Wednesday, October 19

Sciurus Vulgaris

As far as natural environment goes, Munich is, for the most part, pretty similar to Minnesota. The weather is about the same (this morning was freezing), the plant life is about the same, it's flat for the most part (I know the Alps are out there somewhere, but I haven't seen them yet), there are even a couple lakes, though they aren't nearly as nice as at home. So most of the time when I'm walking around it doesn't really feel like i'm living on another continent. But every so often one of these little alien creatures shows up running up a tree or scampering accross the sidewalk with it's funny looking big ears and scrawny little black tail and I suddenly feel very out of place. It is, of course, the European red squirrel. Granted, it's not exactly and alien creature, but to me they are rather exotic looking and it's enough to make me remember that there's a whole ocean between here and my native soil. Incidentally, the grey squirrel has actually begun to take over the habitat in much of Europe, and the Red Squirrel population has been declining. Hmm... A North American breed slowly taking over and pushing out the traditional European breed... What a great extended metaphor or motif that would make in a novel about modern Europe...

Today in school: I gave a little speal on American resume's. I think the differences between the American resume and the German Lebenslauf say something about our different cultures. The Lebenslauf, litterally translated "Life run" is traditionally written in letter form with paragraph. It always begins with date and place of birth and includes your elementary school and high school before you University education. It also nearly always includes a picture. It's pretty strait forward, there aren't any tricks to it, it's quite simply your life story to this point. The American resume, on the other hand is all about marketing. We use every trick in the book to make ourselves sound as impressive as possible. No paragraphs to read through, everything important in bolded or underlined. We would never dream of including a birth date or place or our elementary school. We don't include a birthdate because then employers could discriminate based on age. Employers aren't even allowed to ask your age in the US. It's a similar story with the picture, a picture would indicate, age, race, sex, all things that could be discriminated against, so it's not included. So Germans simply say, "This is me, where I was born and where I grew up are part of who I am, my age, my appearance, my race and my sex are also part of who I am and the group I belong to. These are the things that I have done in my life." On the other hand an American resume says "Look at me! I am not my age, my race, my birthplace or my sex, I am unique and special, my identity trancends such practical labels. I am better and more qualified than anyone else and here's why." Hello American individualism. Like our grey squirrels, the American style of resume has begun to take hold here and the Lebenslauf in now sometimes written in bullet points. Poor little Red Squirrels (They're even RED squirrels... it is a living metaphor!)

An interesting side note on gender: There is a law in Germany that the name of your child must indicate his or her sex. So Alexis could not have been Alexis in Germany.


Kathy said...

Hi Anne,
This entry definitely sounds like it was written by an English teacher!

So guys are named Alexis in Germany?

Phil said...

In norway, within the Ministry of Culture, they have a department devoted to naming children. They have a list of names you can choose, all of them are traditional norwegian names. My favorite of all time is still Odd.
Imagine if they tried to do that in the hippie names like Saturn or Autumn or Chrysanthemum (sp?)

Alexis said...

Sad, I'd be Alexandra or something like that. That makes me a bit sad.

I do like the idea of the Lebenslauf though, better than a resume, anyway. While the typical American resume does seem more individualistic, isn't the lebenslauf somewhat individual, as it is about your life, and less about the skills you could offer an employer?