An unpleasant ride with prejudiceI like chatting with a taxi driver during a ride. Fortunately, when I say I am from Germany, most taxi drivers respond favorably. We mostly talk about history, unification and automobiles.
But not so long ago, I had a rather unpleasant experience. First of all, the driver ignored all traffic laws and went over the speed limit. When he asked me where I was from and I told him Germany, he started asking questions about cars. He asked which German car is the best among Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi. I said, as far as I know, there was little difference in quality, so consumers should choose a model that best suits his or her tastes.
But he wasn’t satisfied and asked which carmaker was selling the most cars in Germany. “Sorry, but I am not familiar with the latest statistics,” I said. But he condescendingly responded: “How can a German not know that?”
A few minutes later, he said: “I heard that when a group of German friends go out drinking and one of them drinks and drives, another friend would report him to the police. Is that true?” I was speechless but calmly replied: “There may be someone like that among 80 million Germans, but I’ve never heard such a story.”
Regardless, he continued: “Someone told me Germans are good at following rules but they are cold and lack compassion.” He didn’t believe me, a real German, but seemed to be completely convinced by that “someone” who told him stories about Germans.
The stories “I’ve heard from someone” are very dangerous. Based on unverified accounts, people often have a prejudice against another country and its people.
The population of any country includes good and bad people. Germans and Koreans are the same, just with different cultures. I would hope most people don’t look at another country with biased eyes based on stories, not facts and truth.
Prejudice will not disappear easily. However, we need to study other cultures and have exchanges with foreigners to save ourselves from prejudices. Societies open to other cultures can become closer to the truth.
Finally, the taxi arrived at my home. I had a can of beer and went for a good night’s sleep. No doubt, if the taxi driver saw me, he would assume all Germans drink beer before bed.
The author is a TV personality from Germany who appears on the JTBC talk show “Non-Summit.”
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 6, Page 32
by DANIEL LINDEMANN