When I was a fresh off the boat (FOB) young little Padawan in Germany, I was embarrassed to look like other people from the Indian subcontinent. I don’t know if you have ever noticed this but their majority seems to love button down shirts tucked into their extremely flapping jeans and they tend to wear backpacks. I like to think I had a bit of a style. Anyway, I thought I would copy the style on the German guys in terms of clothing and emulate it. I didn’t want to shed my culture and become ‘Germanized’; I just didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.
So I would spend my time in trams, buses and trains staring at German guys. I would study them as if I was a wildlife photographer. My mind was my camera, clicking away, taking note of all subtle styles. Thing was, I was in the Cologne-Bonn area. For those who don’t know, Cologne (Köln in German) is the gay capital of Germany. There are many gays in the Cologne-Bonn area who like the liberal atmosphere of this area. The CSD (Christopher Street Day) Parade in Cologne is one of the biggest in Europe. So, as I was saying, I was in the Cologne-Bonn area. And the thing with Germans is, they equate too much staring with flirting, specially if there is eye contact. Whereas in the Indian subcontinent staring is almost an art form; a national past time if you will.
By now you must have understood where this is going. FOB stares at guy, guy stares back, guy smiles, FOB blushes and looks away. Now someone who was a wee bit more aware of culture in Europe would have known what was happening. But not yours truly. I thought it was just guys being friendly. Sometimes I would smile back too.
I got over this practice soon though and started to adopt that aloof, straight staring thing Germans mostly do while traveling on public transportation and having nothing to do. Months later I would learn what the real meaning of all those stares and smiles really was. Outwardly, I was ashamed and a bit indignant. Inwardly, I was flattered. Take from that what you will but anyone liking me, whatever their sexual orientation, is flattering for me.