FIRST OSU GERMAN CLUB MEETING
Two days ago, I went to my first German Club at OSU in Hagerty Hall. I didn’t know where it was at first so a couple guys at the Max Kade German House (Hub of OSU Germans and German majors; with a ramp in!) were kind enough to let us in the kitchen while they called and asked directions. The residents were German majors, and they helped guide us. The kitchen was wide, and beautiful, but also had a distinct minimalist feel. Afterward, someone met me on the steps of Hagerty. He held the door open and I entered through the side.
As we came to the café, there was a table populated with German majors, and a real German, Lukas. Lukas said he thought there would be more people. But, I told him we had a good little group. 5, maybe 6 students. That’s good for a foreign language group. Afterwards, we discussed what classes we were taking, and where we‘re from originally. For me, these two questions are always the hardest. First, I have to think “Do I mention I’m auditing?” and “Do I mention I’m originally from Michigan or skip that and say Pennsylvania?” Then, I have to consider how to say all this in German. This time, I gave the full story: I graduated from Edinboro, PA with two degrees, grew up in Michigan until 18, and now I’m a “Guest Student” of German at OSU.
The rest of the students then naturally trash-talked Michigan, and the Detroit Area (A little too much, calling it “filthy”.) for a while. I have to say, I know there’s a school rivalry between U of M and OSU, but I’m personally always amazed at how quickly these particular Americans reverted to trash-talk and racism when conversing. There was a Chinese group a table behind us, they were making jokes about what the Chinese eat. Dogs, they kept saying. It made the whole conversation awkward. Humiliating; I bet they could hear, but I forget not everyone speaks German.
I didn’t want to be a part of it, so I just talked to Lukas, mostly except when discussing class. Lukas, it turns out is a Berliner. There were TVs all around the café area, and each dial tuned the audio to a different foreign language station. So, for a while, I played with the dial. I heard Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, and even I think, Greek. Lukas told me the German station Deutsche Welle is on at 7 a.m. “But who’s up at 7 a.m.?” he asked. “Who cares?” I said. “You have the Internet.” I didn’t mean to be so nasty, but the rest of the meeting was so blasé and mean-spirited, I guess it sort of permeated my speech. Human interaction seems less important to me when it’s nasty.
Once the niceties were out of the way, and we actually started to talk, I guess it was all right. The chief difficulties arose from “What do I call myself?” (Lukas said “Just say Guest Student”.) and having to feel like I have to prove I belong in school. The tension with the German majors wasn’t that bad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two belonged to something like the Aryan Nation. It’s just so sad they have to air racist ideas in my favorite language. I like inclusive language and expression that helps people.
Afterward, Lukas and a Chinese girl helped me get on my van back home. We waited for a while, because we didn’t know where the van picks up. But, I told Lukas that I’d be going to German Club “all the time” after this. He responded. “Ah, excellent!” (In English.) and then I was on my way back home, getting loaded onto the van. A nice outing, but it appears German Club may not be as culture shock free as I hoped: All new undertakings are difficult, and I’m still working out where I belong. Which is a shame, because the guys at the German House were so nice!
PS: Okay, I apologize to those at the club that night. They were probably just having fun, but making fun of other ethnicities is not my idea of fun. As a disabled person, a cultural investigator, and a German fan, I'm extremely sensitive to exclusion. So, although I won't condone the that night, I don't know their affiliations. So, I can't judge.