Tag Archives: emigration

Discrimination, my love

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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 perfect, 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.

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Small town blues

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I used to be a big city girl, dynamic and fulfilled. But then I emigrated and became a shadow.

First, I couldn’t speak a word of German. Yes, to the extent that I would bring home a jar of red cabbage thinking it was red beet. By the time I was einigermaßen able to communicate, I realized I had learned the wrong language. They don’t speak German at all around these parts – that is, when they do speak at all. They rarely open their mouths to strangers, and then only to purse their lips and bring forth some utter Bavarian mumbo-jumbo. No, actually it’s oberpfälzisch. Try pronouncing that sober.

Second, unless you are an automotive engineer or a financial controller, the wonderful world of gratifying youthful careers like salesperson, caregiver for the elderly, or cleaning lady beckons. Or you can let the luminous beacon of motherhood guide you. Because everyone seems to expect full, 24/7 devotion at the shrine of motherhood. For ever. Oh, and by the way, if you do that, by the time your kids start school your brain will have completely dissolved and turned to goo, you won’t remember how to spell your own name correctly, your progeny will treat you as the in-house servant always on duty, and your husband will actually believe he is smarter than you. (People don’t appreciate, people take for granted. The key to true appreciation is scarcity.) In fact, I have come to feel like a walking uterus with hands. Day-care is harder to come by than Chinese rare earths, and twice as expensive.  The skies are almost always gray and oppressive like the inside of a coffin, and a sense of stale futility permeates everything. 

All my attempts, efforts, and endeavors are stultified and made sterile by this all-encompassing small town sense of conformity, convention and futility. With their fleet of perfectly polished cars, their cute little gardens, their spoiled little brats with their unapologetic sense of entitlement (as if they had been born into the local aristocracy), and the snooping neighbors who complain about every sound, there comes a perverse sense of safety and prosperity which deceives people into doing precious nothing with their lives… Old country for old people. With their dangerous veil of  “stability” and picayune interests, which can make the lucky few truly happy, but which most of the time  really only means stagnation, small German towns are the stalwart defenders of all things old. The front line of resistance against all things new. Well, except new cars, of course.

The idea that your entire intellectual universe has to stop dead in its tracks the moment that first child comes tumbling out of your body…  As if there is only one definition of love that is small-town endorsed and small-town valid. And life is all about routine, acceptable patterns and saving face.  Everything clean and perfect, no visible suffering – you know, just the occasional postpartum wreck chopping up her baby and laying him to rest in the freezer, just the occasional homicidal father, strangling his wife and all of their five children before setting the apartment ablaze, just the old people in wheelchairs in homes on the outskirts of town, in their Alzheimer’s daze, everything green and peaceful and quiet…