I was honest about where I am from. And this is what happened.
For a long time I didn’t openly admit where I was born, in fear of being stereotyped in a bad way. When prompted I would suggest or sometimes outright lie that I was from Switzerland. People generally think of Switzerland as nothing but neutral, so that usually ended the conversation.
In recent years I started thinking how I really needed to get over myself and own up to it. What’s the worst that can happen, right? And also, I heard some smart people say nice things about the country I was born in, which gave me a boost of confidence.
Lunch in the mountains
Now, let me tell you what happened last Saturday. I was outside of Barcelona with a local friend, in the beautiful Catalan countryside. You know how I love the Catalonia Hinterland 🙂 Somewhere along the winding roads near Montserrat we found a restaurant, where we decided to have lunch.
Side story: Spaghetti with tomato sauce
The waiter only spoke Catalan, and when I asked him if he had a Spanish or an English menu he said no, but called the owner of the restaurant who speaks a little English. She offered to translate the menu. I asked her just to tell me about the vegetarian items on the menu.
“No meat?”, she asked. “No meat” I replied. “vegetarian?” – “Yes, vegetarian” – “I go to kitchen and ask, then I come back and tell you what has no meat!” A few minutes later she emerged with three options including spaghetti with tomato sauce, which I ordered. Another 10 minutes later she brought me… spaghetti Bolognese!
I already felt awful about having to ask for a menu they didn´t have and getting way too much attention about specifically ordering something without meat didn´t make it better. I ate my spaghetti, leaving most of the Bolognese on the plate.
Paying in more than one way
When we went to the register to pay, the owner asked me where I was from. Remembering the promise I had made to myself about being honest when asked this question, I answered “Germany”. “Alemania?”, she pulls up her eyebrows and raises her right hand. Looking me straight in the eyes she says what people said to greet each other in Nazi Germany. I don´t even want to write down the words.
I was in shock. Let me remind you, if anyone says this in Germany, they´d go to prison! And besides the legal aspect, I can hardly find the words to describe how distasteful this is. Blame us Millennials for being a generation that gets offended easily as much as you like, but sometimes there is good reason to be offended. This strikes a nerve. My grandparents lived through that war, heard the bombs drop.
This was the first and only association that lady had with Germany. Yes, many people are more educated than her but I am sure, she is not the only person like that in this world. It is exactly the reason why I lied before about where I was born. This is why I don´t like being asked where I am from.
Have you ever lied about where you are from? Have you ever had a bad reaction to telling somebody where you are from?
I can absolutely feel with you. When I tell people that I’m from Germany (which happens on the internet mostly) they usually reply with inappropriate comments or jokes about Nazis. I guess they can’t understand the weight and the sensitivity that this topic still has.
you’re right. Over the years I’ve endured my fair share of these types jokes, in some cases even at work. I hope the sensitivity around this topic never goes away, because it’s too serious to ever make light of.