Today, I have actually taken another look at some of Jermaine Davis’s book Be Diversity Competent!. Several years ago now, I was able to be a ghostwriter for the author for this book. I was proud to be part of the project, especially as it was a book on a topic I believe in.
Nowadays, here in 2013, I picked up a few copies and grab it in part because it is written in English. As I am here in Germany there is a lot around that is not done in my native language. The main form of diversity I am really dealing with these days, is the German culture and how to deal with being my American self with my binational teen son here in his other nation…where I am more in the nature of a long-short term visitor.
The main way that I experienced ‘culture shock’ is that once awake, when I looked out into the world I saw how the homes are done in brick to the same or even greater degree that wood is used for residential construction in the USA. Another really big obvious experience was that when I just went out and tried to interact with people – they talk funny, as in strangely, around here compared to what I am used to. Despite having known ahead of time that this would happen and having at least a modicum of psychological preparedness I still felt rather overwhelmed when I noticed that even when someone told me something in perfectly clear local language I had no idea what the H-bomb they had told me, in terms of meaning.
I reacted to that. Since then I have worked with a blend of finding ways to get myself to get out there and face it, or stay home but work on it and retreating or withdrawing from it…The latter is partly why my use of the Internet doubled or even quadrupled from moving from Indianapolis to a German village. I could get English on the Internet.
My German is a lot better now but still like a Circus Clown compared to my English. This situation has caused me to nurture a new ‘Foreigner Persona’ as I find ways to express who I am and yet work with the local reality.
I lived here for over 2 years before I found out what they call my country in German. Then, because so many of them have been forced to learn English as an international language, I wondered if they ever even really call it that. Last week in the library I saw it right on the front of a newspaper type thing. They made it easy by sticking a picture of Uncle Sam with it, but I still felt it: My God, that’s actually what the United States of America sounds and looks like in the German language.
Here it is: Vereinigte Staaten = USA It sounds like fur-I’n ig tah (inhale here while you can) Staaahhhhhhh (Ok, don’t go on forever but just say St-ah) ten….Fur-I’n-ig-tah (inhale) St- ah- Ten. Sounds crazy, for the English ear, but it’s true. Notice that it also sounds nothing like Los Estados Unidos even though that also means the same thing.
On the other side of this experience…Bundesrepublick Deutschland is for some reason just called Germany in English.
Be Diversity Competent!