Racism in Bavaria : Unveiling Darker Side as a Tourist


Germany’s Bavaria is known for its natural beauty and also for racism! When you make a positive statement for a region, it is acceptable. But stereotyping is frowned upon.

How much time must one spend in a location to form an opinion about its people and surroundings? While I don’t have a definitive answer, I can offer some observations after spending a week—six whole days—in Bavaria, Germany.

Here’s the scoop, the good and the not-so-good, straight to address your burning question without holding back:

Are Germans Rude?

eagle's nest surrounded by alps mountains in bavaria

If you ask Google for the answer to that question, you’ll likely come across something like this: “Germans have a knack for being straightforward and concise, but some mistake it for rudeness.” Personally, I beg to differ. I will present you with series of racism events I went through in Bavaria as if I were a seasoned reporter, and let you be the judge of it all.

indian woman in mysore silk saree looking at Sigi Sommer bronze statue at Munich in bavaria

Everything here is based on personal experience. I intend to offend nobody. Nowhere do I sugarcoat things.

1. On our first visit to Bavaria.

On that sunny morning we hopped on bus 814 and embarked on our journey to the magnificent Konigssee Lake. At approximately 7:15, our trusty Austrian post bus breezed past the borders. Just like the usual drill between Schengen countries, you never really realize when you’ve crossed over.

However, this time, the bus came to a halt in a charming village—certainly different than the picturesque Austrian villages we had grown accustomed to. Curiosity piqued, I checked my location and lo and behold, we were in Germany!

T-Junction at village in bavaria surrounded by hills

A gang of school kids stormed into the bus, rocking their backpacks, their tiny hands struggling to contain huge books. Some opted for masks, while the craftier ones pulled their T-shirts into makeshift nose coverings.

The quiet bus got livelier!

I may not know German, but I could figure out those tweens were having a good time! It totally reminded me of my school days and brought a broad smile on my face and to the mind.

With a pinch of Indian hospitality in my heart, I graciously relocated to my dear mother’s seat, creating ample space for the kids to sit right in front of us.

Behold your breath – Here comes a nasty plot twist.

green ill maintained medows in the countryside of bavaria

As I beamed my brightest smile and waved them over, two of those youngsters were utterly astonished. Most of them gazed on my mother with a cold sharp look, scanning her from head to toe, and with a frosty expression, delivered a decisive head-shake—a bold “No” in response to our friendly invitation.

We were taken aback. But somehow we realized, strangers talking to kids is an offence in most countries. So they must have said no.

But this is the beginning of our racism in Bavaria.

The hilarity continued as those two little kids started whispering like secret agents, passing on some top-secret information to their teammates. Before we knew it, every single kid had their eyes fixated on my dear mother, dressed elegantly in her saree, and gave me that “You must be a kidnapper” stare.

nice house with window box flowers in the middle of green field in bavaria surrounded by alps

The innocence of youth—we chuckled to ourselves.

Undeterred by their suspicion, my mother persisted, waving her hand at one of the kids and kindly saying, “Come on, it’s alright, you can sit here. You’ve got quite the hefty bag there.” But, the response was a resolute “No.”

The kid, with an air of caution, pleaded, “Please don’t talk to us, and I won’t be sitting next to you.” And he unloaded all the books he had on that empty seat, with a bang.

blue colour bus seat in a german bus with students book

Well, there we had it—a rejection from a mini master of diplomacy.

As we were recovering from the shock, the bus got emptied in the next stop. kids strategically flocked to sit next to the English folks on board. Forget nationality, all they wanted was a seat next to the “whites”! Along with our first experience of Racism in the past 12 days, the journey through Bavaria had to go on!

Cloud of anger and worries

As my dear mother and I simmered with anger, a worrisome thought crept into my mind. What if these little troublemakers decided to cause a commotion, summoning the police and the bus driver? It was clear that arguing with them would only lead to more trouble.

And so, we resigned ourselves to gazing out of the window, where Mother Nature flaunted her beauty with a mischievous grin, blissfully unaware of the audience that admired her. After all, she remains stunning regardless of who’s watching. But back in mind, I wondered what is being fed to these kind of kid’s brain – Compassion to strangers with caution or being hateful towards a person who look different from you!

2. The Berchtesgaden cafe.

indian woman in saree eating pretzels at a cafe in Bavaria

With heavy hearts, we consoled each other, determined not to let such individuals ruin our day. Seeking refuge from the gloom, we stepped into a cozy bakery in Berchtesgaden, hoping to while away the time until our bus arrived for the glorious Konigssee.

It seemed that even the baker was displeased by our mere presence! As we settled into our seats, she sternly remarked, “Just so you know, you’re supposed to return the plates to the counter, alright?”

While we may not be European locals, we’ve managed to pick up a thing or two about restaurant etiquette along our adventurous journey. So, when the baker gave us that look and reminded us to put the plates back on the counter, I simply nodded, affirming our compliance.

The human Gazing – an another variant of racism in Bavaria.

Little did I know that she would turn into a stealthy observer, keeping a hawk-eyed watch on our every chew and sip! And just when I thought the drama couldn’t get any juicier, her colleague arrived on the scene, prompting a covert exchange of words, followed by both of them fixating their gaze upon us.

Exiting the cafe, bellies content with delectable pretzels and average coffee, I couldn’t help but catch a melodramatic sigh from the baker, as the high-pitched conversation continued to unfold between them – A subtle racism in Bavaria!

3. Germany and their COVID Rules in 2022.

RVO bus standing and tourists waiting to get into the bus at Berchtesgaden bus stand,

At Berchtesgaden bus stand, ready to embark on the next leg of our journey, we proudly presented our 9 Euro tickets to the bus driver. That’s when he hit us with a classic line: “You’re in Germany. Wear your masks.”

As strange as it sounds, we weren’t asked to wear masks in the morning. But it is now as mandatory as a ticket!

Luckily, the driver pointed us in the direction of an Apotheke, and I sprinted like an Olympic athlete to grab two masks.

The Triumph of buying a mask and an old German Man

As I hopped back onto the bus in a mere two minutes, not a second past the departure time, an elderly German man carrying a basket full of items decided to grace me with his rudeness.

“Your kind of people always create trouble,” he muttered. Now, I might have considered agreeing with him if I had caused any delay to the bus. But here’s the kicker—Mom and I were actually three minutes early! Feeling the need to address this nonsense, I mustered up the courage to retort, “What do you mean?” as the word “Your Kind of People” agitated me most.

women wearing mask inside a Germany bus

In a swift shift from verbal rudeness to an impromptu German curse fest (all while sporting his mask), the man’s words flew over our heads, except for the repetitive chant of “Go back, Go back.”

At that moment, my dear mother, consumed by humiliation, yearned to retreat back to the sanctuary of Austria. She implored me to cancel our Munich plans, and I must admit, even my eyes welled up with emotion. However, I reassured her that Munich is the epitome of chill—a place where open-mindedness thrives.

4. Racism towards “Non- German speaking Tourist”

indian woman in saree walking beside KONIGSSEE

Konigssee! It is one of the most stunning places I have ever come across in my life! When you get to the “postcard perfect” St Bartholomew cathedral by boat, the boatmen play the bugle, and it echoes. The bugle session will be done once the captain explains historical and scientific facts about the lake in 100% German.

Expecting English everywhere is wrong. In fact, it would be boring if we all spoke the same language. Though I didn’t understand a word from the captain’s German narration, Mom and I looked at each other and enjoyed the scenery.

The bitterness on the loveliest place on Earth.

Konigssee was enchanting that it healed all our racism humiliation that we had been facing after we entered Bavaria. Cheerfully, I approached the boat captain to ask about boat schedule using my trusty Google Translate and the limited German vocabulary I had acquired.

Not knowing German in Germany

konigssee dock

Me: Excuse me, Captain, could you please let me know about the boat schedules?

Captain (staring suspiciously): The boat leaves every 10 minutes. I mentioned this while we were onboard. Didn’t you understand?

Me: Oh, my apologies. Unfortunately, I don’t know German very well. I only know a handful of basic words. I am a tourist, wandering across Austria and Bavaria for three weeks.

Captain (disappointed): So, you understood absolutely nothing I explained about historical and scientific facts? What a waste!

Me: DOn’t you worry. I am an avid reader. I shall delve into the realm of knowledge and educate myself accordingly.

Captain: Well, when you visit Germany, do make an effort to speak and learn the language.

Me: I do understand your love and pride for your traditions. However, as a mere tourist basking in the wonders of Bavaria for a short six-day escapade, mastering German in such a short time seems quite the challenge, wouldn’t you agree?

Captain (angrily pulling up the anchor and starting the boat): I don’t know! (with a huff)

5. An Encounter with Germans in Innsbruck.

That lovely evening at Austria’s Innsbruck, we got into the cable car to the funicular to Nordkette. As we settled in, minding our own business, two elderly ladies accompanied by a tween boy caught our attention. Their distinct attire of matching maroon shirts stood out, with the boy sporting shorts and a cap. One of the ladies had a piercing gaze, while the other donned a black sunshade.

indian woman in salwar kameez filling water from public spout at Innsbruck in austria

The real show began when my observant mother noticed their sudden tightening grip on their purses and their boy, pulling him close, as soon as they laid eyes on us entering the cabin. Meanwhile, I engaged in a casual conversation with the cable car operator, oblivious to their reactions.

Once I finished conversing with the operator about timings, we were met with a sudden barrage of German curses from the ladies. Bewildered, we stood in shock, trying to comprehend the reason behind their anger.

What is wrong Madams?

Me: Is there a problem? Where are you from? I don’t understand German.

One of the ladies, covering her nose, retorted: I am Bavarian. You stink. Get off the cabin. (Desperately clinging to the sides to maintain distance from us)

Both my mother and I, seething with fury, responded: What are you saying? We don’t stink! Stop behaving like this!

At that moment, the funicular came to a halt.

flock of sheep at the foothill of innsbruck
Happy sheeps at Nordkette

The ladies waved at us dismissively, shooing us away, and uttered the words “Get Lost.” However, this time the vigilant operator, who had been silently observing the situation, warned them in German to keep quiet.

The old ladies disembarked the cabin while shouting, “You go everywhere! But don’t come to Bavaria. No Munich for you. No job for you. Dirty and stinky!”

Overwhelmed, my mother burst into tears, and as for me, I felt a surge of anger, though I resisted the urge to unleash it upon them. Numerous tourists witnessed this humiliating spectacle, while I sternly demanded an end to their racism.

Fortunately, a Dutch tourist accompanied by his German-speaking friend overheard the commotion and stepped forward to support us. Meanwhile, an official from the Nordkette cable car service arrived on the scene.

Austrian Hikers on the go.

“This is Austria, not Germany, where you can shout however you please. If you continue to behave like this, I will call the police,” the official firmly stated to the old ladies.

With those words, the angry women vanished into the distance, and we found solace in the comforting presence of two Austrian gentlemen and our newfound Dutch ally, who offered words of reassurance.

7. Last episode of Bavaria and Racism at Munich

stone statueof sleeping woman on the bridge in Munich, bAVARIA

When it comes to Munich, they say it’s a city of open-mindedness. Well, let’s just say my mother’s attire gave some folks a real eye workout. We received stares that could’ve burned holes through walls, and the occasional facial gymnastics of disgust accompanied by hushed mutterings near the market areas. All these while I have been complaining about Old folks. But in Munich, a younger crowd came marching at me.

The loudspeaker interference with my cellphone

Munich Residenz museum plaza

Away from the clutches of Berchtesgaden’s racism, we were basking in the delightful atmosphere of Munich. I found a cozy spot on the steps of the Munich residence one fine evening. Like a typical tourist, I whipped out my phone to capture a quick video of the lively plaza ahead, only to unintentionally point it at the nearby loudspeakers!

Time for some witty retaliation, I thought.

Me: “Apologies if I annoyed anyone. But what’s so funny?”

Them (laughing hysterically): “You don’t speak German? And you didn’t know that phone interference with loudspeakers creates noise?” (More laughter ensued)

Me: “Well, yes, I’m aware! It happened accidentally. Just wanted to remind you that there’s no need for insults!”

They exchanged surprised looks and muttered something in German, their laughter continuing. Filled with frustration, I stormed away from the plaza, pondering why some people can be so impolite!

statue of a christian woman saint on the wall in Munich

How is it to live in Germany?

Technology, innovation wise Germany is a great nation – With my 6 days of Bavarian racism, I never want to settle in Bavaria. While my experience as a tourist may not grant me the wisdom of long-term residency in Germany, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing tales from those who call it home. And trust me, they’ve got quite a story to tell!

Facing Racism stories from my friends and family.

indian woman in salwar kameez sitting inside a bus in Bavaria

My cousin who works for a famous German company is often sent to Stuttgart for work and takes every opportunity to explore the surroundings. He says-

I was once on my way back to Stuttgart from Black Forest. The train was crowded. But a seat next to me was empty – Guess why! Nobody wanted to sit next to me.

Due to a protest, the engine driver stopped the train abruptly at a small station and got out. We were stuck in the same place for the prefer next 5 hours. People prefered sitting on the floor, but not next to me

My aunt who lived in Germany for a month said that, one of her German neighbour asked if we have dumpster in India! India may not be clean, but we do have dumpster and we dispose garbage.

Apart from these, Deutsche Bahn officers hardly help when their trains are late – Ya it is late. Catch the next train is what they say!

Racism is part of Germany’s daily life.

protestors holding board that says "No one's free when some are oppressed" at Berlin, Germany
PC : Unsplash

Another family friend of mine living in Munich since past 15 years say that, facing racism is part of their daily life. They are a family of four. Whenever their kids go out to play, they get picked on by her German neighbours with false accusation !

It would be some other white German kid who broke the window pane or screamed. But the elderly neighbours always pick on Indian kids and say “Go Back where you came from.”

What is the Attitude of German People?

Most online forums discuss and Germans advocate that they don’t want to be associated with the nation’s past – The Nazi rule and holocaust. They keep saying, we are honest and direct.

The German pride for their language.

Witty Lingerie shop in Munich

In the realm of language pride, there lies a fine line between confidence and hubris, capable of leaving a lasting mark on the hearts of us “Non-Germans.” However, amidst this linguistic drama, a delightful encounter unfolded. Picture this: a woman, selling plump strawberries, graciously uttering “Shukran” and “Namaste” to her buyers, a beautiful gesture that acknowledged their diverse ethnicities. Intrigued by her multicultural warmth, I couldn’t help but inquire about her own background. And lo and behold, she proudly declared, “I am a pure Bavarian girl!”

The rarity of encountering Bavarians who exude pride without a hint of hubris—it’s like stumbling upon a hidden treasure in the vast cultural landscape.

How impactful are these nasty racism experience in Bavaria?

indian woman in mysore silk saree wearing goggles sitting in a cosy cafe at Dachau in Bavaria

The impact is heavy ! My mother was reluctant to come to Munich from Innsbruck and had to convince her a lot. It even made us wonder if we are stinky – though we bathe daily! The constant humiliation leads to make us question about ourselves for a while.

I felt like I explored Munich holding a sword and shield to fight against racism and forgot to observe pretty things enroute.

Mom chose to spend her noon in the hotel rooms and I explored Munich alone. Somehow, she wasn’t ready yet!

So does it mean all Germans are racists?

hiker with a backpack standing on the banks of Konigssee

As of 2021, Germany’s population is 8.32 Crores. I may have met maximum 1000 of them and talked to very few. So how can I pass the verdict on the rest.I don’t convert individual experiences to universal truths. That is why I am not saying “All Germans are racist” – Because it is not true.

I have talked to Bavarians who may not have showered all their love to a stranger. But definitely “Non-Racists”. My time in Munich was much better and Multi-culturalism of Munich is what I love most about Bavaria’s capital

streets of Marienplatz with tourists on an evening

But, in general, I have never faced racism as much as I did in Bavaria, Germany. And it won’t stop me from exploring other beautiful region of their country like Berlin

Is Germany worth going to?

With so much of real racism stories, you might wonder if it is worth going to Germany – Hell yeah! Their castles are beyond dreamy. The hiking trails are stunning. The beer gardens are one of the liveliest places on earth.

indian woman in salwar kameez at neuschwanstein castle marienbrücke

As a tourist, growing thick skin is one way to neglect the ugly side of Germany and enjoy the beauty. But doing this, won’t change anything among them. I had faced subtle racism in Turkey. But Bavaria’s was a lot to take. So now I now know – Next time, when someone (not only in Germany, but anywhere else) we must speak for ourselves and politkey make them understand we are no inferior to them.

So here is what we can do.

Raise Awareness about Racism!

protetsors holding boards that say "colour is not a crime"
PC : Unsplash

I am not against those who travel on organized bug bus tours. The problem with these kind of tours is that, the organizers treat you like a herd! Shepherd takes the cows to best and safest pasture. With fine grass, cows are happy.

So when we go on such bus tours, we find everything fascinating – we are shown only good! One who goes on such trip would claim “Everything in that country is perfect.” Such tourists whom I met and shared by racism experience argue that, I was lying!

Expats and foreign students, speak up!

mother daughter sitting on a horse carriage at hohenschwangau in Bavaria

Many of us from developing countries migrate to countries like Germany. No matter what, the peer pressure makes such expats sugarcoat about everything in their new country – You must let the world know who you are treated so that , people can unite and fight against it.

What Germans have to say about Racism in their country?

two girl mannequins with disgusted face at a shhop in Munich, Bavaria

The News portals like DW has published several articles about their country’s racism situation.

“Bullied, insulted, subtly shamed — people with a visible migration background report about their experiences with racism in Germany in a new book.”

That article speaks so much on why, how and since when people of colours other than white, German language and a different attire speak!

Why are Germans racist towards foreigners?

In my opinion, Germany is home to lot of immigrants. Immigrants made up over 18% of 2022 population. It includes war victims from the middle east, economic immigrants from my country India, my neighbours such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Then there are immigrants from eastern Europe like Romania. I can’t help but mention, presence of Turks all over Munich.

An article says that Over 1 in 4 people have ‘migrant background’-Turkey, Poland and Russia the top three countries of familial origin.

In a way, native Germans may be feeling invaded- which is understandable. Instead of targeting tourists like us, Germans can say no to immigrants if they feel so.

But on many online travel Platforms, Germans say these :

Germans are honest and direct. They don’t like small talk.

While it’s true that not everyone possesses the charm to flash a smile and say hello to strangers, it’s important to acknowledge that scolding someone simply because they don’t share a common language isn’t quite kosher.

Indian woman wearing Sungudi cotton saree walking beside maize field at Bavaria

And let’s not forget, staring at people who dress differently is just plain rude. Just because our skin is a shade darker or our ethnicity is different doesn’t mean we’re any less fabulous or inferior.

Let’s get one thing straight—being racist and causing harm to others is never cool, no matter where you are in the world. It’s not just Germany that needs a lesson in kindness; every nook and cranny of this planet could use a little more compassion.

Indian middle-aged daughter kissing her mother

Now, I won’t go as far as to label all Germans as racists, but let me tell you, my encounters with racism hit an all-time high during my 6 days time in Bavaria. It’s been one bumpy ride, I must say.

Have you been a victim of such racism in Bavaria or elsewhere? Please speak up in the comment section below.

dumpster full of free toys at Munich 's English garden

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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