This post might be a bit of a ramble… consider yourself warned.
My master’s program is nearing the homestretch – course requirements are fulfilled and there are seven more months, give or take, in which to write the thesis. Some of my classmates are deferring a semester in order to do an internship. Others are going abroad. Still others haven’t fulfilled their requirements yet. Me, I aim to finish before Christmas.
The question weighing increasingly heavily on my mind these days is: what next? The more people I talk to, the less sure I am. The default option is to find a job in Germany/Hamburg for 1-2 years. There are several reasons for that. I want my German to improve; I have friends in Hamburg; I have many friends in Western Europe; I can live a relatively carefree lifestyle; and for some reason I don’t want to have come to Germany just for a 2 year-master’s degree. I want it to be something more.
But there is no good reason why. To prove something? But what? And to whom?
Ezgi, a friend and classmate of mine from Turkey, is considering moving to Berlin for this last semester, the one in which she only has to write her thesis. Her motivation is the superior ethnic and cultural diversity in Berlin. Hamburg, despite being the second biggest German city and branding itself as an international hub, does not feel welcoming to racial minorities. Well, I shouldn’t speak as if I represent all racial minorities in Hamburg, since I can obviously only speak from personal experience. My personal experience is that Hamburg doesn’t have the institutional structures needed to welcome minorities, and that Hamburgers are somehow not used to interacting with minorities. The reason for the latter is, of course, partially due to the former. This is not because the city is racially homogenous; on the contrary, there are sizeable minority populations (I don’t have stats, so all this is pulled out of thin air, but air that I have breathed and experienced and thus is at least an educated guess). The problem is that, to a white German, we are either invisible or too visible. When I’m not being overlooked I’m being stared at; that’s how it feels, anyway.
Where are all the minorities? Logan, another friend and classmate, from New Zealand, remarked that there were plenty of racial minorities at his district’s Residence Registration Office when he was there to register, as all new residents to the city must. But he doesn’t see any of them in his daily life – where did they go? My suggestion is that minorities are good at makingthemselves invisible. And why is that? Because we learn that when we are noticed, when the local ethnic majority pays attention to us, it’s seldom a good thing for us.
It’s also because, as I’ve mentioned earlier, minorities are institutionally ignored for the most part. They are grossly underrepresented in the public sphere. Again, no stats to back up my point, but the picture of German politics is largely monochromatic. I struggle to recall a commercial or ad (eg. for health insurance, banks, universities, shops) that wasn’t specifically functioning to promote diversity/anti-discrimination that had a non-white person in it.
In my personal experience, Germans come across as knowing relatively little about non-European/non-‘Western’ people and cultures. Am I allowed to make a provocative statement like that without elaborating? Yep, cos it’s my damned blog.
Getting sleepy now, and I have to work (groan) tomorrow. It surprised me to hear Logan say he didn’t want to buy a bike because he wasn’t sure how long he’d be here for. He would like to stay after graduation but questions the likelihood of finding a job, due to his level of German (which, fyi, is FAR BETTER THAN MINE). He’s disappointed with the speed at which he’s learning German. I can absolutely empathise.
I dunno… in a way, the decision of whether or not to stay after graduation will probably be made for me in the form of the presence or absence of a job contract. I’d initially wanted to give myself up to a year to look for one, and if I had the luxury of choice I thought I’d work for 2-4 years. Now I laugh at that timeframe. No man is an island; we need to feel like we belong. I need to feel like I’m a part of the community I live in, and I’m not getting that right now. So we’ll see. Maybe till the middle or the end of 2013.
There’s also the issue of opportunity cost: by choosing to live here, I forfeit living somewhere else. And to be honest, I miss Canada. It’s so easy living in Canada! Here, even a trip to the supermarket has potential to be a struggle. It’s partly due to language, partly due to culture.
Also, it’s been nigh on fucking impossible to find a flat here. So whether or not I have a roof over my head could also make the decision for me.