What It’s Like To Graduate Abroad

In just a few short days, I will walk across the stage, shake hands with the dean, be handed a blank diploma holder, and put my tassel on the other side. Yes, I am talking about graduation.

Here in America we have certain traditions where we wear special gowns and move are tassels to the other side to signify a step forward. These milestones might also include a large celebration and even some alcohol. As I gear up to enter the real world, I thought it might be interesting to find out how other countries celebrate graduation. Take a look:


Via City University London

UK: According to a commenter on Toytown Germany, graduates also have to wear gowns and they have a ceremony. The parent explains that his/her daughter had a “leaving ceremony where a band played, top pupils received prizes then each school-leaver was handed their certificate.” I would say that sounds very similar to how we celebrate graduation in America.

Norway: There appears to be some interesting traditions at graduations in Norway. In a forum on UniLang, a commenter explained that students take part in a celebration called “russ” that lasts from May 1 to May 17. The interesting thing is that each student wears a different outfit depending on what they have studied. So for instance if you studied only general subjects, you would wear red. However, if you also studied economy your outfit would be blue. This is kind of similar to how we each will have different color tassels depending on what school you’re graduating from here at Mizzou.

Germany: I find it interesting that in Germany, they do not seem to make a big deal out of graduation. In the forum Toytown Germany, another commenter said, “there’s no interest from the Germans to be so grandiose in their educational degreement.” According to this commenter, her husband who graduated from a school in Germany just received his degree, no real fan fare. From what I understand though, Germany takes great pride in its educational system. One would think graduation might be a bigger deal there.

Via Russian World Forums

Via Russian World Forums

Russia: According to blogger for Sparklife, Russian students wear very different attire from what we wear here in America for graduation. Sara Jonsson said girls tend to wear black dresses with aprons. It’s supposed to be “in homage to their Tsarist-era” school uniforms. I honestly might opt for these outfits than the ugly, non-form fitting gown I have to wear on Friday, but I guess that’s neither here nor there. Russian students also line up in front of the whole school, and then leave to party on

Graduation traditions are obviously not just an American way of life. It’s clear many other countries have their own way of celebrating the big day. I am curious what your favorite graduation tradition is?


Ramstein, Germany: A Home to Many Americans

Let’s talk about Ramstein and no, and I don’t mean the band.  Ramstein Air Base is an American NATO support installation established 61 years ago on June 1, 1953, in the southwest corner of Germany. It is located in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz and is surrounded by the towns of Miensenbach, Landstuhl and the nearby metropolitan city Kaiserslautern. (Fun fact: Rammstein the band got their name by adding an extra “m” to “Ramstein” to honor a crash that happened during an American Air Force flight show there.)

1988 Air Force Flight Show Crash

1988 Air Force Flight Show Crash

Ramstein is home to the largest community of Americans living outside of the United States, housing 34,000 Americans. Each year, thousands arrive at Ramstein to live for the duration of their European military assignments, and many military members stop over in Ramstein, the military hub of Europe, before deploying to places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa or on their way back to America from remote locations.

maxinereyesusa said, “After stopping in Germany! Greenery over desert! :-), Qatar was beautiful though! #ramstein #germany#homebound #usa”

Although some people may be hesitant to leave America or to relocate their family or household, Ramstein Air Base is definitely a place where an American would enjoy living and experiencing European culture and travel.  Ramstein is constantly changing  but there are always attractions that seem to stick around!


Riviera Eisdiele

Hands down the best ice cream parlor in Ramstein is “Riviera.”  It was my favorite place to visit while growing up in Ramstein.  It has the friendliest atmosphere and easily said to be the best ice cream in town. Landstuhler Strasse 25, 66877, Ramstein Meisenbach

Landstuhl Kriegerdankmal is a war memorial built in 1934 to honor 121 Landstuhl citizens who died in World War I. Kaiserstrasse, 66849 Landstuhl

The Pflaz Wald Nature Park is a very large wooded area perfect for bike rides and walks.  There are are so many scenic trail  variations in the park. People have been enjoying the area since 1982 – 32 years!


Pflaz Wald Nature Park

Another great attraction that everyone loves in the summer is the “Azur Swimmbad,” the pool! It was built in 1998  and hasn’t aged a bit.  Every summer my friends and I would go to this pool! This big pool has indoor and outdoor facilities along with diving boards and slides.  It has an outdoor hot tub leading from the inside to outside and lots of space surrounding the pool for families to lay out and enjoy the day. Shear Straße 50 66877 Ramstein


Azur Swimmbad

Lastly, you can’t end without talking about the oldest building, Ramstein Meisenbach‘s City Hall or “Rathaus.” The city hall, which was built in 1750, was once a brewery! But now it contains tourist information along with the “Museum im Westrich“, which has local history and art, including a statue of St. Nepomuk, a Catholic figure.


Ramstein’s City Hall

Overall, Ramstein is very family-oriented and most Germans around Ramstein speak English and are very helpful and welcoming. Even though it is not a large city and does not have the large ancient castles an American might associate with Germany, it is very valuable to Americans who are fighting for our freedom.

Under Ramstein’s Facebook page Lisa wanted to give her input on living in Germany. 

ramstein_dapdLisa Dunham, “Traveling around Europe, the castles, Oktoberfest, autobahns, the cleanliness, the sincerity of the people, döners, their punctuality, the breads & pastries, the wine & beer (and how inexpensive good wine and beer is!!), how there is ALWAYS a festival for everything and anything, the fact that they recycle and love the environment, how incredibly helpful Germans are, our landlord & his family, that they use dinner as a time to socialize not to scarf their food down and run, that meals are cooked fresh, that the simple pleasures are what matter most, Bavaria, the Weihnachtmärkte, Audi/BMW/VW/Mercedes, their healthcare system, that art is displayed EVERYwhere, that their crime rates are lower overall, and that their groceries are good…organic is not a trend, it’s the way they live normally….and that most everyone loves plants & gardens!!”

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Please feel free to share your personal experience with others being stationed in Ramstein, Germany now and in the future.

Korean-German Identity: An Interview with Suin Roberts


Korean nurses pictured outside of St. Johannes Hospital in West Germany

In my last post, I wrote about the German Village, a community of elderly Korean repatriates from Germany on Namhae Island in South Korea. My inspiration for the post stemmed from a recent series of articles in The Korea Times about the nearly 20,000 South Koreans who went to West Germany in the 1960s and ’70s to work as miners and nurses in the wake of the Korean War. Although they were originally under obligation to leave Germany after 3 years, many stayed and started families. As a result, there are 30,000+ people of Korean heritage living in Germany today. To put that in context, that’s the 14th largest Korean population living outside of Korea worldwide and the  2nd largest Korean population in Europe behind the U.K.

Featured in the fourth and final article in the Korea Times’ series on the subject is Suin Roberts, associate professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Dr. Roberts was born in Germany to a Korean miner/nurse couple who decided to stay. She has also written a book called Language of Migration: Self- and Other-Representation of Korean Migrants in Germany and graciously agreed to do the following interview about her personal familial, cultural, and linguistic background for this blog. I’ve compiled a few additional resources for anyone who is interested in learning more about South Koreans in Germany, including a German-language Deutsche Welle article on the question of integration for second-generation Koreans, an English-language post on where to experience Korean culture in Berlin, and a dual German- and Korean-language online forum for cultural exchange.


Suin Roberts

RK: Your parents were a miner and a nurse who came from Germany in the 1970s, correct? Did they meet in Korea or later, in Germany?

SR: My parents were from South Korea and actually met in Germany. My mother (from Gwangju) went as a nurse and worked in a psychiatric hospital in Langenfeld (in fact, she is still employed there) and my father (from Seoul) worked as a miner in Aachen. Later, he retrained and became an electrician and worked for Bayer (Leverkusen).

RK: What brought your parents to Germany, and why did they decide to stay? Were they involved in the 1977 protests?

SR: My parents had decided to leave Korea for economic reasons and a feeling of wanderlust. They needed to earn money for themselves and their families back in Korea and saw the recruitment to Germany as an opportunity: It was something that could help them escape struggling post-war Korea and in addition to that, it would allow them to see and explore Europe.

During the time of the 1977 protests, they had already been living in Germany for several years. Even though neither of them had originally planned to stay in Germany, they decided to stay, because they had met each other and started a family together. At the time, quite a few Korean nurses, who had already worked in Germany for at least three years, were looking into immigrating to the US. My mother had also applied to a hospital (and received a contract offer) in Chicago, but in the end, my parents decided to stay in Germany, because they thought that the healthcare system in Germany was better and more reliable at the time.

RK: What was the linguistic environment in your home like when you were growing up? How much Germans did your parents speak, and how much Korean did you grow up speaking?

SR: I would say that I was certainly a native speaker of Korean during my first few years, but I don’t remember myself as one. My memory only goes back to preschool (Kindergarten in German, so children between 3-6 years in Germany attend Kindergarten) and by that time, I was completely fluent in German. As long as I can remember, I have always spoken German with my parents. While my parents spoke both, Korean and German, at home, I have always felt more comfortable speaking German with them than Korean. I believe that my parents tried to use more German at home in the beginning, because back in the 1970s and 1980s, migrant parents were told to speak German at home so that their children wouldn’t struggle in school. I did attend a Korean Friday school (a few hours of Korean language instruction provided by a local Korean association), but of course, this type of school was more about socializing with other Koreans and less about language learning. So, not surprisingly, my friends and I would always end up speaking German during recess.

In retrospect, I spoke very little Korean growing up. My interest in Korea and the Korean language is more recent, maybe since graduate school, when I took Korean-language classes and started to explore K-Pop culture.

RK: What was the general attitude toward Koreans in Germany while you were growing up, and what is it now? How does it compare to attitudes in America?

SR: In my home town (ca. 50,000 people), there were only a handful of Korean families while I was growing up. My experiences were mainly positive, which means that I didn’t experience any open racism or discrimination. However, I was teased on playgrounds once in a while for my “exotic” appearance. Overall, however, the general attitude towards Koreans during that time was neutral, I would say, ranging from indifference to friendly interest. Either way, one was perceived as a foreigner (Ausländer) most of the time.

Today, I believe the attitude towards second- and third-generation Koreans in Germany has become more accepting, in that one is now being perceived as a German with migration background rather than an Ausländer. Or to say the least, we are in the process of moving towards this attitude.

Korean-Americans have had advantages: 1. The US has always been perceived as a country of immigration. 2. Citizenship laws are based on ius soli (which Germany (partly) introduced only recently), 3. The English language allows for hyphenated identities (Korean-American), whereas in German, one always has to choose one identity over another  (e.g., Deutschkoreaner). Hence, Koreans in the US may have had a different, maybe smoother road to travel on in terms of identity construction…

RK: Did you grow up surrounded by a Korean community? What is your sense of cultural and national identity?

SR: As I have mentioned, my immediate, local Korean community was very small, however, my hometown is situated between Düsseldorf and Cologne, which boasted bigger Korean communities. I did grow up within a network of Korean family friends. So, there were gatherings and get-togethers, where I heard Korean and had Korean food. There were also fieldtrips and yearly cultural events, which we usually attended.

In terms of cultural and national identity, I believe cultural identity supersedes national identity. While in Germany, where I lived my first 24 years of my life, I felt mostly German, however, also Korean in terms of values and mentality. My lack of Korean language skills kept me from pursuing a stronger Korean identity.

While I have lived in the US now for the last 13 years, I have felt mostly American even though I don’t have American citizenship (yet). But life in the US has shaped me culturally and linguistically. I feel as comfortable speaking English as I do speaking German. Actually, when it comes to my research and work, I prefer speaking English.

How would I self-identify? In terms of national identity, it’s a matter of passports for me. I have a German passport and I have applied for American citizenship, so soon I’ll be a dual citizen. But in terms of cultural identity, I have become a Korean-German-American, in that particular order with the focus being on American.

RK: Have you ever traveled to or lived in Korea? Are you close to extended family members living in Korea?

SR: I have spent two summers in Korea during my teenage years, and most recently, I have been to Seoul in 2008 for conferences and in 2013 for an invited lecture at the Goethe Institut. I would like to go more often and actually, I’d love to live there for a while. Korea has changed so much over the years. It’s become such an interesting place in terms of culture, architecture, nature, etc. It has a lot to offer, and I’d like to explore it more.I have uncles, aunts and cousins, and friends in Korea, with whom I try to visit whenever I am there. Recently, we’ve been communicating on a weekly basis via Kakaotalk, a text messaging app. It is exciting to connect this way.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Delivers

Even if you don’t know the names of actors, you will certainly recognize many faces in The Grand Budapest Hotel, which premiered February 6th at the Berlin International Film Festival and made its way to the US in March. In Wes Anderson’s latest film, the director/writer loads up on familiar faces once again, including big names like Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, and Edward Norton, just to name a few. Having big-name casts in Wes’s previous films did not always translate into a successful movie, though. This time, however, the quirky Wes Anderson pulls it all together. Check out the picture of the cast and see how many actors you recognize.


 The ‘Budapest’, filmed in Germany, mainly takes place in 1930s Europe on the brink of World War II. Anderson based his film on the works of Jewish novelist Stefan Zweig, who fled Austria when Hitler came to power in 1934. Anderson never portrays soldiers as Nazis with the “SS” emblem; rather, he cleverly replaces it with “ZZ”. The film does not focus explicitly on the brutal effects of war. Instead, Anderson seems to focus on the civility that remained within the Grand Budapest Hotel before the war. Here’s a profound quote from the movie: “You see, there are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. Indeed that’s what we provide in our own modest, humble, insignificant… oh, f*** it.”

In some dream within a dream, within a dream Inception fashion, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a story, within a story, within another story, but don’t worry, it’s not nearly as mind-bending as Inception. In short, the story follows M. Gustave H., the hotel concierge, and his quest for the rightful ownership of a painting bequeathed to him by a frequent visitor at the Grand Budapest Hotel. Along the way, Gustave is wrongly accused of murder, escapes from prison, flees from the police, and more in Anderson’s love-story, detective comedy.


Visually, The Grand Budapest Hotel is gorgeous. The attention to detail and colorful sets capture a distinctly nostalgic feel. The movie’s soundtrack, composed by Alexandre Desplat, lends itself perfectly to the classical, charming environment. Structurally, I have to say that this is Wes Anderson’s best work. Unlike some of his previous works, ‘Budapest’ moves along seamlessly and lacks the sluggishness of some of his other works (I’m looking at you, The Life Aquatic). The cast has so many famous actors that Anderson has to limit certain actors to meager roles. I wished some actors, especially Owen Wilson and Bill Murray, received more than cameo roles, but every actor’s appearance brought a smile to my face and garnered an audible, “Ah, I can’t believe he/she is in it this, too!” from the audience. Anderson’s witty dialogue reads like a well-written novel and provides hilarious one-liners.

The Grand Budapest Hotel won’t have you pondering the meaning of life or anything like that; the movie doesn’t intend to delve too far beneath its surface. ‘Budapest’ does what it set out to do: entertain with memorable characters and spectacular visuals. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.

What Can’t You Live Without?… “Friendship”


“Friendship” is a movie about two German friends flying to America and their adventure from New York to San Francisco.  Now, if you don’t know German it can be very hard to follow along because the entire movie is in German, but overall, the movie is really funny and entertaining.

The DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik)

The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the DDR (East Germany) and West Germany reunited in 1990. After about 10 years movies started coming out that reflected on the time before the Berlin wall fell and how East Germans lived. I’m estimating that this movie, which came out in 2009, was based on the time period of March 1990. Although it was made over ten years after the Berlin Wall fell, it reflects back on the reunification of Germany in a humorous way.  A couple German words that describe this context are “Ostagie” and “Nostalgie”, or feelings of nostalgia for life as it was in the DDR.

The movie is really funny and to an American audience who wouldn’t know much about Germany’s history it would still be a funny Friendship-Szenenbild-1movie, but it also includes key references that reflect on old traditions of East Germany that an American might miss.

The movie critiques the socialist structure of the DDR, including the concept of “Alle gleich”, or “all equal”. While the main characters, Tom and Veit, are growing up in East Germany there is a scene where Tom describes everything as “Alle gleich.” Tom and Veit hate the Stasi, the East German secret police, because they are freelancers and don’t like the rules in East Germany.  The scenes depicting their childhood show a lot of uniformity and oppression in a socialist society.

There are of course critiques of capitalism when they go to America. There is a homeless man in the first place they land in New York.  In East Germany you wouldn’t see homeless people because of its social security structure. Another critique of capitalism is when Tom has a toothache and can barely afford to get it fixed.  In this scene Tom is frustrated because he says that everything costs money here and it is hard to live.  In East Germany he wouldn’t have had the issue of barely being able to afford to get his teeth fixed. Another obvious critique of Americans is that they are portrayed as ignorant.  There are many characters who were made to exemplify ignorance, including the mayor, the police, and the Tennessee sisters.


I feel as though this movie shows true friendship because of the way the movie ended.  Tom follows Veit through thick and thin, living on the streets of America with barely any money. I also really liked the small details that reflect critiques of socialism vs. capitalism throughout the movie. According to the German review site Movie Pilot, critics gave this movie a 6.5 and I would agree with that, because while it is very funny, it is not the best movie ever made.  The ending is very unexpected, but I think it would have been a lot more entertaining if Veit had meet his father. I think Fibel’s comment on Movie Pilot sums the movie up well: “Das ist Kunst! Kinokunst!”

The Official Website of the movie”Friendship”

Manhattan to Mainhattan: An American Introduction to Frankfurt am Main

Apartment buildings in Frankfurt am Main.

Apartment buildings in Frankfurt am Main.

Summer’s rolled around, bringing vacation time with it. Your passport arrived weeks ago, your suitcase is open and ready to be packed, and now there’s just one question remaining: where to go?

For the burgeoning traveler, Frankfurt am Main is the perfect location.

Located, as you might guess, on the Main River in the German state of Hesse, Frankfurt am Main is a modern city with lots of history. Rebuilt in modern styles after extensive bombing during World War II, Frankfurt is now famous for housing the most skyscrapers of any German city; further benefiting from American occupation and the new found isolation of post-war Berlin, the city quickly grew into a commercial metropolis that only narrowly lost to Bonn as capital of the BRD. Sixty years later, the resulting development of the city offers a blend of western modernity and European cultural history — the perfect mix for someone still testing the waters abroad.

Herzliche Willkommen

Haus der Jugend

When I visited Frankfurt, I stayed in the Haus der Jugend youth hostel, which is conveniently located for seeing much of what the city has to offer. For a quick introduction, however, there are two options for acquainting yourself with the city: the Main Tower, or via river tour. Personally, I found that it’s more than worth it to fork over a couple of euros to hitch the 200m ride up to the top of the tower; with beautiful panoramic views of the city and surrounding country, it’s easy to feel like you’re the Main Tower provides an amazing introductory experience that quite literally lays the city at your feet.

For those less comfortable with the height, however, it’s also possible to stay closer to the ground and cruise the city on a river tour. A warning, though: if you, like me, take this tour soon after arriving early in the morning, after a ten hour flight across the Atlantic, you do run the risk of the warm summer sun, tranquil river, and soothing scenery lulling you to sleep.



Something Old

Once you’ve gained a feel for the city, the city offers a full list of museums, restaurants and pubs to explore and relax in. Many of them are located close to the aforementioned Haus der Jugend, and the meticulously rebuilt old town (Altstadt) is a great place to get a bite to eat and try some of Frankfurt’s famed Apfelwein (I’ve heard a lot of people describe it as a love-it-or-hate-it drink, but to me, it just tasted like a somewhat sharp white wine. Römerberg Square is also a site of festivities, such as it was when I first visited Frankfurt, having arrived on the morning of Ascension Day. If you’re looking for some of that aforementioned culture shock, I can safely say there’s nothing quite like a couple of drunk Germans standing on tables giving celebratory speeches while you enjoy your first bite of authentic German beer and bockwurst.

Many of the buildings on the square have themselves been around since the early days of the city in the late eighth century, but just around the corner there stands another must-see of Frankfurt: the famed Kaiserdom, the Imperial cathedral in which Holy Roman Emperors were crowned for more than two hundred years.  Admission is free, and if you’re lucky, the cathedral might be hosting a choral concert for you to listen to as well. This church holds a special note of interest for me, as it was the first European cathedral I’d had the pleasure of visiting; it’s not the most magnificent of the churches Europe has to offer, but even so, you can forget what you learned from Hunchback of Notre Dame — seeing the sturdy Gothic architecture and listening to the echoing choir in person is something you can never quite appreciate without experiencing it for yourself.

The famous facade of the Römerberg Square in Frankfurt’s Altstadt.

Something New

In the modern world, Frankfurt has made a name for itself as a banking capital, and while it still pales alongside cities such as London (though not for lack of trying), it still has a strong economic presence. The twin towers of Deutsche Bank stand as an eternal reminder of this fact, as does a monument built to commemorate the introduction of the Euro in 2001. My group had the pleasure of being invited inside the DB towers for a lecture on banking, but as an Arts & Sciences major, I can assure you I remember very little of it.

The city itself is a constant reminder of modernity as well. With roughly thirty structures reaching heights of 100m or more (a massive feat in an of itself, given the swampy, unstable ground the city stands on), streets full of modern apartments, and a heavy emphasis on business and economics, Frankfurt am Main is far from being Germany’s busiest tourist trap. Even with all of that corporate mayhem, though, the city has plenty of its own kooky European quirks which have noted on the web by natives and tourists alike (Faces of the City, anyone?), but even so, when I finally left the city, I couldn’t help feeling a little homesick for it (not bad for someone who had been out of America for less than a week at that point).

A handful of the towers that make up Frankfurt's famous skyline.

A handful of the towers that make up Frankfurt’s famous skyline.

* all photos taken by Rachel Alvord

A Piece of Germany in South Korea

Korea mapIn anticipation of spending the next year teaching English in South Korea, I’ve started making a list of places to visit while I’m there. The most recent addition to my list is the German Village, a German-Korean community located on Namhae Island in South Gyeonsang Province.

Germans in South Korea, you say? While it’s true that most foreigners in South Korea hail from the U.S. and other parts of Asia and that most Korean expats live in China, the U.S., and Japan, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 South Koreans moved to West Germany in the 1960s and ‘70s to work as ‘Gastarbeiter’ (lit. ‘guest workers’) due to the economic devastation caused by the Korean War. Many of them ended up staying in Germany and starting families; as a result, Germany is now home to the second highest number of people of Korean heritage in Europe.

German Village - Namhaedo - South KoreaA little over a decade ago, South Korean authorities offered former guest workers who had lived in Germany at least 20 years an incentive to come back to Korea, offering them and their families land and subsidized German-style housing in an area Koreans call ‘Dogil Maeul’ (‘German Village’) on Namhae Island. The most seemingly reliable stats I could find on the Village come from a 2012 article run by Der Spiegel stating that there are 35 houses in the Village, although some informal sources I’ve seen put the number at anywhere between a dozen and 75 (there’s probably an accurate number listed somewhere on the Village’s website, but someone with better Korean than mine is going to have to get back to me on that). Some inhabitants live there full time, and some split their time between South Korea and Germany.

As Der Spiegel’s article points out, many of the Korean returnees no longer feel at home in their country after having been away for 30-40 years. Cho Sung-Hyung’s 2009 German-language documentary Endstation der Sehnsüchte follows three German-Korean couples who live in the Village and details these feelings of heimatslosigkeit. Below is a short excerpt from the film.

The German Village has become something of a tourist destination, attracting tens of thousands during the summers and at least ten thousand for Oktoberfest, according to Der Spiegel. I get the sense that it’s a lot like Missouri’s own Hermann, but without the wineries or good German drink—apparently beer in a can at the Village’s Cafe Bremen is about as close as you’re gonna get. On the other hand, you can’t beat the scenery, and f0r German- or Korean-speaking tourists, it seems like the residents would be fascinating to talk to. Apparently there’s an American village located on the island as well.

But in the words of Lavar Burton (Reading Rainbow, anyone?), don’t take my word for it. Check out pictures and reviews of people who have been to the German Village here, here, and here, and stay tuned for my next blog post on Koreans in Germany, featuring an interview with Suin Roberts of Indiana University.


The Blend of Cultural Ideas in “Die Fremde”

I watched Die Fremde, (“When We Leave”) at University of Missouri’s Department of German and Russian  Studies “Germany in Europe” Campus Weeks Film Series. The film draws on a recent issue in Germany where Turkish immigrants have been committing “honor killings“; a story that recently gained a lot of press was that of Hatun Sürücü, a women who was honor killed by her brother on a street in Berlin. In Die Fremde, the director Feo Aladag, advocates for women to have the right to leave their husbands or to fight for the life they want.  She is highly involved with stopping violence against women. In this clip, Feo Aladag gives her reason for how this movie got started.

In an article about the film, The LA Times writes about some further points of the director.

“Pakistan has the highest rate of honor killings in the world, Aladag said. “I don’t know the overall number, but there is one province where each year an average of 268 women are killed,” she said. “The problem is that many women in many countries are not registered, so if they disappear…. and it stays within the family or it is covered up as a suicide [there’s no way to track what actually happened]. Under [some Islamic laws] it is not a crime.” LA Times

The Plot of Die Fremde

Umay is a woman who grew up in a Turkish family that lived in Berlin.  Her Turkish parents arranged her marriage and she had a son with her husband in Istanbul.  Her husband abuses and rapes her and abuses her son.  She flees for Germany for freedom.

Umay leaves istanbul with Cem.

Umay leaves istanbul with Cem.

Once she reaches Germany with her son she wants to stay with her family in Berlin.  When they find out she left her husband for good they try to force her to go back and she rejects it.  It is her duty to be a wife and listen to her husband.  Once they realize she won’t go back they try to steal Cem her son and bring him back to Istanbul.  Umay calls German police to escort her to a safe house in Berlin.  Umay in this stage is working and met a German man.

Her brothers find where she lives and create havoc for the safe house. They say she has ruined the family name and embarrassed their family.  She then leaves the safe house and lives in the real world with her son.  Umay’s mother meets with her to tell her to go back to Istanbul or she will have to disown her.  Umay denies ever going back and her family pretends she is dead to them.  Umay shows up at her sister’s marriage and

Umay is dead in her family's eyes.

Umay is dead in her family’s eyes.

the family is furious and has the youngest son take her outside while the rest of the family ignores her.

Umay breaks up with her German boyfriend because she only cares for the bettering of her son Cem.  Umay’s father decides to tell Umay’s two brothers to kill her for good called “honor killing.” To protect the family’s honor.  Once her father decides that the next morning he has a heart attack.  Umay then visits him in the hospital and he tells her to forgive him and to leave. Her mother doesn’t say a word to her.  She does so and leaves the hospital.  While walking on the street outside of the hospital her youngest brother asks her if he can walk with them and then pulls a gun on them.  He drops it and then runs for the bus.  The older brother is behind her as she looks at the youngest brother running off.  Cem says her brothers name Umay turns toward him with Cem in her arms and he accidentally stabs Cem instead of Umay.

Theme of Die Fremde

Die Fremde shows the pressure of family reputation in society and the purpose of self-fulfillment clashing.  The image of families in society have a certain idea or image that must be met and fulfilled.  Sometimes family members don’t want the same image or purpose and how they idealize or prioritize things affect each other’s lives.

Another idea is the women in patriarchal societies. Umay is forced to listen to her father and husband who both want tradition and respect to the patriarchal society more than her own needs.  Some women feel neglected, abused and alone in these types of relationships other women like Umay’s mother accept the traditional  patriarchal lifestyle. 

And the influence of two cultures on a person. This movie shows the cultural adjustment in Europe.  It shows the clashing of the Germany and Turkish values. The movie shows the integration in Germany and shows a step forward from its past.

Why It Ended the Way It Did

It ended the way it did to make a point.  I think it ended the way it did because the concerns on how she was living her life were innocent like that of her son and it shouldn’t have mattered how she lived.  I feel as though everyone wanted Cem to have the best life whether it was under the family tradition with his dad or the German culture of his mom.  The reason why she left was for herself and Cem and now that Cem is dead she has nothing to live for and it’s worse than killing her. It is the worst crime to kill a child and it shows a change in reality. When Cem dies it shows the cardinal sin, a child represents the future and life.


According to Rotten Tomatoes 81% of the audience likes the movie and I would have to agree if not give it a higher rating.  It’s relevant to it’s time and shows an international view.  I liked it because it’s about a topic that I wouldn’t have known about and it shows Germany and its European ideas mixing with Middle Eastern ideas. MetaCritic  gave it a rating of 65 and I feel as though this rating is too low for this movie.  I did like a critics comment about the movie Ty Burr from the Boston Globe said, “As powerful as the movie is, it stays on the outside of a culture looking in.”

Another Person Taking a Stand like Feo Aladag…

A German Turkish Rapper, Eko Fresh Ehrenmid, Koln kalk

Throwback Thursday: Mädchen in Uniform

If The Police had been around a few decades earlier, their hit “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” would have made an excellent theme song for the 1958 German-language film Mädchen in Uniform. As in the song, Mädchen in Uniform deals with a “young teacher” who’s “the subject of schoolgirl fantasies”—but with a twist. While the film’s plot does indeed involve a schoolgirl, the teacher she’s lusting after is, as it turns out, a woman.

Set in 1910 at a Prussian all-girls’ Catholic boarding school, Mädchen in Uniform—a remake of the 1931 film of the same name—is centered around the relationship that develops between new pupil Manuela and her teacher, Fräulein von Bernburg. The headmistress of the school and her cronies run a tight ship—after all, the girls are expected to grow up to be the mothers of soldiers, as our dear Senior Superior points out when her monocle-wielding sidekick says the students have been complaining of hunger. Indeed, Fräulein von Bernburg is the only teacher who shows any affection or nurturing to the students in her care. Manuela, whose mother has recently died, clings to this affection, developing an obsession with the Fräulein. One night, after having a little too much alcoholic punch at the Senior Superior’s birthday party, Manuela declares her love for von Bernburg to the rest of the school and scandal ensues . . .

I won’t spoil the ending—let’s just say the film ends on, well, not the most satisfying of notes, but certainly on a less depressing note than Loving Annabelle, Katherine Brooks’ 2006 modernized, English-language take on Mädchen in Uniform. But more on that in a minute.

Mädchen has long been hailed as a lesbian classic, and this movie is rife with homoerotic vibes. Several students have seemingly romantic relationships with one another, everyone has all the feels for von Bernburg, and none of this is presented as being at all out of the ordinary. However, while Manuela’s affections for Fräulein von Bernburg are of a romantic nature, von Bernburg’s affections for Manuela seem more maternal than anything else—and as this review of the 1931 version of the film points out, the theme of women loving women (which again, is completely normalized in the film) seems to actually be secondary to the film’s overarching commentary on the expression/repression of emotion and affection.Loving Annabelle

Which brings me back to Loving Annabelle. Although it gets its basic storyline from Mädchen, it places far more emphasis on the theme of sexual identity—specifically, the navigating of same-sex desires in a hetero-normative environment. In this case, the feelings between Simone, the teacher, and her student, Annabelle, are mutual and decidedly sexual. (As After Ellen’s review of the film points out, though, the sexual relationship between Simone and Annabelle brings up the issue of Annabelle’s age—although we don’t know exactly how old she is, she’s definitely a teenager and possibly still underage.)

All in all, if you’re in the market for a good queer film, both movies have their merits. Mädchen in Uniform offsets Manuela’s plight with lots of comic relief (the students are all kinds of hilarious, and did I mention there’s a monocle? Just beware, the English subtitles are not always the most accurate). Loving Annabelle is very sensual, but brace yourself for all the long, anguished gazes of inward turmoil and torturous lust.

*At the time of this posting, both Loving Annabelle and the 1958 version of Mädchen in Uniform are available on Netflix, and the 1931 version can be found on the YouTube. For my German-speaking readers out there, you can find a cool German-language comparison of both film versions and the book (yes, there’s a book!) here and a German-language review of Loving Annabelle here.

Emulating Germany’s Automotive Success

Photo from bmwblog.com

Photo from bmwblog.com

When people in America say “The BIG Three” you know they’re talking about GM, Ford, and Chrysler. But use the phrase  anywhere else in the world, and no one will even think of those American automakers. As of 2013, the largest automotive company in the world, by revenue, is the Volkswagen Group with $270 billion in revenues. Daimler AG (i.e. Mercedes-Benz) comes in 3rd with $162 billion and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (i.e. BMW) comes in 7th at $106 billion. What I’m getting to is that Germany is the world’s largest and most influential car manufacturing economy.

Germany alone produced over 5.6 million cars in 2012, putting them in 4th place behind China, Japan, and the US, though that discounts the fact that the German firms listed above produce a considerable number of the cars in aforementioned countries as well as in Mexico, France, and many others. The true “BIG Three” are thus, VW, Mercedes, and BMW.

If you want to count being the biggest auto manufacturer as producing the most cars, that’s fine, but it means having razor thin profit margins when compared to competitors and it means cutting corners. Toyota tops VW in the number of cars it produces, but the fact that they brought in $60 billion less in 2013 shows that people are willing to pay a premium for a better car. The VW Jetta, for example is aimed squarely at the Toyota Corolla and VW tries to keep the Jetta’s price the same as the Corolla’s . However when customers didn’t like the 2012 Jetta’s torsion beam suspension, VW threw it out and began offering the car with a more expensive fully independent rear suspension and sales picked up.

Photo from ConsumerReports.org

Photo from ConsumerReports.org

During the recession, VW focused, not on austerity or cutting corners, but on developing new models and opening new plants. This helped the company substantially to maintain year after year growth even in Europe, where car manufacturers have been struggling to keep their heads above since 2009. An online post from the British magazine Autocar highlighted the point back in 2009 stating:

“In the first nine months of the year, VW Group’s sales were up 34 per cent to 622,853 units. This has been helped by the launch of new Golf and Polo models, with sales of these up 54.1 per cent and 56.2 per cent respectively.”

Forbes interviewed Mercedes-Benz vice president of marketing and saw a similar trend in their strategy:

“Mercedes still managed to emerge from the recession with renewed momentum, launching five new models and building share of market, as it is looking to its 14th consecutive year of sales growth in 2011.”

This success has not gone unnoticed. The Fiat group which owns the brands Fiat, Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and now Chrysler (they sound like a HUGE and important company, now, don’t they?) is now only afloat because they purchased a controlling interest in Chrysler right before the European economy tanked. For Fiat executives, turning Chrysler around was a fairly easy job, turning around the Italian side of the family is turning out to be a much more difficult task. Fiat is now looking at the VW Group as a model of how to succeed.

One example of how the Italians are taking their cue from the Germans is the way that Fiat is rebooting Maserati. Maserati is an old company with a racing heritage. A good comparison to Porsche, where VW has found a balance between catering to the masses with it’s Cayenne SUV (which literally doubled its sales), it’s Panamera Sedan (which was meant to double sales, but fell a bit short), and it’s lower priced Boxter roadster, while maintaining it’s company heritage with 16 variations of it’s 911 on offer. Porsche is now releasing a small SUV called the Macan. Porsche sold 160,000 cars to Maserati’s 15,400, last year, as Reuters pointed out.

The upcoming Maserati Levante at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. Photo by David Villarreal Fernández

The upcoming Maserati Levante at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. Photo by David Villarreal Fernández

So, the Reuters article notes, Maserati released two new sedans (the Ghibili and the Quattroporte, the blog Jalopnik has a great review of them) that share various components with other Fiat group vehicles, the way Porsche gets the same air-conditioning or window motors in it’s vehicles as say the VW Jetta. Following Porsche’s strategy, Maserati has an SUV and a sports coupe in the works.

Fiat is catching on. They are realising why it is that the Germans are propping up the European Union. The only question is will other European car makers catch on before it’s too late?

This post is for the Germany in Europe Campus Weeks initiative, information can be found at the German Information Center website.

German Cooking for the American Woman: Schnitzel



2 Large Eggs


Plain Freadcrumbs

Thin Cut Pork

Salt and Pepper



First wash the thin cut pork.


Then take serran wrap and fold it over the pork.


Take a meat tenderizer and pound the meat.


Once the meat is tenderized take the flour and put some in a bowl, take the 2 eggs and put them in another bowl, and then put the plain bread crumbs and salt and pepper in another bowl.


Drop the pork into the flour and put a nice even coating on both sides.


Drop the flour covered pork and drop it in the egg.


Now take the flour and egg covered pork and drop it into the bowl of plain bread crumbs


This is what the pork should look like after this process.


Keep the pork covered in the fridge until it is ready to fry.


Now it’s time to fry the schnitzel! What you want to do is set the heat on 350 degrees and fry it for about 6-7 minutes.


I hope learning how to make the German Schnitzel was easy for you! For german sides to go with the schnitzel click here.

Here is  a german song to go with you delicious schnitzel!
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, “Schnitzel Boogie

Jews in a Box at Berlin Museum

Boxcar Carrying Jews

Jews being deported to death camps in boxcars.

1. How many Jewish people are still living in Germany today?

2. What is it like to be Jewish person living in Germany?

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The answer that you might be thinking is, “Who knows?” Although, in our day and age I guess “Google!” could also be an acceptable rhetorical answer to these questions.

Nevertheless, the Jewish Museum in Berlin opened an exhibit in March of 2013 to help answer these questions. It was called „Die ganze Wahrheit … was Sie schon immer über Juden wissen wollten“ or “The Whole Truth…Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jews.” One display of the exhibit is a three sided glass box, and yes you guessed it, housed inside this box for two hours a day was a Jewish person.

Leeor Engländer, a columnist for Die Welt and participant of the exhibit said,

“Because there are so few Jews in Germany—Engländer puts the number at around two hundred thousand—most Germans are deeply unfamiliar with Jewish culture.”

With Germany’s population of over 82 million that roughly equates to a Jewish population of .2 percent. Because of this, many Jewish stereotypes still exist in Germany. Though many, like Engländer, feel this exhibit is “fantastic,” and a perfect way to bust stereotypes, many criticize against it and find it extremely controversial despite its popularity.


Adolf Eichmann (Huntington Theatre Company/Flickr)

Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the box reminded him of the glass booth that housed Adolf Eichmann (high-ranking SS officer who was responsible for deporting Jews to death camps during WWII.) during his 1961 war crimes trial in Israel that led to his execution.”Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box?” Kramer told the Associated Press after the exhibit opened in the spring.

A Jewish American blogger stated that the exhibit was “SO FREAKING WEIRD.” She goes on to say, There is something deeply unsettling to me about this exhibit – this stark presentation of “us” and “them”; a venue where people are literally put in boxes.”

The people who find the exhibit to be controversial feel it is demeaning to put a person on display, but I feel that this exhibit did what it was intended to do. It gave German visitors a real life person to speak to about Judaism, and broke

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber; via Huffington Post)

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber; via Huffington Post)

down many stereotypes about Jews. It also helped people to move past defining Jewish people solely with the Holocaust. For many Germans who still feel guilty about the Holocaust, the exhibit gave them a place to ask questions without having to visit a Synagogue or Jewish center. Unfortunately though, for those who might want to visit this exhibit, it was only up through September of 2013 and is no longer on display at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Europe’s Jihadists

The conflict in Syria is now in its third year. It can be characterized by the heavy influx of foreign fighters – up to 11,000 as of December – as well as the sustained use of social media, particularly Twitter and YouTube, by rebel groups.

To set the stage for readers who are unfamiliar with the Syrian conflict, here is a VERY superficial, and entirely insufficient summary of the situation. Bashar al-Assad has been the president of Syria for 14 years, following his father who ruled for 30 years prior. Assad is the leader of the Ba’ath party, which promotes a pan-Arab state and is ideologically tied to Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party in Iraq, as well as an Alawite. Alawis are a branch of Shia Islam, generally ideologically opposed to the vast majority of Muslims – Sunnis.

In the general upheaval of the Arab Spring, Syrians protested for better living conditions and political representation and were met with harsh retribution by state forces. Soon, the protests evolved into outright civil war which has devastated most of the country. There have been accusations of chemical weapons and other extrajudicial killings by both the Syrian regime and rebel factions. Both sides receive heavy support from external actors – generally aligned with their respective religious ideologies. For a really good breakdown of these groups, see this series of Reddit posts: One, Two, Three, Four.

Of particular interest (and concern to some) is the increasing number of foreign fighters coming from Europe and North America. Germany, this blog’s focus, has contributed about 270 jihadists.


One of these Germans, a rapper named Deso Dogg, made headlines inside and out of the social media community after he converted to Islam, moved to Syria as a jihadist and was reportedly killed, then confirmed to be alive. He now goes by the name Abu Talha al-Almani and outspokenly encourages German-Muslims to leave Germany and participate in jihad.

Though Germany is Europe’s most populous country, many European jihadists have come from smaller nations like the Netherlands and Belgium, although that trend seems to be changing. They increasingly use social media to document their lives as jihadists; one Dutch fighter posts regularly on his Tumblr (WARNING MAY BE GRAPHIC), mixing images of dead fighters and children with AK-47s and even posts titled “cats of the mujahideen” (NOT GRAPHIC, JUST KITTIES). He even has an ask.fm account set up to answer questions that his followers might have. While many foreign nationals join existing factions, there is at least one faction that is comprised entirely of foreign fighters, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Emigrants and Supporters) who you can follow on Twitter here.

Opposition groups have always used social media to promote their message; they often post videos of successful missile attacks or hard fighting to improve their image. Just as often they post ultimatums, decrees, or threats towards other groups. The Syrian conflict’s fighting has spread to the internet. Journalists (and regular people) have jumped at the chance to follow every detail of the conflict via primary sources. The entrance of western voices into this mix is a way for Syrian groups to reach out to western audiences who are mostly disinterested and possibly gain support.

For more information on the Syrian conflict, check out http://reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar which is a great example of citizen-journalism, essentially collating the thousands of social media posts into a more coherent picture.

Unter den Linden: Memory Lane or Path to the Future?

News flash: Berlin is old.

The famous TV Tower and World Clock of Alexanderplatz.

The famous TV Tower and World Clock of Alexanderplatz.

Though far from being the oldest city in Europe (or in Germany, for that matter), this capital still has nearly eight hundred years under its belt. And after standing as one of Germany’s most important cities through all of those centuries, it’s no surprise that some of that history is still clearly visible for those who know how to look.

Some of it is spelled out through architecture. There are the museums on the aptly named Museum Island, home to Berlin’s ancestor city of Cölln (not to be confused with Köln, aka Cologne); the oft redesigned city center, Alexanderplatz; and of course, one of Germany’s most famous landmarks, the Brandenburg Gate — which is itself the entry to an equally historic street, Unter den Linden.

The Berlin Wall was unable to escape Berlin’s obsession with street plaques.

There are also the intentional nods to Berlin’s history, whether it’s the numerous Holocaust memorials, the brick path tracing the location of the Berlin Wall, or the survival of the iconic East Berlin Ampelmann in all of his various forms.

Finally, there are the specific reminders from World War II. Even today, seventy years after the fact, many of the cities older buildings are riddled with bullet holes, or bear larger scars from grenades and bomb strikes. Some of the lesser damage remains untouched as a rough, bullet-riddled facade. In other places, bright new brick, half-finished detailing, and poorly disguised plaster patch-ups stand as stark reminders. And in yet others, Berliners have apparently decided their city is best repaired with Legos.

But even when surrounded by so much of it, are today’s Berliners actually that focused on history?

With it’s status as “the most hipster city in Europe,” plus its vivid nightlife and a strong Jugendkultur (youth culture), the answer appears to be no. In fact, as is the case across the country, most Germans are more interested in the reality of today than they are with the bullet holes of yesterday. It’s a subject that doesn’t appear often in the media — and that lack of media representation is telling enough by itself.

When Berlin’s architectural history does appear on the newsreel, it seems to be more focused on opposition to modern reconstruction of war damage. Reports from Der Spiegel, for example, admittedly describe a populace who are concerned with losing the history, but simply because reconstruction is expensive, disruptive, and in many cases, not really all that necessary anyway.

Even the city of Berlin itself describes itself as an entity which is mostly viewed as having combined the old with the new, with very little time for reminiscing on history. With today’s political and economic environment, Berlin in particular has bigger things for its media culture to focus on. Instead, the city has become a European landmark whose citizens walk among reminders of their past, while keeping their eyes firmly fixed on their future.

So even with all of that history quite literally standing around, there’s really only one type of media that pays any attention to it — and most of those travel blogs aren’t being written by Germans.