Before moving to Germany, I heard different stories about black people’s experiences either schooling here or living here. Some were bad but others were good and this gave me a mixed view of how life is for blacks in Germany. In a way, the bad ones where people experienced racism scared me because I didn’t know how I would react if someone were racist towards me. Coming from Ghana where we are mainly black, racism is foreign to us as we are ala the same colour, unlike the blacks in South Africa, America or Britain.
When I moved to Germany, in the beginning, I was quite wary of the fact that some people might be racist and kind of kept to myself. Even my husband wasn’t sure how people here would behave towards me so he in a way wanted to protect me and went to most of the places I wanted to go with me. Also because I didn’t understand German in the beginning, he had to go almost everywhere with me so he could translate for me.
When we went anywhere, people were generally nice and curious about which country I come from. Most had their own experiences with blacks, from black in-laws to black friends and this only served as a connection. Most Germans are reserved. This is especially so with the men. They will not approach you first but when you do talk to them, they are nice enough. The women, especially the older ones, on the other-hand are more friendly . Out of curiosity, when they see you, they will approach you and try to know a little about you, at least your country of origin. Unlike other nationals, Germans know Africa has many countries and do not assume it is one big country. Anyway, I digress.
Initially, I thought people were nice to me because of my husband but later when I could speak German and started going out by myself, I realised it wasn’t the case. People were still nice to me and talked to me. I even made some friends and acquaintances on my own when I went out shopping.
I had heard of situations where blacks were refused entry to some places including clubs here, so when I decided to go to the club in my town, I was quite cautious. I prepared my mind for whatever would happen. When my husband and I got there, to my relief it was normal. They didn’t refuse me entry. They didn’t even treat me any different from the other people going in. Once inside, everything was quite normal and I wasn’t made to feel like I look different. We had a nice time and when back home tired.
My only experience with racism in my almost 5 years of living in Germany was once a little boy, about 4 years old, walking with his mother and her friend, I presume, saw my friend and I in town and pointed at us telling his mother , ”guck Negers” (look, negroes over there) and his mother quickly pulled him into the shop closest to them. My friend and I were both shocked and offended but my friend more so than me. I always try to look at the other side and I thought that boy was too small to understand how offensive it is to say that to us. My friend agreed and said it is definitely from his parents or guardians that he learnt that from. She was really furious at the women walking with the boy and would have loved to confront them about that. But because they quickly walked to the nearest shop, most likely trying to avoid facing us, we let it go and walked away.
I later told my husband about the incident and he said the boy could have even learnt it from Kindergarten (and not necessarily from his parents) which was a shock to me because Kindergarten is supposed to have small innocent kids with no concept of race . He also explained that in Germany, some people do not see it as offensive as it is in the United States of America. I decided to read about it online. After goodling it, I realised some people in Germany don’t regard it as offensive. To them, it is a description of things or people with black or chocolate colour as it is from the latin word ”negro” which literally means black. However, regardless of how Germans think it means, black people are offended by it and it shouldn’t be used to describe us, period. Whether in Germany or America, it is offensive and since white Germans are not on the receiving end, they have no right to try to defend it. They shouldn’t use it at all.
Another issue I have with Germans especially the men is how they look at black people. I don’t know if is racist or just out of curiosity. When I walk in town , I realise people staring at me a lot. They don’t hide it, they stare for me,, to notice. Initially, I found it odd and uncomfortable, but I have gotten quite used to it and it no longer bothers me. My husband explained that it is probably out of curiosity because there are not so many black people in our town and the neighbouring ones. My Kenyan friend has also had experiences with the men staring at her and sometimes when we are walking by the main road, we realised most of the men driving by, stare at us. She thinks they are admiring us and is not bothered by it.
Apart from these, I haven’t had many bad experiences as a black woman living in Germany. Based on what I see and read on the news and social media, I think it is fair to say that there is more racism in America than in Germany. I think people in Germany are more curious than racist. Germany is a big country and some towns or cities might have more racists than others. So far, I think my state ,Baden-Württemberg state, is less racist than other states. In my tour of different towns in this state, I haven’t had any bad experiences apart from that one time in my town.
Have you been to Germany before? What were your experiences as a black person? Please share in the comments section. Thank you.