One day last week I stopped at a nearby travel agency. I wanted to see if they could find me a good deal for my upcoming trip to Italy. I walked in and sat down in front of the other available agent as there was a gentleman occupying the other agent’s desk. I explained to the agent what I was looking for.
We chatted briefly before she got up to find a brochure. I smiled at the gentleman sitting who was being helped by the other agent, and said “Hi”. But he turned his head without responding. I started to get indignant because I was frustrated that Germans rarely speak back, after I greet them. I had been told and forewarned about their temperament but thought surely they can’t all be that snobbish to not speak when spoken to. I wanted to say hello to him again in an even louder voice than before just to ensure that he had heard me. Surely he would respond this time.
My agent returned and I ultimately decided to ignore him. He left about 5 minutes later. And I left about 10 minutes later. As I’m crossing the street I see him approaching me on his bicycle. He stops me and asks if I speak German. I replied “ein bisschen” “only a little”. Then he asks if I spoke English, when he clearly heard me speaking English to the travel agent. But I responded positively. So he proceeded to ask me if I had time to talk over coffee.
In my mind I’m thinking “Is this the same guy who just snubbed me 20 minutes ago?” Clearly, I was confused. So I agreed to go to the cafe across the street. As he locked up his bike he begins with the questions…Him: Are you African? Me: No Him: Are you Haitian? Me: No Him: Are you Brazilian? Me: No Him: Dominican? Me: I’m American Him: Afro… American?
With every negative response I supplied him, he grew more and more confused. We sat down and I explained to him that I’m American, yes, African-American. He then asks where my parents are from. I said America so he proceeds to ask about my grandparents. Yup they’re American too. I explained that at least 4 or 5 generations of my parents are all American. But of course he follows that with “So where in Africa is your family originally from” I said to be honest I couldn’t tell you. (I spared him the details of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a little to heavy for me after work and over coffee at the cafe.)
Finally, it was my turn to ask the questions. I found out that he was a Serbian living in Germany named Nicola. (It sounds really sexy when says it, compared to how it looks on the screen. ) Then I asked why he ignored me when I greeted him in the travel agency. His response was that it is atypical for Germans to speak to people they don’t know. “But you’re not German”, I say. And he gives me a sly smile. He went on about how he doesn’t like German women, because they’re “hearts are cold” and his people i.e. the Serbs (is that even politically correct –the Serbs) are not like that.
I ordered a cappuccino and he ordered water. And then we start talking about race, and color, and interracial relationships. He said it was an uncommon thing in Germany, but I disagree. I see a lot of black, mostly African, women with white, European men. Additionally, Germany has a huge U.S. military population and a great percentage of military families are biracial especially ones living overseas. So I see a lot of biracial couples and children here in Germany. I have only seen one biracial couple where the woman was black here in Germany and the man was white.
I asked him if he had ever dated a black girl or an African girls to which he replied that he hadn’t but would like to. Adding that it’s not easy to meet them. I said for starters you can speak back, if they speak to you. He attempted to gauge my interest in dating white guys, I told him that I don’t discriminate.
He noticed the tattoo on my arm and touched it, asking if I had only one. Then he rubbed my arm and hand, stating that “It’s so nice…your skin is beautiful, not like mine”. As he’s rubbing his skin and rubbing mine trying to compare, I assure him that there really is no difference. But he rubbing, turned into a petting, so I removed my hand from the table. I’m nobody’s pet!
After paying for our beverages we left and began walking. He looked older but not too old, so I asked him his age. His response was, “How old do I look?” Everyone knows that that response really means “I’m older than I think you’ll care to entertain” OR “I’m younger than I want to share with you”. I knew it was the former and he finally told me that he was 40-years old. I told him my age, right before telling him that we needed to part ways. (I didn’t want him knowing where I lived, so I didn’t want to get too close to my house/neighborhood). He asked for my number and I obliged but giving him the spelling of my name was a chore. I spelled it in English AND in German and finally he got it right but not before pointing to signs that contained the letters in my name. I guess I shouldn’t complain his English was way better than my German.
Of course he sent me a good morning text the following day, but managed to spell my name wrong. I’ll never understand why people insist on spelling your name wrong when they send you a Facebook message or an email at work when my name is clearly in the address. It’s annoying as hell.
Subscribe to my blog and click here for Part II, the follow-up meeting with the Serbian.
- Stuff white men say to black women (abagond.wordpress.com)
- Germans, 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Black Woman (blackgirlinberlin.com)
- The African identity (theiink.wordpress.com)
- The Largest Ancestry Groups In The United States (businessinsider.com)
- Raising biracial kids in 2013: The challenges and the opportunities for the African-American community (thegrio.com)
- Black Like Me: My Trip to Serbia (archive.oaklandlocal.com)