Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bianca Regina - Prejudice and Stereotypes

1. What are some of the things people who don't know you very well tend to think about you?

People tend to think that I am independent, self-reliant, somewhat distant and intimidating, not needy at all. A woman once ended her acquaintance with me because in her opinion I had "too few problems" and therefore couldn't relate to her. Among my colleagues, I have a reputation for being straight forward - we recently discussed a patient of mine who smells so badly that I can hardly stand being in the room with her, and they assumed that for me, it would be really easy to tell her.
When I first moved to Eastern Germany (the former GDR) people knew by my clothes and the way I talked, by how I behaved that I was "from the West". Ten years on, the boundaries have blurred, I fit in more, and sometimes my patients tell me all about those horrible "Wessis" (people from Western Germany) who have come to take away their jobs, wrongly assuming that I am from the East as well.

2. Which of these assumptions are true?

Most of them are true, I guess. I have had to work hard to realize that not all of them are true all the time. For example, going through the experience of infertility has helped me to acknowledge that I do have a needy side. I practise that sometimes now by telling the husband and friends about my troubles, even putting in a bit of whining at times (which is fun and makes me and them laugh). Like everyone else, I do have problems, insecurities and worries. Not that many maybe. As for the patient, it took me week to tell her (breathing throught my mouth). That much is true: once I've realised that I'm avoiding something I should be taking care of, I tell myself that avoidance is not okay, and then do it anyway.

3. Which stereotypes about your country are true about you, if any?

I've found a list of stereotypes about Germans which I'll comment on:

The women are icy Teutonic beauties with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Blue eyes, yes, Teutonic, no (though fairly tall), beauty, naturally, fo others to judge.

Both sexes loathe inefficiency, love the Fatherland, have never been late for anything in their lives, and would secretly quite like to invade Europe, even if they have to do it via the EU.

I don't like inefficiency, the Fatherland is ok (especially since we have a female chancellor), I am always on time, and no, I don't have secret ambitions for invasion. About the punctuality: I got into a fight with the husband over his being late yesterday where he suggested that I might take it easier on this point. I am more "German" in this respect than most of my friends and have coined the phrase "being on time makes me lonely" for myself - to remind me of all the times I have spent waiting for people, being once again stupidly on time. And alone.

They speak perfect English, and eat about five meals a day. They don't know the meaning of the word Witz (joke in German).

My English is fairly perfect, and it's something I'm secretly really vain about. I try not to tell anyone, though. I like jokes, but have a bad reputation for not laughing about them. I probably smile more and laugh out loud less.

There are, like I mentioned in my answer to question 1, quite a few stereotypes inhabitants of what used to be the two Germanys have about each other: "Wessis" are supposed to be too full of themselves, true capitalists and masters of self-presentation, "Ossis", the stereotype goes, are timid, somewhat lame, homey and afraid of risks. As with all stereotypes, there is some truth in both of them. Which might to a whole discussion about how political systems shape personalities and how that can change when the systems change...

4. What are situations in which you find yourself to be prejudiced?

When I come into contact with violence, it takes me quite a while to be able to understand the person behind that action - at first, I judge them, thinking that they're idiots/assholes/imbeciles. Overcoming my own judgment is hard in this case.

5. To you, what value is there in stereotypes?

They make life easier at times. They exist to reduce complexity. And they are a lot of fun to talk about!

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