I have the tendency to let my mind drift off a bit during tours (but not my Blue & Gray tour of Georgetown, of course) and slowly find my way dragging behind everyone else. This time I was so fascinated by all of the various Farbe (colors) that I didn’t even notice my friend turn to me and say something. “I said that it felt like walking into Disneyland,” they clarified for me a second time and pointed to the big white and gold tower straight ahead. It was for sure a magical sight but Disneyland was not the first theme park that came to my mind while looking at it all.
Any kid who grew up in Hampton Roads, Virginia, (757 whoop, whoop!) is more than familiar with the amusement park “Busch Gardens Williamsburg” off of I-64. Ironically, the small city that makes bank off of its rich revolutionary Geschichte (history) also has a 383 acre park dedicated to all of the great colonizing powers of Europe. Each section has a different country theme. You enter in England and can also visit Scotland, Italy, Ireland, France, New France (which never made any sense to me because isn’t that North America?), and, you guessed it, GERMANY!
Sure, it was fun when I was a kid and didn’t have to pay for my own ticket or food. But now? Honestly, I cringe a little inside while walking through the German section which is loosely Oktoberfest themed and plays severely obnoxious yodel-style music. It’s more like a museum of stereotpyes. You can definitely tell who the tourists at the park are because they’re the ones snapping pictures and arguing over maps. Longtime annual pass holders, however, are not nearly as confused or even impressed for that matter.
When I first arrived in Trier, I couldn’t help but be a gawking tourist looking at the image of what Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been trying (with little luck) to capture in its park for several years. The utter charm and Schönheit (beauty) of this city mixed in with its rich history is just incomparable. But even a week later when I can walk down the Simeonstraße (Simeon Street) just as confidently as I can at the amusement park back at home, I still can’t blend it.
Before coming here I also feared that I would stick out simply because of my appearance. Sure, being Chinese in the U.S. poses its own problems, but it’s not like I was the only one. Here in Trier, however, they are severely short on Asians. Most of the ones you can find here are either tourists (like me) or international students at the Universität (university) (also kind of like me?). So I was pretty accurate with my prediction that no Germans would look at me and assume that I could speak German. But then again, I did not take a linguistics class all about studying abroad just to fly to another country and keep speaking English! I’ve learned that when you carry an identity that makes you stand out visibly, you have to be a bit more assertive with your language learning intentions.
The only choice that I’ve had here is to be the erste (first) one to talk. A little “Guten Tag! Wie geht’s?” can let someone know that you’re at lasting attempting to speak German with them. For an introvert like me, this was not an easy choice to make! But I’ve found that most Germans actually appreciate when you try to speak with them auf Deutsch (in German). If you also face this problem and might be automatically seen as a foreigner for whatever identity you carry, prove them wrong! Wow people with your Georgetown level language skills before they can even judge you! Even if you can’t remember how to ask someone for their name, at least you’ll always be remembered for striking up a sophisticated conversation about the Vereinten Nationen (United Nations).