Tram Encounters

I’ve only begun to take the German tram frequently the past week, and I’ve already had two encounters of completely different people.
On Wednesday (22 November) before the tram stopped itself at Römerkastell (read about the incident here), I was dealing with a man who ranted on and on about how Chinese people were taking away the jobs and resources of Europeans. I wasn’t really updated on the current economic situation of the world so I heard him out.
I boarded the tram at Sarreguemines and a few minutes later he sat down to my left across the aisle and said, “Ni Hao!” (Chinese for hello) I assumed that he only wanted to say hi because Asian people were pretty rare in the area, but little did I know that me replying to him would give him a confirmation that I was Chinese and trigger such a long speech from him.
He started off speaking in German but I quickly informed him that I do not understand. So bilingual as most people in this region, he immediately switched to French.
“China is better than the United States, but Chinese people take away our jobs! You see that red building over there? It’s a Chinese import office. Nowadays everything is Made In China and people don’t appreciate European-made products anymore! What does China want to do? Become the best of the world?………”
“But don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against Chinese people…”
Really? He sounded pretty angry to me.
He implied that he was upset about manufacturers setting up factories in China and not giving Europeans a working chance. Yet, all of a sudden he started complaining about Chinese factories causing pollution and global warming, how that he thinks in a few years Europeans would have to wear masks on a daily basis too.
So which side was he standing on? Did he think through that if the factories were in Europe, the climate here would worsen at a quicker pace?
I came to realize that he was a strange man, not just because he was talking to me with a tone that almost suggested that the European unemployment situation was my fault. When I wasn’t paying too much attention to him, he muttered to himself under his breath in German while flipping through pages of economic-themed magazines. Suddenly he shoved a page in front of me. It depicted an Asian baby boy laughing.
“Is he Chinese?” asked the man.
I didn’t know. Asian features varied a lot and even as an Asian myself it was difficult to categorize the exact origins.
That was what I was about to say, but he cut me off and brought his hands up to the outer corner of his eyes, pulling to make his eyes small and slanted.
“Aren’t all Chinese people like this? And yellow?” He laughs.
I looked at him with an expression that said “are you for real?”. It was the most typical Asian joke ever, not vicious or anything, but I did not like it.
I immediately told him to stop. “Excuse me, but do I look like that?”
No, he said. But he was still giggling, clearly still laughing about his joke.
I took out my phone to gesture that I did not want to talk to him anymore. That did not stop him from making one last comment though.
“That’s shit you’re holding in your hands. It comes from the United States.”
Not long after the tram halted at Römerkastell and he took off. I was actually glad that the tram got stuck.

Friday, 24 November
I did NOT want to run into that man again. Or anyone similar.
When a man seemingly in his mid-30’s proceeded to sit in front and turn around to stare at me (what was he even thinking?) I did all I could to appear busy while avoiding any eye contact.
A few stations later the tram started to get crowded and another young man asked if he could sit down beside me. I moved my handbag onto the ground between my feet and continued writing on my blog. I wasn’t about to talk to him and deal with more weird people.
I could feel him watching me type rapidly on my phone though. After a while he tapped on my arm and I couldn’t ignore him any longer.
“Are you writing a poem?” he asked in English.
I explained that it was for my blog. And he asked for my Facebook name. Given how straightforward he was and after the experience on Wednesday, I told him I did not have much social media accounts. He seemed surprised but I kept my story that way.
When he asked for my name, I said it was Anna. It was the easiest name I could come up with without appearing to be making up a false identity in my mind. And technically Anna wasn’t a fake name for me.
We did talk, though. He was a 21-year-old from Ghana who recently came to Germany for studies. But he was going to work first because he did not have enough money for his tuition. He’d only been here for two months while living with his aunt in Sarrebruck and he didn’t speak German at all.
All in all he seemed to be a sincere person. So in return, I gave him a few pieces of truth about myself.
Soon the tram pulled into Johanneskirche station and I prepared to get up. He asked why I didn’t stay until two stations later, which stops right in front of the Sarrebruck train station. I said I liked to alight here and walk through the shopping area, and maybe pick up a Starbucks on the way. To my surprise, he wanted to come with me.
I was not at all used to being accompanied by strangers, but since he was a nice guy it didn’t bother me too much. As much as a foreigner I was, I knew the area much better than him, so I kind of jumped into tour guide mode. While showing him the way from Johanneskirche to the central train station, we passed by the Christmas market that was almost open. Some last preparations were being made but most of the Christmas lights were already lit. The young man was a devoted Christian who had never heard of this event before; I on the other hand was aware of this old tradition in Europe but this was my first time seeing it with my own eyes. He asked me to take a photo of him standing in front of the Christmas market so that he can send it to his mom, who is back in Ghana.
In the end it was him who gave me his phone number, so that I can add him on WhatsApp when I get home. (I lied saying that I did not have any service in Germany) However, I did not succeed in adding him to my contacts. Somehow I couldn’t send him a text message either. He might’ve given me a wrong number or maybe forgot to add the country code. But I do hope someday we might run into each other again so that I could at least give him the photo to show his mom the new experience he’s had while starting a life in Germany.

We do live in a world where we have to be careful when talking to strangers, though.
I always kept that in mind and even back in Taipei where security cameras were everywhere I spinned tales about my identity when being asked. Some dude somewhere still believes that I’m in my early twenties studying Fashion designing in California. Another guy thinks I’m French of Asian descent who doesn’t speak much Chinese (good thing he doesn’t speak French or I would’ve been busted…).
But yes I was a good baby girl who listened when my mom told me not to talk to strangers. Now I’m almost an adult and I know I need to be careful myself. Especially when I’m here on my own.
The only problem is if I run into someone I’ve lied to before and forget which version of my story I’ve used though….
But don’t worry, you guys all know who I really am. Be careful as well. 😉<<<<<<<

One thought on “Tram Encounters

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  1. How smart you are. Be very very careful with the people surrounding you since you are a beautiful girl traveling alone in foreign countries. Take good care.

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