4 common things that you will not find in Germany

Whenever people use the term shocking, I get the feeling that they are just trying to be dramatic. There really is no need to use the term shocking to describe anything that’s not life threatening let alone in a blog post headline like I was planning to do. My first headline had 'shocking' prominently displayed in it but after going through it, I had to admit to myself that there was not just a tinge of drama in it but a healthy dose of laziness. The following are things that you are unlikely to find in Germany but describing them as  shocking would be stretching it too thin.

1. Uber

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The paradox of East and West Germany

Important difference between East and West Germany that foreigners should always keep in mind

The 5 states colored yellow are in East Germany. (Berlin had a special status and had both East and Western parts)
The 5 states colored yellow are in East Germany. (Berlin had a special status and had both East and Western parts)
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Neo-Nazi Demos in Chemnitz and the issue of 'criminal foreigners'

The past two weeks in Germany have been dominated by demonstrations in the Eastern German city of Chemnitz. A male resident of Chemnitz was stabbed to death and two others fatally wounded. Two suspects, both asylum seekers, one from Iraq and a Syrian were arrested. The residents held a demo to mourn and protest. The next day, thousands of neo-Nazis held an even bigger demo to protest against ‘criminal foreigners’.

 

I live about 500 km away from Chemnitz in the south western part of Germany but as I watched the charged crowd and the “Ausländer raus!” chants, I felt my blood turn cold. It was no longer about two criminals. It was now about all foreigners which in Germany means anyone who doesn’t look ‘German’.

 

Neo-Nazis were prowling the streets and I wondered how it must feel like to be a person of color right at that moment listening or watching from your window somewhere in Chemnitz. What do you tell your kids? That it’s all going to be okay?

 

This was not the first time neo-Nazis were holding a demo in Germany. And yet this demo felt different. I have been thinking about why the events in Chemnitz unsettled me so much and I think I have finally figured out why. The first reason is that it didn’t feel like some fringe elements. It felt like these were ordinary folks calling out for foreigners to be thrown out of Germany. Thinking of hostility towards foreigners as something that’s restricted to fringe elements or some hateful freaks gives one a sense of security.

 

 

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A trip to Venice in Italy, the good and the not so good surprises

Does one really have to go to Venice? This question doesn’t matter at this point seeing as I have just come back from Venice but it’s one that anyone thinking of going to Venice should probably ask themselves.

On the 14th of August 2018, my husband and I and our two kids arrived in Venice. The decision to go to Venice was a culmination of curiosity and a need to visit what most people claim is one of the most amazing cities in the world.
I was excited to go but on  the day we arrived, it was raining cats and dogs and the mood was both gloomy and miserable. 
A bridge had collapsed in Genoa and the news on all Italian TV channels was dominated by pictures of  destruction and grief stricken shell-shocked witnesses and residents. 
By all accounts,we couldn’t have chosen a worse day to arrive.
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Discover the most effective way of dealing with stereotypes

I love stereotypes though as a foreigner, I really ought to hate them. One of the most enduring realities of living in a foreign land is that you will constantly be bathed, scrubbed and wrapped with stereotypes. I suspect that this is especially so if you are African. Some who have watched that crazy film with Eddy Murphy will assume that you are a Zamunda citizen waiting to pull some crazy stunt on them. They will mostly ignore you but if they have a minute to spare, they will look at you with wry amusement laced with unhinged curiosity. 

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What’s one of your most memorable holiday experiences?

Visiting Tunisia

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What could a foreigner with limited German fluency do to get a job in the IT sector in Germany?

An interview with a German IT manager on how foreigners could improve their chances of getting jobs in the IT sector

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10 answers about going to school in Germany

An interview with a 12 year about going to school in Germany

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How to get a job in Germany when your German isn’t great

This is something I wondered about when I first moved to Germany. I imagine that it is a question that gives many of my fellow foreigners sleepless nights.  Can one get a job in Germany when they are not fluent in German? The truth is, that German is not an easy language and there are many levels that one has to master before feeling half competent in it. If you somehow succeed in figuring out the random genders of trees, cows and books, you will still be pleasantly surprised to come across a word like this 'Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften'("legal protection insurance companies") or a sentence so long that it could easily go around the world and back. The second truth is  there are not too many countries or places around the world where German is spoken.  In fact, almost all the 230 million speakers of German live in Europe with small pockets elsewhere.  Most foreigners who come to Germany usually have other native languages and have previously only had superficial contact with German. Some of them come into  contact with German for the first time. Many of them have qualifications from their native countries usually learnt in different languages  for example English, Spanish and many others to name but a few. Almost all of them have dreams of working and earning a living.

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The surprising truth about English in Germany

When I first visited Germany for the first time in 2002, I got the impression that everyone spoke English: My partner’s family, friends and acquaintances all spoke English. Even though, some were not fluent, all of them could express themselves fairly well in English. During that visit, we did a small tour of  Germany starting from the small town in South west of Germany) near Heilbronn where my partner’s family lived  and headed to Berlin in the north about 600km away and then to Hamburg to the North-west and back. During this trip, pretty much everyone I encountered spoke English. I also noticed an eagerness of sorts among the many Germans I met to speak English. Strangers would often ask me probably because I looked different whether I spoke French or English. Needless to say, I concluded that one could get by in Germany without speaking German which as I later found out was at best naïve and at worst, well, very naïve J.

Lake of Constance
Lake of Constance
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Review of Trevor Noah's book 'Born a Crime'

Trevor Noah's book 'Born a Crime'- My review

Writing Style

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When a distraction turns into a nightmare

I never thought he would get elected. I just didn’t. Too many reasonable people in America. Women would stand with one of their own. He is too brash. Not without releasing his tax returns. Not with his Russian connections. Not after his tape about grabbing pu**y.

I was wrong.

As he would say, I was ‘bigly tremendously yugely’ wrong.

 

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The discomfort of watching refugees celebrate

“You don't ask people with knives in their stomachs what would make them happy; happiness is no longer the point. It's all about survival; it's all about whether you pull the knife out and bleed to death or keep it in...” Nick HornbyHow to Be Good

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Of the rise of right leaning AFD party in Germany

Angela Merkel and her cabinet
Angela Merkel and her cabinet

Fear, wariness

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Visiting the Alps in Summer,Tirol, Austria

The Austrian Alps, Lake Heiterwang

Heiterwanger See

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BREXIT, Euro 2016, what next?

BREXIT, Euro 2016 and the art of moving on

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Go and get it from your country!

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, discrimination and the courage to speak up

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What's happening in Germany?

                                            Part 1

foreigners in Germany
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New year,things I learnt last year

Staying young is easy. Work out as often as you can. Eat healthy and most important of all, never ever acknowledge a new year.

A few years ago on my birthday, I told my son that I was turning fifteen.

‘Fifteen?’ I still remember the awe in his voice. He attempted to count his fingers but fifteen was a figure way beyond his imagination.

In the subsequent years, I have repeated the same story. Fifteen I am, and fifteen I remain.

Last week, I heard him tell his sister in his cocky little way that he could count up to one hundred. He started counting and when he reached fifteen, he paused and raised his finger.

“Mummy is fifteen!”

For a moment, there was just silence and then the sister broke out into a boisterous laughter. I saw the hurt in his eyes.

“Well …” I started but wasn’t quite sure what to say. ‘I was kidding,’  ‘that’s what adults say’ all seemed a bit lame. So I told him the truth.

‘‘I am 15b!’’

 

His sister’s eyes almost popped out and in that moment, I knew that I had to put this down for posterity.

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Happy new year!!

foreigners in Germany
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Escaping to Europe and that point beyond fear

The delusion of ‘never’

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Where do you come from?

Tayie Selasi's Ted Talk and why you should probably not ask this question

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Self-pity? Nah...

Maysoon Zayid's Ted Talk and Self-pity

“Self-pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive.”Stephen Fry English comedian,writer,presenter and activist.

No wiser words have been spoken before.

Most of us have experienced those moments.

The moments when the universe seems to be directly conspiring against us.

It could be small things;your dog is sick, you have a horrible tooth-ache, someone beat you to a parking spot.

But sometimes,it could be pretty huge;a serious illness, bankruptcy,losing a loved one,divorce.

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The Pegida Story

Foreigners

Of hate, tolerance and naivety

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The perfect life


Happy new year everyone!


A time comes in your life when you finally get it . . . when in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out: ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on. And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears, and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening.


You realize that it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that there is nothing like a perfect life. In the real world, there aren’t always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of `happily ever after` must begin with you, and in the process a sense of serenity is born, of acceptance. 


You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate, or approve of who or what you are . . . and that’s OK.(They are entitled to their own views and opinions.)

And you learn the importance of loving and championing yourself and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval. 


You stop bitching and blaming other people for the things they did to you (or didn’t do for you,) and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected. You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that it’s not always about you. So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself, and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance. 

Honesty and integrity

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My trip to Tunisia

          Funny short stories

Of a president,camels and a taxi driver

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My first ever holiday 

Of brave women and countries on the brink...

The year is 1985. It must have been.

Her grip is becoming tighter. I hold on to her fingers and feel the sweat on my palms.

“Faster” she whispers in a near trembling voice. Waya which simply means 'aunt' in Luo, is a bubbly fearless woman whose laughter echoes miles away and lights up anything it comes across.

“Keep walking” she says.

“Look ahead” she exhales slowly. She barely opens her mouth let alone looks at me. The small backpack with my clothes suddenly feels heavy but I majestically try to keep her pace.

We are not alone.  There is the samosa guy pacing around and singing something soulful. And then there is the little girl. She is probably about my age and she is carrying an orange bowl with peanuts and a small spoon.

And then there is everyone else. 

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Going toTunisia

                        (Part one)

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Understanding racists, tribalists and all kinds of bigots

Interesting take on a never ending topic…

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Missing the 'moment'

Of winners, customer service and reality

My local ALDI
My local ALDI
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Football, Football

Of good drivers,football and luck

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Is Europe going to war?

Of an old wise man and millipedes

Loneliness
Loneliness
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The politics of beauty

Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong'o

Of beauty, my grandmother and a baboon

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Prisoners of fear

Of dreams, nightmares and fears

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Small people,cyberbullying and the moral compass

Right and wrong, the irony of life

Putin in an astronaut suit
Putin in an astronaut suit
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My special tribute to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

 

That it was going to happen, was never in doubt. In fact, I had expected that it would happen any moment. And yet on that Thursday night when I watched Caren Miosga, the ARD newscaster talk of Mandela in the past tense, I was left staring hopelessly at the screen, tears welling like a sudden summer rain. She didn’t have to say it. Her regretful somber tone said it all.

 

Growing up, I didn’t know what apartheid was. In its place, I knew Winnie Mandela with her velvet like skin, Miriam Makeba with her sultry powerful voice and yes Lucky Dube. I knew that there was some kind of struggle going on down there going by the number of times South African music repeated the word ‘freedom’.  But all these were too distant to make any impression on me.

 

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The story of my hair ...the highlights

Me and my 'wonderful' hair
Me and my 'wonderful' hair

Beautiful cities, undertaker lookalikes and French

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The story of my hair continues... the Highlights

Me and my 'wonderful' hair
Me and my 'wonderful' hair

The person at the gym

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Lampedusa, an impossible choice

The bodies of African migrants  in Lampedusa, Italy
The bodies of African migrants in Lampedusa, Italy

The indignity of choosing death

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German elections 2013, Angela Merkel wins…AGAIN

Of democracy, trust and power...my thoughts

Angela Merkel aka Ms 'Humility'
Angela Merkel aka Ms 'Humility'

So the elections came and went. As expected, ‘Mutti’ won. It wasn’t the fact that she won that was surprising. It was the style. So emphatic was her win that the competition was left speechless. For a big part of the evening, we sat glued in front of the screen, wondering whether she’d reach the magic number-absolute majority.

 

I felt sorry for the opposition. There is losing, and then there is losing. The latter is the kind of stuff you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. She had crushed them, literally. The social democrats managed a measly 25.7 %. Their natural partners the Greens managed 8.4%. Frau Merkel’s former coalition partners FDP (liberals) didn’t even manage the minimum 5%, and have as a result been kicked out of parliament. It was an evening that many will live to remember.

 

 But if the opposition had any regrets about how they conducted their campaigns, I didn’t see it. It was more like sighs and yes, helpless shrugging of shoulders. ‘How were we to have any chance against her?’ The social democrats seemed to be asking themselves. Amazingly, there was no trace of bitterness. And so for the rest of the evening, we were treated to a chorus. “We would like to congratulate Frau Merkel on her victory.” One opposition leader after the other went on.

 

Frau Merkel on her part smiled that distant smile, which never quite reaches the eyes. Not once did she let the moment consume her. Not once did she gawk down at the losers in the way lesser mortals would have been tempted to do.

 

I watched this spectacle with a mixture of emotions. The lack of drama was both puzzling and admirable. No one acted like their lives depended on the elections. No one acted as if the world would crumble if the opponent won. But most important of all, no one doubted the  ACCURACY of the results.  It was a near opposite of elections, as I remember them back home in Kenya.

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German elections 2013, 5 reasons Angela Merkel is unbeatable

Bundestag elections

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
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Tribulations of African hair (Part 3)

Diary of my African hair

Me and my hair
Me and my hair
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HIV/ AIDs:The lost generations

Of trends and the scorching heat

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Edward Snowden, six reasons we love being spied on

Of Freedom and flowered trousers

Russian ballet group
Russian ballet group
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Tribulations of African hair (Part 2)

The diary of my African hair

Mr. 'I hate your hair'
Mr. 'I hate your hair'
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Africa on the rise

Understanding the different types of Africans

There is an agreement in most parts of the world that Africa is on the rise. With economic growth rates that the rest of the world can only dream of, Africa is set to be a favorite destination of economic immigrants. Actually this is already happening. The Portuguese are said to be migrating in droves to Angola to look for work. And the Angolans are returning the favor by travelling to Portugal to… guess what? shop!

In recognition of the importance of Africa, I have decided to come up with a list of the different types of Africans you are likely to come across. Be sure to print this list out and carry it in your handbag for future reference whenever you bump into an African or if you are lucky enough to hang out with one.…

 

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Tribulations of African hair (1)

The diary of my African hair

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Leave my black skin in peace!

Of Black and white dolls

Zawadi aka Sawadi
Zawadi aka Sawadi
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Six funny German laws

Crazy/interesting German laws

 

Germany is a country of laws. There are laws for everything. Sometimes it looks to me like Germans’ favorite pastime is coming up with new laws. While some countries thrive on chaos, Germany’s sole agenda is to bring order to arbitrariness in life.

The German constitutional court recently declared that anyone who tortured, humiliated or killed Jews during the holocaust is as liable as the leadership of the Nazi regime. All those who worked for Hitler were part of a brutal murderous machine and are as guilty as those who gave orders. One can no longer claim that they were only following orders from above. It basically means that everyone must carry their own cross.

This is a momentous law with far reaching consequences.

For the most part, German laws are very progressive. It is a country that came back from the brink and is deeply aware of human faults and the dangers that this might pose to humanity. While I think this is fantastic, there are German laws that leave me scratching my head. For example, there is a German law that states that if a government official dies during an official trip, then that is the end of the trip. To me this does not make sense because a dead person cannot continue with a trip. Why is it necessary to have a law stating the obvious? 

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Germany, a country of perpetual critics

What if the Kenyan IEBC was German?

Rheinauhafen In Cologne, Germany
Rheinauhafen In Cologne, Germany
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