You need me to teach English – and English has been my job for the past 7 years. I started learning English in elementary school, later on studied with American visiting lecturers, then lived in the US myself for a while. But do you think that makes any difference? Not a word in English was exchanged between us. She decided I wasn’t native enough. Heck, even my son’s kindergarten would only employ purebred Americans or Britons ’cause nobody else can teach “this is a frog / this is a pen” to 5-year-olds.
I don’t mind being rejected after a thorough interview, if I am not up to the task. But at least give me a chance to introduce myself and show what I am capable of. Why should my Romanian origins immediately wipe 30 points off my IQ??? See, this is the reason I became self-employed. It irks me so bad that people (in my case, Germans), even those in multicultural settings, will judge a person strictly on the basis of nationalistic stereotypes. This day in age. People with university degrees, mind you.
(For some freaking reason, engineers are exempt from this “humane” treatment even if they don’t speak a word of German, which only irks me more.)
Honest Romanians abroad fight every day to keep their dignity. It’s an uphill battle. It’s essential for us to have a better image. So, how do we go about achieving that? Most of us are perfectly docile, law-abiding citizens in our countries of adoption. And yet, it seems we cannot please people. We cannot completely dispel their prejudice.
We totally depend on the Romanians at home for that. And as any good PR specialist will tell you, advertising without content no longer works. We have to generate credibility, we have to put our house in order for real, and the image will follow. The system has to be fixed from within and then it has to remain stable, clean, and consistent long enough to generate trust. Only when we’ve accomplished that will a better image emerge. On its own.
Hopefully, during my lifetime. I would hate to see my kids go through the same thing.