Frankfurt Airport Incident – Ignorant / Insensitive / Rude Or Racist?

I recently traveled to the US and back to India. On my way to San Francisco I had a connecting flight at Frankfurt, Germany. The following is an experience at Frankfurt that I can’t quite categorize. Is it ignorance / insensitivity / rudeness / racism or maybe even an over reaction on my part?

The official at the boarding gate asked for my passport and boarding card. I handed over my passport and he got back saying. “You need to get a new one”.  I was surprised by this comment and asked why. With  the current security overdrive at airports, for a second I thought he intended to stop me from boarding my flight to the US.

He pointed out that my passport was not machine readable as there wasn’t any machine code that he could scan. “This passport is archaeological” he said. He followed it up with a smirk and said “But in India this passport must be brand new. Right?”. He then handed over my passport and let me through. I was offended and said “No that isn’t the case.” and moved on.

On the flight I spent quite some time pondering over the incident and wondering if I should have complained and escalated the matter. My passport sure is 9 years old and it’s true that it doesn’t have the newer machine codes.  However  I felt the official had no business to say that  in India it must be brand new. From the incident it can be construed that not only did he not have much respect for India but also for Indians.

However I do not think it’s fair to always jump to a conclusion that the person was a racist.  So I wonder if he just was an insensitive and rude person and was just as likely to make such nasty comments even to passengers from the developed world. What if this comment was made by an Indian to someone from Afghanistan or Somalia, countries that unfortunately are far less developed than India? Would I think the comment was ok? The answer is definitely a no.

I suppose I will never know if the man really did have a racist inclination or he was just being rude. However I think this is a good case to understand how an incident could be construed differently by different people. What an Indian would think as racist would perhaps be ignored by an American as just rude.

BTW I do not know if the person was part of the Lufthansa crew, German security or US security that is at times posted to provide additional security for flights headed to the US.

  • Dr.A.B.Rao

    I fully agree with your statement in para two that not only did henot have much respect for India but also for Indians..Unfortunately this is the case with almost all other countries.Indians are slowly losing respect for no fault of their own.It might be because of our political system by which a person holding many criminal record also become a minister. Bhaskar Rao

    • Dear Dr. Rao,

      Generally racists target communities that seem to threaten their livelihood or their way of life. So maybe because Indians now have a much bigger global economic presence and are not just another poor and underdeveloped country; they are being perceived as competition and are getting a bit of a backlash.

  • Dr.A.B.Rao

    I fully agree with your statement in para two that not only did henot have much respect for India but also for Indians..Unfortunately this is the case with almost all other countries.Indians are slowly losing respect for no fault of their own.It might be because of our political system by which a person holding many criminal record also become a minister. Bhaskar Rao

    • Dear Dr. Rao,

      Generally racists target communities that seem to threaten their livelihood or their way of life. So maybe because Indians now have a much bigger global economic presence and are not just another poor and underdeveloped country; they are being perceived as competition and are getting a bit of a backlash.

  • Simba

    Rude & racist ! I think you should have escalated this, there & then. Racism complaints are taken very seriously especially in the US, the UK & most of developed Europe. It’s not late even now – you could still write to the Frankfurt airport authorities quoting your flight time and the date/time of interaction, if you don’t remember the person’s name – pretty sure you would get a response and an action depending on how assertively & clearly you express yourself.

    Having said that, I have seen several even worse racist comments from our own Maharashtrian immigration authorities towards non-Maharashtrian travellers, with no respite if one complains. Unfortunately, our own countrymen are one of the most racist nationals in the world, that too with fellow Indians.

    • Hi Simba, Thanks for your suggestion. I will certainly consider that option.
      You are right about racism in different forms being prevalent in India as well.

  • Simba

    Rude & racist ! I think you should have escalated this, there & then. Racism complaints are taken very seriously especially in the US, the UK & most of developed Europe. It’s not late even now – you could still write to the Frankfurt airport authorities quoting your flight time and the date/time of interaction, if you don’t remember the person’s name – pretty sure you would get a response and an action depending on how assertively & clearly you express yourself.

    Having said that, I have seen several even worse racist comments from our own Maharashtrian immigration authorities towards non-Maharashtrian travellers, with no respite if one complains. Unfortunately, our own countrymen are one of the most racist nationals in the world, that too with fellow Indians.

    • Hi Simba, Thanks for your suggestion. I will certainly consider that option.
      You are right about racism in different forms being prevalent in India as well.

  • Shekhar

    Hi Harshad,
    Sorry to hear about the incidence.
    I completely agree about your feelings of getting offended by the rude remarks made by the official.
    But on the flip side we can also presume that the official was ignorant about the world’s technological developments.
    I would like to appreciate you for not having escalated this issue since I believe that any trivial issue could be blown out of propotions.
    Here I would also like to comment that our EQ plays a major role in navigating the reactions of the people with whom we interact.
    Instead of just saying “This isn’t the case” had you said “that’s none of anyone’s business” in response to the official’s comment about your passport the situation could have been worse.
    So just to wind up my post I would definitely say lets make this world a better place for the human race to grow.

  • Shekhar

    Hi Harshad,
    Sorry to hear about the incidence.
    I completely agree about your feelings of getting offended by the rude remarks made by the official.
    But on the flip side we can also presume that the official was ignorant about the world’s technological developments.
    I would like to appreciate you for not having escalated this issue since I believe that any trivial issue could be blown out of propotions.
    Here I would also like to comment that our EQ plays a major role in navigating the reactions of the people with whom we interact.
    Instead of just saying “This isn’t the case” had you said “that’s none of anyone’s business” in response to the official’s comment about your passport the situation could have been worse.
    So just to wind up my post I would definitely say lets make this world a better place for the human race to grow.

  • Hi Harshad,
    Read the incident, felt moved by it but at times we cannot help it as the things are not moving accordingly and especially when we are attacked on the basis of nationality yes we really feel offended and insulted but instead of offpouring our sentiments we should regulate to something more productive which would require excessive energy.
    Rick

  • Hi Harshad,
    Read the incident, felt moved by it but at times we cannot help it as the things are not moving accordingly and especially when we are attacked on the basis of nationality yes we really feel offended and insulted but instead of offpouring our sentiments we should regulate to something more productive which would require excessive energy.
    Rick

  • Marc

    Thanks for sharing your strory.

    I too had encountered very rude immigration and airport officials at the Frankfurt airport in Germany. When I had a stopover flight with my mom in 1999, ww went up to a desk where the officer was working on his computer. We wanted to ask a question regarding our gate.

    Me and my mom stood stood there for several minutes right in front of his desk but he was so sternly bend low working on his computer. lol it was as if he was forcing himself to not look up. But the desk clearly said that this was the place to ask questions!

    And then when my mom said “excuse me officer…” before she could even complete the sentence, the guy pointed both his index fingers at the computer monitor and went back to work! LOL…I thought it was a bit rude. anyway, after almost 5 mins later, he then answered our question.

    Geeeeez this would never happen in an American airport! I wonder how this guy would have reacted if we were tall white blonde blue eyed people. I would bet my whole bank account he would not have pulled this stunt…

    ah humans!

    I have to go back to Frankfurt tommorrow in a stopover flight…so I hope since it’s been 10 years since that incident, things have changed. But sadly, I have one of those old Indian passports! AW DAMN!

  • Marc

    Thanks for sharing your strory.

    I too had encountered very rude immigration and airport officials at the Frankfurt airport in Germany. When I had a stopover flight with my mom in 1999, ww went up to a desk where the officer was working on his computer. We wanted to ask a question regarding our gate.

    Me and my mom stood stood there for several minutes right in front of his desk but he was so sternly bend low working on his computer. lol it was as if he was forcing himself to not look up. But the desk clearly said that this was the place to ask questions!

    And then when my mom said “excuse me officer…” before she could even complete the sentence, the guy pointed both his index fingers at the computer monitor and went back to work! LOL…I thought it was a bit rude. anyway, after almost 5 mins later, he then answered our question.

    Geeeeez this would never happen in an American airport! I wonder how this guy would have reacted if we were tall white blonde blue eyed people. I would bet my whole bank account he would not have pulled this stunt…

    ah humans!

    I have to go back to Frankfurt tommorrow in a stopover flight…so I hope since it’s been 10 years since that incident, things have changed. But sadly, I have one of those old Indian passports! AW DAMN!

  • Arvind

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    The incident could be termed as racial or rude but it could be termed as how they see India (technologically not advanced) so it depends upon
    The perception of that gentleman and to some extent you are also responsible giving him the privileged of not to scan your passport 🙂
    and in general Germans don’t like foreigner’s not even Europeans actually nobody likes although it is an individual choice.

    Nobody likes the foreigners on their soil this is the global truth.
    Even Marathi’s don’t tolerate Bihari’s and if you ever travel to Delhi north Indian people don’t like them there too due to certain characteristic but again I had met good and bad both kind of people from these same states and these few good people made me wonder how different and why they are so may be economic factor but not sure.

    The Punjabis had migrated to all over the world specially Canada but no problem from them. Why?

    It is hard to accept but most of Indian’s don’t have civic sense and especially people in general are not law abiding and it is lowest in
    Bihar, Jharkhand and UP although this is my personal perception from the experiences I had and some states are too honest too believe where I got my belongings (wallet & mobile etc…) back even after completely losing them.

    It is life all good and bad mixed together but let us make the world a better place to live.

    And u could have asked that gentleman how old he is?? …but still he is working.
    (They don’t change him for a new machine at his place after all they always prefer the brand new Right ? ) 🙂

    !!And u r passion for java is quiet inspiring and i envy you for that !!
    !!Good day!!

  • Arvind

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    The incident could be termed as racial or rude but it could be termed as how they see India (technologically not advanced) so it depends upon
    The perception of that gentleman and to some extent you are also responsible giving him the privileged of not to scan your passport 🙂
    and in general Germans don’t like foreigner’s not even Europeans actually nobody likes although it is an individual choice.

    Nobody likes the foreigners on their soil this is the global truth.
    Even Marathi’s don’t tolerate Bihari’s and if you ever travel to Delhi north Indian people don’t like them there too due to certain characteristic but again I had met good and bad both kind of people from these same states and these few good people made me wonder how different and why they are so may be economic factor but not sure.

    The Punjabis had migrated to all over the world specially Canada but no problem from them. Why?

    It is hard to accept but most of Indian’s don’t have civic sense and especially people in general are not law abiding and it is lowest in
    Bihar, Jharkhand and UP although this is my personal perception from the experiences I had and some states are too honest too believe where I got my belongings (wallet & mobile etc…) back even after completely losing them.

    It is life all good and bad mixed together but let us make the world a better place to live.

    And u could have asked that gentleman how old he is?? …but still he is working.
    (They don’t change him for a new machine at his place after all they always prefer the brand new Right ? ) 🙂

    !!And u r passion for java is quiet inspiring and i envy you for that !!
    !!Good day!!

  • RM

    Hmm interesting ; Having lived and working in Germany for a brief time; I think what you encountered was “German Humor” a most difficult thing even when expressed in it simplest forms.

    If the uniform was brown or yellow shirt then gentleman was definitely German security.

  • RM

    Hmm interesting ; Having lived and working in Germany for a brief time; I think what you encountered was “German Humor” a most difficult thing even when expressed in it simplest forms.

    If the uniform was brown or yellow shirt then gentleman was definitely German security.

  • Rhegde

    I experienced some rudeness the last time i was in germany ..The older folk are nice but the younger folk are purposefully rude and it is completely racist ..They don’t have to be polite but they have to be at least civil. I was very uncomfortable and will not visit there again.

  • pree

    this is quite the predicament for us non-white folk. we may never know if the person is perhaps rude or racist.

  • cocibol68

    it is fckng plain racism, i got stop for 4 days overstay and paid the fine but on top that they made me miss my flight the cherry on the pie, plain racist fckng NAZIS, they threw my US American passport on my face, like saying you are not white, it is not a good US passport, I said to them Americans did not have to give their blood in WWII for this shit to happen today, they said to me ‘THANK YOU’, the young police officers are ignorant, rude, and super bureaucratic, the typical German bureaucratic machine

  • George

    If you want to understand how these filthy people called “Germans” are, you have to go for just a short
    visit to Germany. I have lived in many places in north america, Europe and other places and in all my life I have never seen such disgusting filthy people like germans. They are the most racist people in the whole history of mankind people that I have no idea why no one has written a book or a novel to expose
    their filthy mentality.

    When visited Germany for the first time, I have encountered racism in every step of my trip. On my
    flight to Germany on Lufthansa airlines the flight attendants are intentionally acting rudely toward everyone except of course passengers who seems to be white. I have observed their attitude and I notice how they treat people differently. I saw them smiling and thanking the passenger next to me but

    throwing the tray on my table without even making eye contact. When the plane
    landed and the flight attendants stood at the door to thank passengers in their
    way out, as most airlines do, once I approached they turn their head the other
    way, I have seen this every time I flow with Lufthansa and it just can’t be a
    coincidence, and I have used Lufthansa for over 5 years. What a filthy trash
    those flight attendants are!!!!! And
    don’t give me the outdated accusation that I am blaming everything on race, it
    can’t be too obvious and no one will not see it except if he is brain dead.

    In every German airport,
    there are often security guards at the gate to check documents of arriving
    passengers from certain destinations!!! Those guards are the most racist filthy
    bastards and bitches you will ever see in your life. There were dirty ugly
    deformed people. They bark like dogs. Not surprising, because they were raised
    like animals so they act like animals. Their job is to stop people and check
    their documents. Of course, the only people were stopped were non-white. They
    asked the stupidest questions I have ever heard and they never ever say “excuse
    me” or “thank you” because they believe that you don’t deserve to be thanked.
    What a heinous creatures!! Every single time I been into Frankfort airport I
    have seen this and every time I had to stop and observe them from distant and I
    always see them with this disgusting attitudes. They have absolutely no shame
    at all discriminating against others in front of public. Filthy disgusting
    racist bastards!! Who you Germans think yourselves are?? do you think you are
    better than others?? you are in fact less than all nations of the world.
    Remember the history when Russia invaded Germany in WW2, all women from 8 to 80
    were raped, two millions were born as a result, this means that you Germans are
    nothing more than the decedents of the Russian rapists. You are a bunch of
    subhumans. If you know this then why you think you are better than others while
    in fact your are lower than all other nations.

    When I went to catch my
    connected flight there were three security checks and of course the only people
    who were checked, asked questions, not thanked are non-white. The employees
    have absolutely no shame at all doing this!!! It is so disturbing that an
    educated person have to deal with these filthy rude creatures. Apparently these
    creatures called “Germans” think that being a non-white is automatically
    classifies you as poor. Really!!? I have never seen a german who is rich but I
    have see a lot of Asians and people from other nations who are insanely rich
    and highly educated. In fact the average income in places such as Japan is much
    higher than any European country and teenagers in oil-rich countries, for
    example, drives Ferraris that no German will ever dream of.

    I once had a flight from Germany to Toronto, Canada. The Lufthansa representative was acting extremely
    rude. When I arrived to Toronto I sent a formal complain to Lufthansa’s headquarter in Germany and demanded an apology. Guess what happen?? the headquarter sent the complain to their office in Toronto and let the nice Canadian apologize!!! because Germans are too good to apologize for someone
    whose name appears to be a non-white!!! what a disgusting people!! no wonder this airlines is the cheapest, low-class trash airlines.

    Racism seems to be a normal daily behaviour in Germany. I have never seen anyone smiling even the
    waitresses at restaurants are incredibly rude and they expect you to tip them!!! hah..

    The german cops in the cities are acting just like the airport security. There are the most rude
    filthy sons of the bitches I have ever seen. The offspring of Russians rapists.
    Bunch of bastards and bitches. They racially profile people and stop them for
    documents. In one incident that was all over the news, a guy sued the German
    police for checking his documents and discriminating against him. Guess what
    happened?? the judge concluded that it is “legal” to racially profile people if
    the cop wants to check for immigration documents because most Germans are white
    so being a non-white is most likely to be non German!!! Oh my God!!, even their
    judges who are suppose to be the wisest people in the country are racist
    bastards. How despicable this nation is!!!!

    The ugliness of Germans (men and women) is outstanding. They are deformed people by nature and dress in a very ugly way. It seems that the occupation and humiliation they got in WW2
    have created a generation that despises itself from the inside but in order to
    hide this feeling they intensionally act like if they are better than others.

    I used to learn German in college but once I
    have seen their animal-like attitudes I immediately stopped and discarded all
    materials. I hate everything related to their culture and in the past three
    years I have never bought any german product and I will never do. Everyone
    should despises Germans and their culture and boycott their products. Let’s
    teach these creatures a lesson and show them who they really are. They are the
    lowest, filthiest despicable nation in our universe!!

  • malc

    Rude and arrogant are two words that sit easily with Airport Security at Frankfurt Airport. Having had my bag searched and laptop swabbed I politely asked the security officer why I had been singled out to be searched, I was told “this is not a discussion. Now go away” the somewhat harsh words were accompanied with a look which I guess was supposed to intimidate. I did make a formal complaint but doubt I will ever get an answer.

  • globetrotter99

    I flew on first class Lufthansa to Barcelona with a transit at Frankfurt airport, something similar happened with me, and it seems that middle class Germans are just racist insensitive idiots, nothing else they have little or no sensitivity to other cultures nor do they have a concept of wealth because Germany may be developed but it is a very middle class country and most germans dont even own a house. Rents are very controlled in Germany and cheap so no one bothers buying a home there and thats really how poor they are. Anyway what happened with me is as follows, i got off the first class, i am normally very well dressed in expensive clothes and I do look like a model, i just asked an officer for the transit gate directions, and instead he asked me to come into an examination room to check my hand baggage. He asked where i am from, and when I said India, it was all sorts of racist, ignorant assumptions about Indians and he was smirking about it. He said oh Indians bring all sorts of food and bad things to europe, lets see what we can catch from you. There was nothing in my Gucci hand luggage except for my expensive sunglasses and belts and some magazines. Then he asks if I smoke….I said no i dont smoke, his next question was so you are not carrying “beedis” from India? I replied “I have 20 servants at my home in Delhi and even my servants dont smoke Beedis, they can afford imported european ciggarettes and I own 2 german luxury cars”. If India stops buying german cars only their economy will sink, these people are bitter and nasty and jealous because they dont have money, they only have credit and loans and a miserable boring cold life so they harass anyone they can. Next time transit through switzerland or even france, the french are much more sensitive to cultural differences and most french are friendly if u speak to them nicely, Germans are awful I really dont have a good opinion of them. Best way to teach them a lesson is to boycott their goods, my next car will be A British luxury motor.

    P.s. As bad as the Brits may be sometimes, they still have better rights and laws and protection for foreigners.