OK Millennials?

How the online fight between Gen Z and the Millennials escalated

Not far ago, in 2019, millennials were mocking the baby boomer generation by using the phrase “OK Boomer“. Now the tables have turned, and the Millennials are no longer the revolutionary generation making fun of the old established attitudes. Millennials are now the target of online jokes regarding their fashion by the younger generation, Gen Z. 

Would you describe your clothing style as trendy? If so, it is likely that you can be considered as a part of Gen Z. Or do you still love to wear your skinny jeans and side-parted hair like a typical millennial? These simple preferences regarding different fashion choices have divided the internet and led to a generational conflict on various online platforms. Whereas some Gen Zs have claimed that skinny jeans are now out of fashion and should be “cancelled“, some Millennials have fought back, protesting that no one can prescribe what to wear. This whole conflict escalated quickly, leading to hate songs and mocking videos. In my opinion, the people who took part in this online fight damaged the reputation of their generation. Especially for the Millennials, regarding their age, an online fight about fashion was not the most mature idea.

Millennials vs Gen

According to the Pew Research Centre, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is a Millennial. The generation afterwards, Gen Z, is classified between 1997 and 2012. This categorisation implies that you share experiences with other people of your generation, like major political events, the economic situation of your country or the cultural and social influences through popular culture. Millennials were often criticised in newspapers as lazy in their career, unable to commit to their relationships and even as Facebook addicted. Yet, they are seen as adaptable, tolerant and open-minded. If you compare these to the stereotypical characteristics of a Gen Z, many are relatively similar. Like Millennials, Gen Zs are connected through social media, using Instagram and TikTok. Critics perceive their multitasking abilities as a lack of focusing. Additionally, Gen Z shares the liberal tolerant political view but appears more vocal and active, as seen in the “Fridays for Future“ movement. Another difference is Gen Z’s preference in working, where not flexibility but independence is favoured. As you can see, these two differ in some areas, like fashion, but are not oppositional. 

Do you identify with your generation?

After the controversial online dispute, I asked myself if I really identify with my generation. Even though I am part of Generation Z, I often understand references only for 90s kids. So, it is possible to share certain attributes with the other generation. Especially for people born between two generations, it can be hard to be sorted into one. Besides this, you sometimes don’t want to be associated with your generation because your opinions aren’t mainstream. Of course, a generation unites lots of people, each individually and differently. It is important to remember that your generation doesn’t determine you. It is just a construct to analyse the social structures and the influences of the time you were raised.

Author: Sandra Haupt

The cultural identity of someone who switches between 4 languages every day

Many people assume that being multilingual has only bright sides, especially if someone speaks one of the languages they’ve been trying to learn for ages. And in that specific context, they might be right: the one speaking a language “naturally”, without searching for words or asking themselves if the structure is correct, might at that moment feel good about speaking that language. But that’s not the whole story.

Languages convey cultures

Conventional wisdom has it that language is related to culture, particularly if you learn it at an early age. If your parents talk to you in a different language from the one spoken in the region/country you live in, they unconsciously convey a certain sense of otherness; this aspect normally extends to other aspects of life and influences the way they are perceived.

Some might enjoy talking in a different way and having another code while others might just want not to be different, depending on their personality and on the social prestige of the language they speak.

Whatever the case, when you speak another language, especially as a means of communication in everyday life, you will adopt another culture as well. It does make a difference whether your mom tells you “du siehst heute müde aus” or “dai non fare il monello che viene la polizia” or “stai ma la un loc” or “is somebody tired today?”.  They all convey culturally different meanings, even if they are semantically similar.

“Are you more X or Y?”

Sometimes, people will ask you  which culture you really belong to, and no matter how unimportant or obvious  the answer might be to you, you are still going to wonder why you have been asked that question. For many people the answer might be obvious: a “mixed culture”; others may not be aware of having one, or be proud of having a mixed one, but it’s still going to be a special cultural identity.


I don’t feel like I have a mother tongue anymore: each one of my languages has “missing parts” or “non-native speaker fields of vocabulary”. I have no answer to the question “Are you more German/Italian/Romanian?”. I was relieved when I managed to speak German well enough to not be asked where I was from anymore. My children are learning German as their first language and the other languages I speak as a sort of foreign language.  I don’t know if that was the right choice. I do know, however, that this was the best way for me to simplify the cultural issue.

Conclusion: where will your children be “at home”?

There are, of course, many cognitive advantages in learning different languages at an early age, and everybody should be aware of that. However, there are disadvantages to being multilingual as well:   sometimes it means having to decide where you want to belong – and where you want your children to  feel at home.

Author: Ana Maria Silberhorn

Words, words, mere words or how the English language took over my life (Part 2)

Now that the sappy part of this essay is for the most part over, apologies for my sentimental outpourings, I would like to move on. From the rather unfortunate circumstances that English found me in, to where we are today.

With not much more to do through my formative years than watching Doctor Who, Sherlock and Downtown Abbey while imitating the oh-so-charming accents I heard in these programmes, I would accumulate a rather large vocabulary, as well as a British accent. These days, when people hear me speak, in a classroom setting or elsewhere, they usually assume that my accent stems from a year abroad. And I won’t hide the fact that it does inflate my ego just a little bit every time I get to correct them and say that I am in truth self-taught (I leave out the traumatic abandonment part of the story most of the time; it simply doesn’t have as nice a ring to it, and, in my experience, tends to drag the mood down quite a bit).

The first time I did visit an English-speaking country was after secondary school. It had been my wish to visit London for years, and so finally at the age of fifteen, I travelled there by myself (a decision that my mother was surprisingly on board with). There had always been something about the city that had drawn me to it, and the night I arrived, it took no more than a single sighting of the city lights reflecting in the pitch-black Thames water for me to completely fall in love. I really believe that on that trip I left a piece of my soul in the night sky over London.

Since then I’ve visited the city three more times and still it never fails to take my breath away. So weirdly familiar, like I had always been there, or maybe meant to be there – it’s a sense of home that doesn’t need a domicile to feel real. All this accompanied by the fact that not standing out as a tourist, at least in my mind, and being able to stroll around and pretend to belong there just gives me the greatest feeling of accomplishment.

While in London with my mum last year, she let me handle all the talking (as well as the navigation on the underground, one of my guilty pleasures when in the city. What a joy it is to know which way you’re going.). She was fascinated by me chatting with a member of staff at the Camden Market tube station, mostly, she told me afterwards, because I kept using ‘slang’ or simply colloquial language (I suspect she meant I had developed a bit of a habit of using the greeting ‘hiya’ ever since I had briefly visited Huddersfield the year before). The pride in my mother’s eyes at seeing, or rather hearing, her daughter confidently communicate in a foreign language was not only the greatest reward for my efforts thus far, but also the best motivation to keep pushing myself to be better and to hopefully one day complete the perfection of my English.

Having received a certain certificate from some supposedly smart people better qualified to judge my abilities than me which says, black ink on white paper, that I am already a level C2 when it comes to English, both written and spoken, also boosts my confidence that my goal is really achievable in my life time.  English is a huge part of my life. From writing my first poetry in sixth grade to unironically reading Shakespeare plays today, it has given me more than could ever fit on two pages. It may be words, words, mere words to some, but for me it’s a matter from the heart.

Author and picture: Lea Meerkamp

Lasciatemi cantare con la chitarra in mano, lasciatemi cantare, sono un italiano vero?

Identità: Il complesso dei dati personali caratteristici e fondamentali che consentono l’individuazione o garantiscono l’autenticità, specialmente dal punto di vista anagrafico o burocratico. Siamo davvero soltanto quello che un libro anagrafico dice di noi?

 Polisemia identitaria   

 In realtà, il concetto di “identità” muta profondamente, a seconda che lo si adoperi all’interno di un discorso matematico, filosofico o sociologico. Quindi, la prima cosa da fare quando se ne parla, è considerare in quale ambito se ne stia parlando, per quali fini, e quindi con quali significati. In ambito matematico l’identità evidenzia per definizione ‘’L’uguaglianza fra due espressioni nelle quali intervengano una o più variabili’’ ma, a prescindere da ciò, sia in ambito filosofico che sociologico, il concetto di identità indica una caratteristica, o un elemento, o un’idea che renda distinguibile un individuo da tutti gli altri. Caratteristiche, elementi e idee che filosoficamente non ammettono sfumature, e indicano una qualità, o un insieme di qualità, che non consentono ambiguità, e tanto meno confusioni.Sociologicamente invece, essi non rimangono fissi, ma evolvono sia rispetto alla crescita dell’individuo, dall’infanzia alla vecchiaia, sia per effetto dei cambiamenti che si verificano a livello sociale, dato che ciascun individuo è inserito in una società e ne viene influenzato. Perciò sarebbe lecito affermare sia che l’identità di un individuo, o di un gruppo, o di una comunità, sono qualcosa di permanente e di non negoziabile, che non ammette alterazioni, in quanto o si è se stessi, o non si è, sia quanti sostengono che, al contrario, l’individuo, i gruppi e le comunità, pur avendo coscienza di sé, modificano lentamente e necessariamente tale coscienza nel corso dei processi storici, sociali, culturali, economici e linguistici.

Uno, nessuno e centomila

 Ma possono la matematica, la filosofia o la sociologia farci capire chi siamo realmente?

Probabilmente no. Sicuramente no, ma di certo la ricerca della propria identità accompagna tutti noi attraverso un cammino lungo e tortuoso, un cammino da seguire per tutta la vita, pieno di domande e quasi mai di risposte certe.

Siamo il paese dove siamo nati? La lingua che parliamo? La cultura a cui apparteniamo? Sono le nostre idee a definire la nostra identità? Oppure siamo uno, nessuno e centomilacome affermava Pirandello? Chi può dirlo? Sono domande che ognuno di noi si è posto almeno una volta nella vita arrivando quasi sempre a pensare che forse Pirandello aveva ragione. Almeno nel mio caso è stato così. Cambiare paese, cambiare città, parlare un’altra lingua per inseguire un sogno infatti mi ha portato molte volte a riflettere su chi io sia realmente, e soprattutto a cercare di capire se avere lasciato la mia patria abbia fatto di me un nessuno, un italiano un po’ meno italiano insomma, perché è lì che sono nato, cresciuto e diventato quel che sono oggi. Beh, di certo questo cambiamento radicale mi ha reso più centomila che nessuno. Perché? Perché la mia identità, come quella di ognuno di noi, non è solo il mio paese, la mia cultura o la mia lingua, quello è solo il punto di partenza. Avere arricchito il mio bagaglio culturale di nuove esperienze, di nuovi punti di vista e di nuove idee non ha fatto altro che incrementare il mio essere, in continua evoluzione, facendomi rimanere sempre e comunque uno, me stesso con le mie radici appresso. Un me stesso con nuove esperienze da raccontare, in più di una lingua ormai, in perenne ritardo e con quell’insaziabile voglia di pizza da colmare. Alla fine sono italiano, no?

Si, essere uno, nessuno e centomila non è poi così male e credo che sia questa la definizione di identità più realistica che si possa dare. Identità è essere tutti diversi, ognuno con le proprie radici, la propria cultura e il proprio bagaglio di esperienze, ognuno uno, ognuno nessuno e ognuno centomilaa seconda della situazione, a seconda di ciò che si decide di essere, perché in fin dei conti siamo a noi a noi decidere chi siamo e come siamo. Nessun libro o vocabolario può spiegare chi siamo. Perché siamo ciò che viviamo e ciò che scegliamo di essere. In quanto a me, lasciatemi cantare con la chitarra in mano, lasciatemi cantare, sono un italiano, un italiano vero. E sento nel profondamente di esserlo ovunque io sia.

Text & picture: Giuseppe Mattia Lombardi