Saturday, November 3, 2012

Back and Forth, Up and Down

I've spent the last three weeks at the upper level of stress, and while I knew it, I also knew that I couldn't evade any of the situations - so I just gritted my teeth and got thru it.

It all started out when hubby had a reaction to the flu shot and was sick from Tuesday night to Friday am, at which point I took him to the hospital where they determined that he had pneumonia.  Followed by 4 days in the hospital on strong antibiotics.   Got him home to find out a few days later that the antibiotics had caused a problem in his gut, and he needed a change in medication.  Did that and at the same time realized that this enormous hurricane was coming.    I was supposed to be leaving for Germany on Monday night, and the hurricane was expected to hit on Monday night.   So I changed my plans and left a day early, basically ruining my Sunday.

The surprise day was Monday, when I got to Germany, checked into my hotel and had a lovely nap. Then I spent the day in my Jammie's and sweater (it was COLD there) working on my presentations.  Met some people for a lovely dinner, complete with locally made German beer - I have to admit, it was an amazingly relaxing day.

I worked at our German office on Tuesday, and Wednesday our meetings began.  Two full days with presentations, discussions in one of the three languages that were native to the attendees.   I was running the meeting, making presentations, keeping everyone on track and basically responsible for the whole thing coming off well.  There were a few moments when I put my head in my hands, but in general, we did OK and got thru it all.  

Friday was a long 7 hour trip home, complete with uncomfortable airline seats and crying babies.

I think you can find interesting experiences even in the most stressful conditions - and I found something that is an interesting topic of conversation regarding identity awareness.  

I will preface this by saying that I have only been to Germany once before - and that I found the people there totally friendly and engaging, and a heck of a lot of fun.   But because I have blond hair and blue eyes, I was identified as German - even by the hotel staff, and airline staff and basically everyone that I didn't speak English to.

In the hotel everyone spoke to me in German - expecting that I would understand.  At first I thought they did that with everyone but nope - some of my colleagues are Asian looking, some have Lebanese extraction and the hotel people spoke to them directly in English. I have never experience this sort of physical acceptance before, having usually traveled in Italy or France. In Italy and France I am too blond and not continental enough - but I seemed to fit in in Germany.   DH and I had a long talk about this when I got home, is it sort of a reverse discrimination, or simply an acceptance of someone who resembles you.

I'd be interested in any one's feedback on this phenomenon - I think it's a topic worth a good think.  Do we unconsciously accept those who look like us?  or do we discriminate, or pull back from, people who  don't look like us.

It was a great trip but I am SO glad to be home.  11 hours sleep in my own bed and I'm a happy woman.


Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

Welcome home. I hope there was no damage in your area and your DH is doing well now. I don't really think its discrimination. I think people talk their native tongue in their own country without thinking about it and if someone is obviously not from there they will try their language if they can speak it. I think its more of assuming then discriminating. I also think its a polite thing to converse in what ever language someone else speaks IF you can. That's just my point of view. Here in America we are used to a variety of people so I think we assume they all can speak English. Interestingly my maternal Grandmother was German from Germany and she was neither blonde nor blue eyed nor were her siblings. :)

studio lolo said...

So glad you made it there and back and that DH is on the mend. What a scare!

We were barely scathed in the storm, how about you? I was disappointed by the lack of excitement here, but when I watch the news I know I have to count my blessings. Those poor folks in NJ and NYC. Wow.

Interesting question regarding language. I don't feel it's discrimination. I think if they insisted on speaking German to those who obviously look like they're from somewhere else, that would be arrogant. But I can see how they would mistake you for native, and therefore spoke to you that way. I hope you corrected them :)

I'm socked in at home with a nasty old cold. 11 hours sleep sounds good to me!


Annie said...


So glad your DH is okay! And that the storm did no damage.
I think the Germans assumed a lot, both that you would speak their language and that the others did not.

Lori ann said...

yipes mim. that sounds like a lot, your poor dh and poor you. i'm sorry you were thrown off by leaving for germany a day early, i guess it's a good thing you did. congratulations on a sucessful trip.
i have been to germany a couple times, but didn't have that happen. perhaps it did for you since you were in business mode and are so confident.
i hope you get more r & r and your dh is on the way to full recovery. i think you need to knit something

Lynn Cohen said...

I sure hope you are getting rest now. You didn't mention the storm so i take that to mean your home did not suffer from it. I hope DH did not either. And do hope he is on the mend. Poor guys seems to have been through a lot lately.
Glad your meetings went well.
Did you see any antisemitism while there? That would be my fear.

marianne said...

To me it does sound like discrimination.
In my profession I can pretty good guess where someone is coming from. It is a combination of features clothes moving etc etc.
I can imagine you being held for a northern European lady :)
I think it is kind of sweet they saw you as one of their own.
I like Germany too. People in the Netherlands tend to have a slight dislike to them and their language and of course our history of the war with them plays a part too. But that was 60 years ago, most of the Germans now weren't involved and every one deserves a change I think. How can you blame someone who wasn't even born that time?
I know the Dutch did some pretty ugly things in the past regarding slavery Well I hope we all learn from those tragic mistakes and can start with a clean slate.
Lynn fears for antisemitism .I guess you will find that in all countries. Stupid people are everywhere in this world.
I am happy you had a good time there and a good experience.
And my your life sounds like a roller coaster sometimes hope it will slow down from now ;)


Mim said...

Perhaps it was just my personal sensitivity. I have never fit in physically in any culture that I am associated with - too blond to look either Jewish or Italian, so it was very strange for me to be in a country where the predominance of hair color was light. I liked it in a way, but have a long standing suspicion of making judgements about the way people look, as to their ethnic background. My niece is 1/2 afgan and 1/2 italian and she is very dark, and often get's questioned as to her racial heritage - often to her embarrassment and chagrin. As an example, she got taken for the "help" when she was traveling thru London airport, and her 5 year old daughter got questioned as to whether his was really her Mommy or if she was a nanny. Assumptions are usually wrong, and assumptions about people based on their physical attributes can be both wrong and dangerous.

kj said...

this is all so interesting. i am pretty often thought to be jewish: i think it is because of my nose. my italian father and french canadian catholic parents wouldn't understand :^)

i am now in neighborhoods and cultures where i clearly stand out as different. but i do something that is not different and i can tell that nudges me toward fitting in. what i do is look comfortable and unafraid in all circumstances. my own version of don't mess with me plus a genuine smile and hello nod.

i am so glad you are home, mim. this is ALOT going on. i hope you have been able to rest up this weekend. i do wish we were neighbors.


yoborobo said...

Mim, you have been so incredibly busy! I hope your hubby is feeling much better now, and that you've had a chance to catch your breath. I remember being in Germany when I was a young backpacker. No one mistook me for German - lol! Canadian, Australian, yes.
I agree with Cris, that it was more of an assuming.

Amanda said...

so glad to hear you are back home safe and sound - i know how stressful (both good and bad) travel can be. your story about people thinking you are german is fascinating. it must be a combination of how you look and in my experience, how you dress. believe it or not i've been mistaken for greek, german and italian - one reason i've been told is that, aside from how i look, it's my footwear!