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Frankly ... integrated
Join me in the beer tent

Friends toast with a beer
Drinking beer together as a cultural event?! | Photo (Detail): Quentin Dr © Unsplash

Dominic Otiang'a persuades us to go to a German beer tent with him. No Bavarian beer tent, but one with African guests in Bavarian costume.

By Dominic Otiang'a

Sometimes what takes us to a foreign land could be summed up in one word: opportunity. Opportunity to learn, to explore and shift our mindset from local to global, to experience a different reality, to love and maybe even to taste a foreign beer. Hold it there, on beer! Let me convince you to visit a beer tent in Germany, especially you who could be staying in the country long enough to consume at least hundreds of litres of beer.
My friends are mostly open-minded even though they aren't open to the idea of visiting a beer tent. Whenever a beer tent is pitched and the sound of schlager music rules the airwaves they would be busy working on “a serious project.”

Peer-pressure or pure beer

A few others recently joined me in the tent nearby, not in Bavaria but Bad Cannstat, Stuttgart. For the famous 'Cannstatter Folksfest'. Those staggering out of the tent looked like they were walking out of the rubbles of a 10-Story Building. I couldn't be sure whether the excitement to still walk in was motivated by peer-pressure or pure beer. But being in such a lively public gathering often revives the demon in me before I can retreat to my room, to the good Angel.

A Sikh guy in a turban and Lederhosen

We walked in. A friend whose friend is a wealthy businessman had secured entry tickets to the VIP corner. The security guys were, as they say, just doing their job. On my way, I spotted a Sikh guy in a brown turban, brown Lederhosen, pair of long brown socks and blue-white Bavarian-style shirt. He stood next to a young couple of African origin dressed for the event.

I thought the two men looked like gentlemen and, without thinking twice, I assumed they would not behave to the contrary. So I flashed out a hand for a popular Kenyan handshake and gave them a compliment for their wonderful outfit. To the African couple, I extended a homely conversation.

“The Bavarian-style outfits look African when you put them on. Would you call them western outfits?”, I asked.

„Well, since they are traditional German outfits, and Germany is in the West, my bet is that they are western. We must accurately distinguish between what is western and what is modern, you know!”, replied the man with an air of pride.

Hands lift beer steins like dumbbells

I joined my group as the Schlager music continued. A famous Mc went about lighting up the crowd. Hands kept lifting the beer steins up and down like dumbbells. I cannot recall seeing anyone unhappy, maybe wild; jumping on the tables and singing to the tunes, dancing to the rhythms or against them, depending on the alcohol level. Strangers talking to each other like former classmates and tossing to drinks.

I walked back to the other group and succeeded in inviting them to our spacious table. A bald gentleman next to me asked why people with hair like mine are naturally good dancers. To avoid such a topic, I recommended a book titled Dance & Genetic Memory. I'm not sure such a book even exists. 

In fact, for me, they made me feel I was the best thing that ever surfaced in Swabia after pretzel

Everyone made the place a worthwhile spot to visit. No amount of political campaign has ever achieved this level of positive vibes, tolerance and a welcoming attitude amongst citizens. In fact, for me, they made me feel I was the best thing that ever surfaced in Swabia after pretzel.

I wondered why some of my native German friends had missed out. Cannstatter Wasen should have been the place to be. But Banda, the guy in a turban, whispered a joke: 

“If you were born here, have a native name and went to school at, say Carl Bratfisch Gymnasium, you do not have to do more to appear to be part of the whole. We are inclined to do extra to close the gap caused by that hair and this turban”

I got his joke the next day.


"Frankly ..."

On an alternating basis each week, our “Frankly …” column series is written by Dominic Otiang’a, Liwen Qin, Maximilian Buddenbohm und Gerasimos Bekas. Dominic Otiang'a writes about his life in Germany: what strikes him, what is strange, where did he get interesting insights?