Staring Contest

Authored By:

Saron Y.

All eyes on me. That’s how it feels here. I knew that the African American community would not be as prominent here as it is back home but as soon as we touched down in Amsterdam, I began to see the lack of people that look like me. Walking around the Berlin airport, I started to notice how people were looking in my direction. Then I realized it wasn’t just my direction, it was at me and my cohort. Maybe it’s because Germans usually don’t see a large group of black people like this and it’s surprising for them but the faces they make look like they’re confused. Like we’re not supposed to be here or something. I’m not trying to say Germans are mean because for the most part they’re not. We have Eric and Tori, our teachers, that sets up all of our excursions. The random man at the gates who let us use his speaker, so we could continue to dance horribly.

Something that really shocked me was how much people smoke here. And it starts early. When I wake up at 8 am, you can already smell the nicotine in the air. I don’t know why but I thought Europeans would be healthier and just drank lots of beer. The effects of smoking are even put onto every box of cigarettes to remind them of what they are doing to their body, yet they still continue to smoke. Drinking is a large part of German culture and with the drinking age starting at 18, it seems as if everyone is doing it. Doesn’t matter what time of the day it is, you will find at least one person with a beer in their hand. Surprisingly, no one looked too unhealthy. I remember seeing a really pretty girl smoking a cigarette and it made no sense to me. Then I see some other kids at CIEE drinking beer and being drunk in the front lawn and realize how that wouldn’t be appropriate in America.

I have to remind myself though, I’m not in America. This is a completely different culture. I can’t equate what I see in Germany as the “wrong” way to do things. It may not be normal to me but as soon as I start to judge is when I begin to depreciate the culture. Germany is an amazing place in its own way.