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Gen Z in Germany (1) – Stress of the Youth

Winnie Lo

“What I do often is pray to get in contact with God and because what I realized is earthly things…is not the most important thing.” – Youshi

Part 1: Stress of the Youth

This is the beginning of our series on Gen Z in Germany after Dr. Agnes interviewed German-Chinese high school students Youshi and Anzhuo. They helped to give us a picture of the stress youth in Germany experience today and how they as Christians cope with that stress. In Parts 2 and 3 we hope to cover more about their family life and what it looks like to be a Christian youth in Germany.

Youshi, who is in his last year of high school, was born and raised in Germany and lives in a rural area of Frankfurt with his mom. Anzhuo was born in Beijing and moved to Germany with her parents when she was 4 years old.

Youshi’s biggest stressor has to do with academics. He puts a lot of pressure on himself to succeed and there is also competition among his classmates.

Agnes: So I would like to learn about what are the stresses for today’s high schoolers.

Youshi: …Most of the stress comes from…you have to have good grades. For example, to be on top of the class because I think a lot of my classmates or in general, my grade…they all try their best to be the best I’d say and it’s a lot of stress… 

Agnes: Ok, so you’re talking about more academic driven and also high performing? So talking about if it’s a B, is that ok? So what is the acceptable grade? 

Youshi: B? To be honest, for most of my friends and classmates, B is not enough because they are at least expecting like an A-. Then they will be content. And so there’s the stress that I’m talking about, because once you get lower than an A, you feel like everyone’s disappointed, even your own classmates…

Though he doesn’t struggle with it anymore, he said that bullying is also increasingly an issue in schools in Germany and a main source of depression and anxiety. 

Agnes:So I also want to know, in terms of the stress in German school, is depression and anxiety a matter or people do not have that much mental illness around? 

Youshi:…From the people I know, most of the time depression comes from bullying sometimes or peer pressure, but not in a way from academics, etc. I think it’s more because of some social problems or your friend groups that they get depressed…

Agnes: For the bullying is it in particular any different ethnic group or just because in general people can get bullied in any situation? Can you tell me a little bit more about this part?

Youshi: Yes. I think it’s not based on ethnic group or appearances. I think most of the time, it’s just about how a person behaves. If he is a bit more odd, or a bit more unique. They tend to be ostracized by the groups and I think what also matters is how they do in school. So if they always have bad grades, they also get picked on. And for example, I myself, people tried to bully me but usually I just don’t react to that. I think that’s the best solution. And they usually stop after some days of annoying me…

Anzhuo says that a main stressor for high school students at her school in Germany is fitting in with the fashion trends.

Anzhuo: For Gen Z, right now I think one stressor is to wear the right clothes in my school. It’s like a big issue…when I walk around in my school, you can see these girls or these boys they are really really in with the trends. I mean, they fit their outfits and their colors…and they do their makeup and stuff. So they spend a lot of time in that. So yeah, I don’t know. I don’t do that. I can’t, I’m not able to so yeah.

Agnes: Okay, so since you’re not doing those too, how do you feel about that? Do you feel like you’re not fitting in or are you okay having your own group?

Anzhuo: I am totally okay with that. I don’t want to really fit into these groups. I have my own little group in school. And I mean, I’m in school for just to learn something. And just to have some friends and…I mean, who doesn’t want like good clothes or something? But I’m totally okay with that. I will just wear clothes I feel comfy with so yeah.

Agnes: So good to see you have your own confidence, you have your own self. You do not need to just follow people around.

Dr. Agnes also talked with Youshi and Anzhuo about ways they handle their stress and cope.

Agnes:So how do you cope with your own stress? What kind of stress do you have and how do you cope with it?

Youshi: Usually I have great stress, to be honest, I feel like if I can get in contact with my church friends or people from the church and tell them about my problems, usually it eases my situation. What I do often is pray to get in contact with God and because what I realized is earthly things, for example, academics, success is not the most important thing. And that’s what I just recently realized. Because before that I felt like everything is just about how you do in life or how well you do in life. But recently I, after some talks with my mother also, I noticed that it’s not the most important and it’s also helped with my stress. I feel like talking with people about your stress and hearing their advice is what I usually do.

Anzhuo: Stress? I think most of the stressors, I cope with them with To-Do Lists. I will do To-Do Lists, where I divide the tasks throughout the week. So I will have one list and I will just go along with that. I will talk to my parents and my friends so I can release some of my stress to them. And I think sometimes when I’m like really, really stressed I will play the violin and the piano. It will calm me down a lot.

Youshi and Anzhuo have found healthy ways to cope with their stress through talking to people they trust, putting their tasks into perspective, praying to the Lord and playing music.

Through talking with Youshi and Anzhuo, we can see that students in Germany struggle with similar stresses that youth all over the world experience. Sharing their ways of coping with stress in healthy ways also gives us some helpful ideas for dealing with the everyday difficulties of our lives. In the next part of our series, we will look at what Youshi and Anzhuo’s family life looks like as Chinese-German Christian youths.

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"What I do often is pray to get in contact with God and because what I realized is earthly not the most important thing."