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

 

[Picture Source]

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