Entering New Social Groups

I just started an internship in a large project management firm back in Germany and I am not going to lie, one of my biggest worry before I started was, what should I wear? How would I not stand out, how would I fit in? It was hard especially because I didn’t know the place and what everyone else was going to wear, plus, yeah I wanted to fit in but not for any price, I wanted to still feel comfortable and for me being someone who has not the best relationship with dresses and owns barely any blouses it was a complicated decision (I know it is stupid, but I am sure you have all been there at some point!)

Same with my hair, I was worried in a way that because my hair is usually quite curly and gingery, so in Germany I stick out like I had people on the street mention it to me and stuff, but going into a new working environment where I am a simple intern I was afraid of sticking out too much, to draw too much attention to me. Why? I don’t really know.

I think for me sticking out and being memorable can be really good things, but as I was also worried whether they had high expectations of my knowledge and abilities, that if I am sticking out I would struggle more. Also meeting new people yes being memorable is generally a good thing but I, personally, hate sticking out when you come into a place where everyone else knows each other, but you barely know the social structures within that group and I feel that if you seem too confident and too individualistic it can be much harder to fit in in some groups, which sucks.

Luckily, it all worked out and the people I work with are super nice and I certainly overdressed on my first day, but I’d rather have it that way than the other way around. But it made me wonder, why do we fear sticking out too much when we come into an existing social structure. I mean I can only speak for myself, but I hope some of you can relate to it. When I am meeting a group of people and no one has known each other before I don’t mind being loud and talkative and to take the lead, but in existing groups I sometimes struggle finding my place quickly enough before I get put into a category and then I go really quiet and I will be afraid to break out of that box and to potentially be made fun of, to be found irritating or to face criticism. Which, again, I know is ridiculous.

The reason I am telling you all this is to ask you to take a chance with me, to be yourself from the beginning no matter how scary it may be, to show the world your true potential. It is a shame that the fear of sticking out may hold us back and prevents us from showing the world, or even just some employer, what you can really do. Yes, of course there are norms and rules you need to follow, but I am currently learning that within these structures there is still a lot of room for each of us to prosper and to find our place. Also everyone was in our situation before and they will understand and for some of them it might not have been that long ago. ( Most of my superiors are barely 10 years older than me, I am sure they still remember and I think that is why they are able to make me feel so welcome). In the end Aristotle already knew what I, and you guys, will have to take to heart at some point in my/ our life/lives: ‘There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing’ and what I definitely know is that I don’t want to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. I want to grow, learn and become the best me I can be and I can only do that by facing criticism and not being afraid to stick out!

So happy facing criticism and standing out, because you are all incredibly awesome human beings!

Lots of Love,

Katie

 

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Heritage and Racism

I have talked about the rise of extreme right propaganda in a lot of western countries at the moment before when it was related to stereotypes against refugees, but today I want to look at something else that is part of the extreme right wing propaganda, homophobia or racism.

The reason I am addressing this is a recent quote in the FAS by one of the politicians of Germany’s far right-wing party called ‘die Alternative für Deutschland’ (AfD) where he attacked German footballer Jérôme Boateng, who has Ghanaian roots, by saying that everyone in Germany would appreciate his football talent, however no one would want to have him as a neighbour.

I am not as naïve to be surprised about racist comments by a politician from the AfD, sadly that is quite normal. But what surprised me was how personal and specific they would go! I think it is horrific to drag someone into something like this, just to try to get a point.

But I also wanted to talk about apart from the comment is that there are amazing reactions from the fans and people in Germany. The sentence most commonly seen everywhere is probably ‘Be my neighbour Jérôme’ which I think is amazing.  At the same time there is harsh critic at the vice-president of the party Gauland, with many saying they would a billion times prefer living next to Boateng than live next to someone racist. Other national team members like Benedikt Höwedes also said that ‘you need neighbours like Boateng if you want to win titles.’

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[Picture Source 1] (Translation: Jérôme move next to us)

Back to Gauland: he was also talking about that many people would not feel comfortable with a foreigner as a neighbour and here is my question what makes Jérôme Boateng a foreigner? His mother is German, his dad Ghanaian, fair enough. Half of his parents come from somewhere else. But he was born in Berlin, he went to school in Berlin and he started playing football in Berlin. So basically he has the same upbringing as me. He is not more of a foreigner in this country than I am.

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[Picture Source 2] Jérome with his daughter

Regarding this I saw a post on instagram by Luke Mockridge, which showed the national team if you would go by AfD standards and it had barely anyone left. The German national team is diverse and I think that is awesome! We have players that have Polish, Ghanaian, Turkish, Russian, Dutch, Albanian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Spanish, Sierra Leonean and Senegalese roots. Yeah we are diverse and we are proud! In my year in school a lot of people had either Polish or Turkish grandparents and some had Italian, Portugese, American or French parents or grandparents. So what is the problem with that? You’re right absolutely nothing! Most of them are second or third generation and some have never even been to the country their family originates from or speak the language. They speak German perfectly and are absolutely integrated in the society, they are just as German as someone with two parents who happen to be German.

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I think we should be proud of different heritages and should not be ashamed by it or be shamed by others. I mean Luke Mockridge that I already mentioned is the son of a Canadian father and an Italian mother and grew up in Germany. He can speak three languages fluently and without an accent and I must say I am super jealous. Having different roots teaches you tolerance and gives you access to different worlds that you otherwise would never be able to discover.

2w985c0-bild[Picture Source 3] Mockridge Family

It is insane that in a world like ours today, comments like Gauland’s still exist. Racism, to me, makes no sense because the colour of my skin does not determine my abilities or personality. I can be who I want no matter what race I belong to and that should NEVER be the concern of anyone else. We live in a world where we have come so far regarding equality and comments like that bring us so far back. If we all want to be able to live in a world that is as peaceful and free as possible we need to cooperate and accept each other and not comment on the colour of our skin or anything else that is a small part of who we are.

 

So final words: BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE! No matter what race, what heritage, what background, gender, age, or anything else. Don’t let other people define you or take anything away from your awesomeness! Embrace your awesomeness! Tolerate each other and be happy.

Lots of love,

Katie

 

A typical family

Growing up around me I only had what is probably seen as the traditional family: mother, father children. May it be my grandparents, my parents or aunts or uncles it was always quite the same. For me that was normal and that is still what I want, but in our society today, we are so lucky that we have more choices and possibilities and that the image of families is changing. We get to chose what kind of life we want, but also that it is okay if life doesn’t always work out the way it should by traditional societal norms and that we can still somehow make it work and be a family.

I don’t think that there is a typical family in that sense anymore, society has changed and our lifestyles have changed. While for my grandparents it was so normal to find a partner and live with them forever, my parents generation has already changed. For example, my great-aunt and her husband for decades have not gotten along and he is, you know, the crazy uncle who doesn’t get invite anymore and even his children do not want anything to do with him, but because it is so engrained that they can’t get divorced, they are still married. While their daughter has been divorced and remarried.

Now, with at about 50% divorce rate there are a lot of people who don’t live in those traditional families anymore. I know so many people that have stepparents and -siblings and I remember that when I was 10 I had a lot of friends that got a half-siblings, because their parents had new boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wives. And now I feel like there is some kind if second wave with parents getting divorced/ separating when all their children have moved out. There are quite a lot of my friends where this has happened over the last couple of years and the same with my parents. So yeah if you look around you have quite a few patchwork families, for example my dad’s new girlfriend has a son that kind of belongs to our family now as well.

Another thing that has changed is the not necessarily having to get married when you get pregnant. My mom’s goddaughter got pregnant at 25 and despite all that and her being with a steady boyfriend she does not want to get married. It is her choice and it doesn’t really matter does it? As a child you see your parents together and in the end a piece of paper doesn’t make them any less or more your parents.

There are more “international” families, with children growing up bilingual or multilingual and with dual citizenships and it’s awesome. I mean through the whole globalisation moving across the globe becomes easier and happens more often, people stay in countries for some time but then move again some have jobs for a specific time and of course you create your own life when you are somewhere else. Let’s look at my mom’s goddaughter again, her dad is American and he came to Germany to study and he and her mom got together had her got married and he stayed in Germany. Anna and her siblings all grew up bilingual and I think it is such an advantage. Being able to learn two languages so well when you are young is amazing and makes life so much easier later in life.

There are single parents out there who do an incredible job and despite not being the traditional image of a family, they are still that to their children. Whether it is because the spouse died or getting divorced or for whatever reason it happens and it is more normal. For this I want to take my host mom as an example, she has a demanding job and a little girl and she is doing her best. The girl loves her and the two of them are super close and it is amazing how she manages her life. Yeah their immediate family might be small, but they love each other and are a family nonetheless.

Having children when you’re older. While it used to be so normal to get married relatively young and then have children basically straight away, it is now more usual to wait until you are a bit older. Like my grandmas were in their early 20s when they had their first child while my mom was in her late 20s and now it is basically the norm in the early 30, but then again looking at my host mom she had her first child at 38 and even that isn’t that unusual anymore. Life is changing and women want to have careers as well and there is always the question of being able to afford it and making it work, but I think it is nice that now it is becoming more usual to have a career and children, even if that happens a bit later.

With the average age moving backwards people start to frown now if you are having children when you’re quite young. People asking whether they feel ready for it or if they don’t want to get an education first and things like that. But there are situations that are different. A girl that I know had her child when she had just turned 20 and people asked her how she could do that. But she had done a formation and was in a steady job, same as her boyfriend. They were already living together and basically had their life settled in a way, so that they were in a completely different stage of their life than I was at 20. It so depends on where you are at in your life to make such a decision and no one deserves to be judged for theirs.

There is a larger acceptance of gay couples all around, with gay marriage and adoption rights becoming more popular all over the world. I think it is great that everyone gets the chance to chose to live the life they want no matter what they may be. What I don’t get is why some countries (including Germany) make it so hard for gay couples to adopt children. I think it is great, because it is a step that is well thought through for couples and when they decide that they want a child, they will love it and care for it and it would definitely be better for a child than to live in a foster system or group home and those children will probably be more tolerant than most other people will be.

Relating to this I want to mention fostering and adopting, despite it always being around I think it is a great thing. I want to adopt at some point, just because it means giving someone a home and someone to rely on. My dad’s cousin is fostering a child because she cannot have children and he is the most gorgeous child around. She and her husband love him so much and care for him. The child was neglected when he was younger and to think that he now has a home where he is properly looked after is an incredible thing.

There are plenty of people deciding to have no children at all for career reasons or not being able to have children or simply not wanting to be parents. And that should always be a fair choice. No one should be forced by society to do something they do not want to do. Life is all about making your own choices and not to make others happy.

There are people who chose to stay single. I know that there are people who do not chose it, but there are people who do not want to get married or be in a long-term relationship and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I mean sometimes that seems so much easier and I could also quite well see myself with 10 dogs living a happy life. I mean whatever you do it should be your decision.

I guess why I wanted to write this is thinking about the future and by worrying way too much about everything and hoping to figure it all out and plan everything to make sure it is all going to be perfect. I know I cannot control things and I guess I wrote this article to remind myself that it is going to be okay, that you do not have to have a perfect standard life and have a traditional lifestyle when it comes to family. Looking at these examples from my life and the others that you see in films, books and the news, it is inspiring to see how much is possible today and that we are not based on our choices “branded” by society and therefore have the chance to find our way whichever way we want.

There are big families, small families and everything in between. Whether children are biologically conceived, artificially conceived, brought to a family after they are born or there are no children at all, it all doesn’t matter. Making these choices doesn’t make anyone a better or worse person. I am so grateful that we do not have to fit into a certain category anymore and have to fulfil certain criteria like maybe our grandparents still had to.

I still would like to have a traditional family and compared to most of my friends I would like to have many kids, but being an AuPair and hearing so many stories from friends, having separated parents, I know that life doesn’t always work that way, but it will still be okay and somehow that is very comforting.

 

Lots of love,

Katie

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10 years of work experience

This  week’s blog post is a bit more of a rant rather than a post about politics, I hope that it is not too all over the place and that you get what I mean. You see, I am weird and my procrastination while studying includes looking at houses and apartments in cities I am unlikely to end up in, masters and PhD programmes I might be interested in in the future and recently I started looking at jobs that I might want to do at some point. Looking at the jobs has simply made me angry and confused tbh, because anything I’d like to do seems at this point really hard for me to achieve.

A lot of people seem to joke about jobs requiring about 20 years of experiences for an entry level jobs, but sadly that is not too far off. And this makes me wonder by what age I will be able to have a job I like, that pays an okay wage and with wanting a family and so on there is the question of when and if all of that will be possible for people in our generation.

So let’s take me as an example. I am currently 21 years old, almost 22. I started school at 5 years turning 6 about 1 1/2 months into the school year, which for German schools is quite young. I didn’t repeat any years and graduated at 18. I took a gap year during which I turned 19, basically to take the IELTS test (which is evaluating your English skills) and to have time to apply to universities in Scotland as I was not familiar with the system and I wanted to do it properly.  I turned 20 the day I started uni, which is considered, at least in the UK, relatively old to start university.  In Scotland a BA Hons takes 4 years, which means I’ll be 23 turning 24 the year I finish, but then I’d really like to do a masters because it is supposed to enhance your chances of getting a job and probably would but ease on my parents mind, as they are worried enough about me studying ‘soft sciences’. Finishing that I will enter the job market at 25 with basically no work experience in a related field.

Yes, you are supposed to do internships during the summers, but without connections this is incredibly hard. I looked at many internships online in the field of politics and many companies or in governmental organisations and NGOs that I was interested in, they either didn’t offer any internships, offered some but only if they were prescribed by the degree you were doing, some that were at least 6 months long, but most of them were only directed at people who were finished with their Bachelor degree. This was me checking in Scotland, London and Germany. Under conditions like these how are we supposed to get work experience? Also most internships are unpaid so I kind of have to find something in proximity to where I live because I can simply not afford to pay rent and living expenses during the summer and then have to choose between a paying job that will make my life at uni more relaxed and better or something that may enhance my job chances.

When I am 25 and have just finished uni I will be lucky enough, if I won’t have to take out a loan to finance it and sadly I would probably still struggle to afford going into an unpaid internship for a year simply to get work experience after I graduate, but honestly most jobs that I looked at required at least 2-3 years of work experience in a related field and I am unsure of how I will be able to attain that.

I mean I understand that companies want people who know what they are doing and that have proved to be qualified, but if we never get the chance to prove ourselves how are we supposed to ever get a decent job and the valued and demanded job experience? The amount of people graduating from universities all over the world is increasing steadily, increasing the amounts of people going for similar jobs. My professors at university keep saying that whatever we do should be to stand out in a sea of applicants, but even that becomes increasingly difficult. I always thought that I had done quite well as by the time I will have finished my masters I will have lived 7 years in an English speaking country, I have always been active in sports and through most of the time since I was  16 I have had a part- time job. Being at university and meeting more and more people though I start finding out that those are things that relatively many people have done and now I am simply starting to wonder where our generation is supposed to get all the work experience and at the same time be completely outstanding through extracurricular activities. I mean I am sure that we will all be fine and we will figure something out, but there needs to be a change in the system and we will need companies that take the risk of giving us chances to prove ourselves.

Lots of Love,

Katie

Why You Should Vote

Vote

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There are always a lot of elections around, but now with the election for the American President, the EU Referendum in the UK, the Scottish Parliament Elections and next year  the Bundestags Wahl in Germany and the vote for the French President and the National Assembly and I am sure plenty of other votes from municipal, over local, to state/federal elections coming up, I thought I might talk about why it is so important to vote.
My first reason might sound pretentious, but it is the truth. We are so incredibly lucky to have a choice. People fought for all of us being able to cast  a vote and to be able to take part in our government.  Also there are so many countries in the world where free elections and sometimes even elections in general are more of an utopia than the reality. So, please, don’t waste your vote by simply not going through with it.
Now maybe there are some of you who will be like, ‘Meh, it doesn’t matter who I vote for, they are not going to do anything for me anyways.’/’All parties stand for the same thing anyways.’ I am not going to tell you that you might not be right, however with choices like not voting at all there come risks. When the disappointment with big parties rises and their support declines, the whole voting turnout may decline as well, but usually the percentage that goes to smaller parties will rise. This is not necessarily a bad thing as in many countries such as Germany, France and Scandinavian, countries have multi party systems that work well, with parties like greens, liberals and slightly more right or left wing parties being a normal part of the system. However, especially in the current global situation, this gives opportunities to more extreme parties or candidates as well.
Let’s look at the fairly recent European Parliament Elections. There was an average turnout of 42.62% across the countries, which is shocking. It is not unusual for a EP election to have such a low turnout, but if you think about it, this is way below half of the EU’s inhabitants deciding on a parliament that can have an effect on all of us.  Back to what I meant about giving chances to smaller, potentially more extreme parties. In both the UK and France,  the UK Independence Party and the Front National have gained over 24% of the votes, winning the elections in their respective countries. Both parties stand for very nationalistic values and have both had controversy about being extremists, with UKIP being more moderate than the FN. In Germany the only one year old AfD, also considered more right wing, managed to receive 7% of the vote, with this result in a local or federal election, they would have been in parliament.
With Trump and a lot of right wing parties across Europe rising, it is important to cast your vote and to make sure that even if not your favourite party/candidate wins, to vote for someone just  to make sure a party or candidate you strongly disagree with does not win the elections.
One more reason to me is: we are young! We are a new generation of voters with different views on the world than our parents and grandparents. In a lot of views we are more liberal, more accepting than previous generations have been, still a lot of young people do not vote and waste their voice. If we want to live in countries where the voice of the younger generation is heard we need to cast votes and to show people what we want from our countries and our politicians and we cannot do that if we simply abstain from elections. Even if you just go and leave your ballot paper blank, your vote will be counted and you won’t just be someone they think is simply uninterested in what happens to their country or community.
So please, when it comes to elections in your country make sure you vote. Don’t waste your voice and take an active part in what you want from your country.  But more than just casting a vote, make an informed choice. Don’t vote blindly for the most popular candidate, but please look what they stand for and what they believe in. We are lucky to have the choice to inform ourselves through the media or just by going to local hustings with candidates. Something not many generations before us had.
YOU HAVE A VOTE, YOU HAVE A CHOICE… Use it!

Love,
Katie
sources:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/elections2014-results/en/election-results-2014.html

http://www.ukpolitical.info/european-parliament-election-turnout.htm

Stereotypes against refugees

 

Stereotypes against refugees image forbes.jpg

 

With the migration crisis happening at the moment I wanted to talk about the people affected by it. And with that I do not mean the people in the host countries, but the refugees themselves. Leaving their countries is often not their choice, as they simply try to survive. The reasons for people having to leave their homes may vary, for example there are refugees who are economic refugees, meaning they leave their country to escape extreme poverty, and some are trying to escape wars, persecution, often for religious or political beliefs, and natural disasters. Often it is hard to completely differentiate between economic refugees and those fleeing their country for other reasons, as poverty and little prospects of economic growth often come hand in hand with wars or natural disasters. These people then leave their countries in hopes of finding a home, temporarily or permanently, where they can live in safety and may lead a life in dignity. They have to leave everything behind and often have to go to terrible length in order to escape their countries of origin. At the moment you simply have to watch the news and you’ll hear more and more heartbreaking stories every day.

One of the things that start to upset me more and more about this crisis though, is the attitude with that they are greeted when they arrive in their desired places, the places they deem safe. Some of the press and propaganda that is currently voiced in Europe, makes me question humanity. I mean, how can we resent people for wanting to have enough to eat, a roof over their heads, or a job? To me these are basic human desires and should be a reachable goal for every human being. In order to talk about the hostility brought up against refugees, I am going to look at stereotypes against refugees, to show that they do not show the reality.

One of the biggest stereotypes associated with refugees is probably that they will come and live off the benefits of the host states. However,  according to one of my guest lecturers, Sir George Reid, the average refugee has a higher education level than the average American, meaning that most likely they had good jobs back at home. To me this just shows that people don’t come because of benefits, but because they are desperate and have no other choice. I saw a documentary a while back about a Syrian man in his thirties, who tried, with his wife, to get to Germany. Before the war he used to be a lawyer, with a detached house, two cars and a social life that we would see as normal for a standard middle-class family. When people like him come to Europe/America/anywhere else in the world, I doubt that they’ll be happy with a life living on benefits, they will be wanting to work to get their standard of life back. Which leads to the next stereotype: Immigrants stealing jobs. This is purely my opinion, but I hope that most of you will be able to agree with this: If a refugee, who has often the disadvantage of having to use their second or third language, can get a job that they applied for because they are qualified or because there is no one else  wants to do it, it DOES NOT mean that they are stealing jobs. They are taking jobs that are available and are helping OUR economy, helping raise money for OUR welfare systems through taxes. So how is it a bad thing? Especially since we have an ageing population in Europe and in many countries we have a lack of qualified personal in many fields, so if there are people who can do the job from other countries, it is a win/win situation. Another stereotype is that immigrants, especially Muslims, are often seen as a security issue, hence as terrorists. Which I absolutely don’t get. These people coming looking for safety in Europe are often fleeing  from the people, they are accused of being.  And most of the times the terrorists that you can find here in Europe are EU nationals who have been radicalized by the organisations that cause people to leave their homes. The last stereotype that I am going to address is the belief that Western Countries are losing their cultures and national identities. This is for me probably the hardest one to understand. Why is it bad for cultures to get mixed and to learn about, appreciate and, most importantly, respect different cultures? In my opinion we can only win if we chose to respect each other for who we are. Also the exchange of culture has always happened. Just look at all the food we have. I mean, there are so many things that now seem to be typical for a country despite being originally from somewhere else, like pasta for example.  When you talk about this amazing pasta dish you’d probably think of Italy first, however pasta originally comes from China. Croissants, who seem to be French, have been invented in Austria and Chicken that  we find everywhere all over Europe is originally from South Asia. Without migration we wouldn’t be able to get Pizza, a quick Kebab on the way home, or when you’re can’t be bothered to cook a Chinese or Indian Take Away, in fact our culture as we know it today, wouldn’t be the same. Furthermore, we should also be looking at how Western Culture is often influencing the culture in other countries and we definitely have to think about who gives us the right to say that our culture is the right one to dominate the world.

Back to the treatment and the perception of  migration now. When it comes to the handling and judging of refugees, especially in Europe we should be looking back at our history to see that it is more than possible to resettle a large amount of people that are in need. After World War 2 there were 40,000,000 people who needed to be replaced and that in a Europe that had a lot of its infrastructure destroyed and with a worse economic situation, however people managed and pulled through. In 2015, according to the UNHCR there were 1,015,078 migrants that arrived in the Mediterranean by sea, according to Frontex there have been about 764038 illegal border crossings on the so called Western Balkan Route and there are currently 4,5 million Syrian refugees worldwide, of which most are in neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Jordan, that need to be placed in permanent homes. Despite these numbers seeming large they are still far off from 40,000,000, so we need to ask ourselves why it seems so hard to be welcoming to these people and make them at least feel welcome in our countries. Even though for arguments evidence and numbers are important, in my opinion, there should be more focus on individual stories of refugees rather than hiding behind the numbers, as numbers make it less personal and make it easier for us to forget that these numbers stand for hundreds of thousands of children, women and men who have already lived through terrible things and now have to face a lot of hostility in a place they deemed safe. There are so many great volunteer projects out there that help refugees, may it be through language classes or something more random such as dance classes or simply by donating books, clothes, games or other things you may need in your daily life. If you want to help and support it, look for projects near you and help out. The advice given by one of my lecturers here in Scotland was, this is especially for people living in the UK, to petition your MPs to take in more refugees, as they have to listen to you. Every email, every letter may have an impact and may save lives.

Let us know what you think on social media and in the comment. 🙂

Lots of Love,

Katie

[Picture: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jplehmann/2015/09/02/refugees-migrants-europes-past-history-and-future-challenge/#2d13ec154765%5D

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