Feeling German has always been a foreign concept to me. I have never sensed the need to wave the German flag, to hug complete strangers when the national football team wins a game or to sing along to the national anthem.
I do not define myself through my nationality, but through my political and social convictions, values, thoughts and preferences. I define myself through things that I share with friends, regardless of their nationality.
It was not until I studied in England that I had to deal with “being German”. Up to then, typical German characteristics were negatively charged due to our National-Socialist past. “You are so German” was not something I took as a compliment. But my English friends saw it differently – they meant it in a positive way. They very much appreciated character traits such as punctuality, ambition and reliability.
It also seriously changed my image of myself. Since then I no longer see stereotypes as something bad per se. In fact, they can be quite helpful. For example, they help us to put behaviour into perspective. I no longer interpret it as indifference or impoliteness if a delayed Italian or Spaniard “yet again” keeps an entire group of people waiting. Today I know that this is part of their culture.
About this article:
All Spaniards are lazy, all Greeks are corrupt and Romanians work for the mafia: Everywhere in Europe stereotypes are in full bloom. For the German newspaper www.sueddeutsche.de, six FutureLab Europe participants describe the impact of prejudices about their home country on their everyday life. This article is part a part of a series of reflections by young Europeans, prepared in cooperation between FutureLab and Süddeutsche Zeitung Online.