Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Not Your Oma's Cologne
Here is Breitbart to explain why. If you wish to take it all with a grain of salt because it is Breitbart or because Russians were involved in reporting the story, be my guest. However, you can take it from me that walking around Cologne in 2006 as a solitary female was not unparalleled joy. It turned out that the "male gaze" was neither imaginary nor extinct nor reserved for those women under 35.
How to cope if you are female but want to tour large German cities? Here are some tips.
1. Wear whatever you damn well please.
2. But wear shoes you can run in or boots you can kick with.
3. Adopt the hostile resting face expression of German women on public transit.
4. But be willing to ask for emergency help from older Germans, no matter how hostile their resting faces. They will be on your side, guaranteed.
5. A male family member makes a great travelling companion. However, if he is a young man, don't be under any illusions that he himself is safe from attack. The untold story of the Cologne New Year's Eve is the number of young German men who ended up in hospital.
6. Avoid large groups of men. Don't think you can brazen your way though with a haughty glance and your nose in the air, as in films. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
7. Don't go out at night by yourself; there will be fewer older Germans around to come to your aid.
8. Don't assume you will be safe alone in a taxi cab with the driver, especially if you are drunk. (This goes for British cities, too.)
9. If you go out dancing, note where the bouncers are. (Also good advice for British cities.)
10. Don't strike up conversations with men you haven't been introduced to, especially not to prove how unracist you are. Some men from certain cultures honestly think that any woman who initiates a conversation with a man she doesn't know must be a whore.
11. Don't assume all German German men are angels, either, but they have certainly been trained at home and at school to assume the dignity and equality of women.
12. Don't mention the Second World War when making friends with young Germans. If you come from one of the Allied nations, they will eventually bring it up themselves. The trauma continues.
13. Praise Germany; no matter how much Germans complain about it, you must stick to "Germany is wonderful" like a broken record. The bread is wonderful. The cathedrals are wonderful. The shopping streets are wonderful (and how). The art is wonderful. Rilke is wonderful. (Read some Rilke before you go.) Goethe is wonderful. (If under 35, read The Sorrows of Young Werther, but don't commit suicide, please.) Germans are perfectly capable of trashing Germany 24 hours a day, but if a foreigner agrees with them on this, they suddenly get cross.
14. If American or Canadian, read Karl May's books about Old Shatterhand and Winnetou before you go. Trust me on this. Be gentle on the subject of the wrongness of dressing up like movie Indians, feathers, warpaint, leather fringes and all because gazillions of Germans love it and did it as kids.