America, where is your public transportation? No, the cross-country Greyhound, known best for its shifty passengers and once daily departure times, doesn’t count; neither does the overcrowded and overpriced Amtrak, and trust me when I say that Southwest Airlines is still a long shot from the affordability of Ryanair. Don’t tell Mr. Ford I said this, but the new American car is a tram — at least that’s the belief German parents hold on to, denying the iconic driver’s licenses sought after by ‘regular’ American kids. What’s the bid deal? Those parents ask, fully comfortable denying their kids independence until they turn 18 and can sign the paperwork themselves. So, while other American kids are enrolled in Driver’s Ed at 15 ½, or um Gottes Willen nein, pull up to school in their ‘Sweet Sixteen’ birthday gifted jeeps, the American kid with German parents is destined to bike to school until graduation. The downside of this healthy and hip mode of transportation is that in America’s spread out towns, direly missing the reliability, extensiveness, and perfect punctuality of the Deutsche Bahn, this lack of independence comes at the cost of extra-curricular activities AND a social life. Vielen Dank.
Our parents might enjoy the occasional bratwurst and sauerkraut dinner — or better yet, Schnitzel or Spätzle or any other food with too many consonants — but their American kids would choose a regular hot dog any day. And whoever started the myth that German women like to grow their leg and underarm hair long — but crop their hairdos Angela Merkel-style — should be sentenced to eating that very sauerkraut for the rest of their lives. But these aren’t the only ideas of a mistaken heritage that other American kids believe is the German reality. Despite the US public school system’s best efforts, many American kids of German parents enroll in classes with peers who could not identify Germany on a map, let alone value traditions beyond the stereotype. America’s crown jewel celebration of German ‘heritage,’ the annual “Bratwurst Festival” of a particularly ignorant Midwestern State, only embarrasses said state — and, of course, the kids living there who are associated with Deutschland.
Alright. We have all seen Morgan Spurlock’s McDonald’s-for-30-days experiment in super-sizing himself (one of the few products of American mainstream media American kids of German parents are allowed to watch — rejoice!). But the obvious downside of American ‘consumption culture’ don’t make it any less appealing to the teenager just trying to fit in. “What’s wrong with another dark bread sandwich for your packed lunch?” The Prussian mother asks in her heavy accent, followed by “What is ‘MTV’ and no, you can’t watch it.” It will take the American kid of German parents just a few dozen times sneaking Lunchables and Big Macs to realize what Spurlock and those pesky German parents have in common: they are right.
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie said in her 2009 TED talk titled The Danger of a Single Story that “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” The German kids of this third or fourth generation after WWII seem to have finally found space alongside the world’s direct blame for those horrible crimes against humanity: young adults in Germany have emerged from the darkest of shadows that isn’t even theirs, nor was it their parents’. American kids raised by those same German parents, however, have apparently not yet served their time in full. Further, those all too common reminders of Nazi fault by American schoolteachers, classmates, and neighbors are now paired with unsettling suspicion of Germany’s geo-political “power” once again taking root across the pond. It’s uncanny the number of times American kids of German descent have to defend themselves — and their parents — against ill-founded, ‘single story’-believing insults…in fact, it can lead to a very lonely, dark bread sandwich-eating childhood for those part-German, part-American kids. Prost.