I remember I was eying the shelves of the little store: Dr. Oetker, Maggi, Rittersport – German delicatessen in the middle of a New England mall. Clumsily, I planted myself beside the lady who had brought me here and was, in fact, my boss: A German professor who employed me as German Teaching Assistant.
For the first time I found myself looking for German chocolate in the US instead of on the hunt for US cookies in Germany, while she was shopping for sausages and cold cuts at the butcher’s counter, every now and then asking for my advice. I was supposed to be a Wurst expert after all, with all the Germanness, even Bavarianness in me – a fairly useless superpower. Still, trying to be as helpful as possible, I dropped half-hearted comments between the salami and ham.
“You know, she’s from Germany” she informed the shop assistant. It was her magic spell. His motivation to assist her sausage hunt shot up like Jack’s beanstalk. I blushed and attempted a smile. Suddenly, he held up something pink and shiny to my face which was only some mincing past having a face itself: “This is our smoked pork – it’s very good! You wanna try?” A rhetorical question, of course.
Again, my face changed color. I felt like a mood ring. “I’m sorry – I’m a vegetarian” I muttered, taking a step back afraid he might try to feed me or throw the piece of pork right at me. (You can never predict the actions of a person in shock.) “Really? But – but, you’re German!?” he exclaimed desperately holding on to the notion that German was an equivalent to Schnitzel, Braten and Wurst. News break: It is not.
Neither is it an equivalent to Sauerkraut and Bier. Out of courtesy, though, I didn’t tell him that. I also didn’t tell him that I’m not the only German vegetarian and, God forbid, I didn’t tell him that, in fact, some of the most famous Germans (Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, Albert Schweitzer – just to throw a short list out there) didn’t care for meat at all. I simply shrugged my shoulders and turned back to the selection of German chocolate.
What is it, with these stereotypes? Hm.