Datum: 15.10.10 09:23
Kategorie: Kids & Jugend-News, Diaspora-EU

Von: simon INOU

Neither African nor European: Young Africans in Europe

How young Austrians of African origin are rejected by both societies. An example from the life of a young Austrian from Ghana.

Kofi Akwanpa likes to consider himself a “true Viennese with a Ghanaian background.” He was born 25 years ago in Vienna. His parents came to Vienna 30 years ago to study. His father, who now lives in Ghana, completed his studies at the Vienna University of Technology and his mother graduated with a degree in political science at the University of Vienna. Though both from Ghana, they came from different eth- nic groups with distinct dialects. Their three children grew up speaking four languages: English, German, Fante and Ewe. Ultimately, as Kofi’s mother says, it was “stressful” and confusing for both parents and children to continue like this. So they decided to raise their children in English and German only, which made things considerably easier.

English and even German was spoken at home. School homework was done in German. Kofi Akwanpa was born in Austria, speaks and writes perfect German and studied in Austria: but he does not feel accepted by the austrian society. Kofi Akwanpa speaks perfect German and is even very proud to be able to speak and write Viennese dialect as well. When asked what his mother tongue his, the proud answer is: “German, of course.” “I went to school here, I studied in Austria and have my friends here. To put it another way: I was socialised in Austria.” Although he travelled to Ghana with this parents every second year from the age of two, he does not feel socially integrated in Ghana, even though “I highly regard both country and people.” It was important to the parents for their children to gain first-hand experience of both cultures. Kofi remembers skiing holidays in Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Styria. “We were always the only African fam- ily wherever we went skiing,” he says. Kofi’s childhood memories also include vacations on farms and excursions to several tourist destinations in Austria such as Mariazell, Großglockner, and even Melk and Radenthein, a smal town located in Carinthia, the southernmost Austrian federal state.

Kofi also remembers visits to his parents’ home country: “When I was 21 I visited my parents’ families in Ghana. That was the first time I felt a sense of belonging: I felt more like an Austrian than a Ghanaian.” After 13 days of vacation he decided to return to Austria. This caused something of a stir in the family. “My father couldn’t understand it and my mother said nothing,” he says softly.

”Unfortunately, many people in Ghana saw me as the ‘white’ Ghanaian from Europe who would soon go back.” He got very bored in Ghana “because I wasn’t home (in Vienna).” He was able to communicate in English, but he missed what he had built up over the years in Austria: “My feelings, my environment, my friends, my clubs, my pubs, my sports companions, my relationships. In other words, my entire social environment.”

Kofi feels Austrian and thought his home was here. But after finishing his university studies he had to undergo  painful experiences. After graduating with a business degree from the Vienna University of Economics—”with distinction,” as he points out—he wanted to start a career in banking. He dreamt of a rosy future, he says, because “I am very good with numbers and people. These had been my strengths for years.” He wanted to start his career from scratch and applied to a well-known Austrian bank for a job behind the counter. As he puts it, he wanted to engage in “direct contact with people.” This proved to be an unrealistic dream for a black Austrian. His application was turned down. Several weeks later he found out from a friend who worked for the same bank that employing a black person at the counter was feared to have “a negative impact on the traditional Austrian clients.”

Ghana is my parents’ country, not mine

He had often heard similar stories from his African friends in Vienna. “Many of my friends were not accepted by public bodies and various companies because they said customers would protest and they would lose business.” A killer argument for anyone looking for a job. “I wanted to be visible, not work in some basement or office and only have contact with paper. It would have been a revolution for the bank to show an international profile, not just in its figures and activities but also within its workforce.” 

Because of his skin colour he is only “accepted and tolerated as an Austrian in certain places,” as he puts it, even though he has spent his entire life here, speaks German perfectly and has an excellent university degree. In Ghana he is accepted but he lacks a social and cultural environment, making it difficult for him to integrate. He has an identity problem.

“I was socialised in Austria, I have my best friends here and I like living in this country.” But it really hurts him to realise that many Austrians and many Austrian institutions are not yet prepared to accept black people as Austrians. “It’s not just an Austrian phenomenon,” he remarks.

“The whole of Europe finds it difficult to deal with people of our skin colour, even though some have been living and working here for generations. I know African families who have been living in Austria for three generations. The children of these families have always left Austria after high school to study in England or the U.S. As far as I’m con- cerned, that’s an embarrassment to my home country, Austria.”

His five university friends have now got jobs appropriate to their qualifications. He also has a job —in a well-known IT company— and enjoys it a lot. But his dream of becoming a banker in his beloved country Austria has not come true ... “because of the colour of my skin.” He says.


The same Article in German


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