You’re Canadian? But you aren’t White!

I’m sitting at a German pub with my German husband and two other Canadian friends visiting.  FACTS: I’m Canadian (born in Afghanistan – moved to Canada when I was 3).  My two friends are also Canadian (one was born in Iran but moved to Canada when he was 12 and the other was born in Canada to a Malaysian mom and British dad).  Just to state the obvious, we aren’t “white”.

A friendly, German man next to me leans over, notices we are speaking English and joins our conversation.  After a few minutes he asks us where we are from – I start “Canada”, my two friend also say “Canada” and my husband says “Germany”.  The man’s eyebrows raise each time we say “Canada”, as if he doesn’t believe us – and then he opens his mouth and confirms the thought.  “But how can you be Canadian – where are you really from?”.

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The Magical, Green Island – A Road Trip in Ireland!

Living in Europe has many benefits.   One of my favourites is that you can jump on a plane for a long weekend and escape to another country with a different history, language and culture!  This is totally the opposite of living in Vancouver.  The closest country with a different language and culture is Mexico, and that is still a 6 hour flight away!  I digress.  We decided to use the October ‘extra’ long weekend Berliners enjoyed for the German National Holiday (Oct 3rd) to explore the land of sheep, Guinness and green pastures: Ireland.  The plan was to rent a car in Dublin and explore for 4 days.  Our itinerary and more pictures after the jump!

Dingle Peninsula, Ireland

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How Canadians can get a German Driver’s License (Berlin)

I was looking around for information on how this works for awhile and didn’t have much luck.  In the end, I just went through the process, had a lot of luck by getting a really nice lady at the Government office and now just have to wait 8 weeks for my German license!  I’ll tell you how I did it after the jump.  By the way, this article is mainly for Canadians who are looking to swap their Canadian Driver’s License for a German one.    People from other countries have to check out the rules themselves…it can vary quite dramatically depending on your country, and even the state/province you are from.

 

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Germany’s Discriminatory CV Requirements

Married.  No kids.  Born in Afghanistan. Female.  Can you believe these are details that are actually REQUIRED on a person’s CV in Germany (and most of Europe for that matter)? The best part is that you are also required to include a photo of yourself.  I’m actually quite shocked that there has not been an uproar about requiring these details to apply for a job – it’s essentially inviting the employer to discriminate against you using a variety of different criteria!

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What to do on a cold, wintery night in Berlin?

It’s a cold, winter night in Berlin – do you just stay at home, warm and cozy, or do you brave the cold and venture out into the city?  We ventured out last night and what a great evening – from relaxing to underwater music in a warm, saltwater pool to eating Moroccan food in a cave-theme inspired restaurant to dancing it up in a Soju bar, we shivered along the way but still managed to discover a whole new side to Berlin!

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DARN IMMIGRANTS! PART 4 – THE RUSSIAN STRIKES AGAIN!

Some days are better than others.  I try not to lose it in my German class, I really try – but today, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  When the Russian said Nazis were better than gay people, I just lost it.  Okay, let me start from the beginning…

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DARN IMMIGRANTS! PART 3 – AFGHAN ADMIRATION

As much as I have complained about my quirky and sometimes annoying integration classmates, I have to say, sometimes I feel totally in awe of them and their lives…and I admire what they are doing and what they have overcome in their lives.

Case in Point: The Other Afghan

I still don’t know too much about him as he arrived in our class mid-way through September.  He kind of looked like a hipster/skater dude with the VANS sneakers and wild, ruly hair so I was a bit surprised when he said “Ich komme aus Afghanistan”.  I was so excited – I nearly clapped my hands with joy! We were getting out numbered with Iranians in the class so another Afghan was truly welcome!

During break-times, I have gotten to know him a little better – and I’ve grown to admire him – from being pushed around in Iran, to being jailed in Afghanistan to having his parents arrested (last week!) – it’s a life that I do not wish to know but need to be exposed to in order to be reminded of how much we should appreciate what we have and the freedoms we enjoy. Continue reading

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DARN IMMIGRANTS! Part 2 – The French Struggle

As I mentioned, there are a lot of different backgrounds, ethnicities and languages in my class.  I speak to the Chilean girl in Spanish, to the Afghans/Iranians in Farsi and to most others in English as our German does not always suffice for what we want to say.  There is a girl from Cameroon in my class.  She is around 30, has a daughter and her mother tongue is French.  She and I immediately got along in my class as she is smart, witty and has a great sense of humour. But there are a lot of things she does that drive me crazy.

On one of the first days of class, as soon as she found out I was Canadian, she immediately asked if I knew how to speak French.  I laughed and told her in my broken French “Oui, juste un petite peu” (which really is just a little bit because I’ve forgotten nearly all my French) – but this “petite peu” somehow translated to “I speak French fluently” to the Cameroon girl because from that moment on, she spoke to me pretty much only in French and kept asking me to translate from German to French!  Geezuz!

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Darn Immigrants! – What I Have to Deal with in my German Integration Course – Part 1

I go to an immigrant integration course here in Berlin – a mix of all different kinds of people from different backgrounds – all of us mixed together for 4 hours every day trying to learn one of the most difficult languages out there: GERMAN.  This leads to a lot of tense/interesting/funny/strange moments and comments that I thought I would capture here because it is truly a unique experience I am going through.  It’s not every day that so many different backgrounds, ages, cultures, social upbringings, education levels, etc. are mixed in one room and forced to try to get along!

My background: I’m Canadian, ethnically Afghan and a lawyer in Canada.  I have two university degrees and have lived in a few different countries.  I speak English, Farsi, Spanish, a bit of French and now German. Generally, we Canadians are polite, non-confrontational and respectful of others’ opinions and personal space.

My classmates’ background:

  • Number of students: 18
  • Ages 24 – 65
  • Countries represented: Cameroon, Afghanistan, Philippines, Iran, Bangladesh, Sweden, Iraq, China, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Chile, France, United Arab Emirates
  • Professions represented: Tailor, Waitress, Housewife (6), Mechanic, Salesperson, Student, Consultant, IT

Something new happens every day so I will just start writing about the interesting ones on here as they happen so you can have a taste of what I go through every day!  Some incidents are funny, some are astonishing, some are racist, some are just silly…but this is real life…

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A beautiful, October day – 20 degrees and sunny – and a perfect day to explore Potsdam, Berlin’s little, yet very pretty cousin, next door.  We checked out royal gardens (in pic below -Sanssoucci), a Russian colony, the Dutch quarter and of course, to keep it exciting, a random Stasi prison.

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Day Trips from Berlin: Potsdam

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