July 15, 2024

A plate of chicken breasts with the British Consul General Nick Russell, who discovered spaghetti ice cream in the Rhineland and is considered a role model for German companies.

A plate of chicken breasts with the British Consul General Nick Russell, who discovered spaghetti ice cream in the Rhineland and is considered a role model for German companies.

Sometimes you hold your breath during a research appointment. The press invitation to the exchange with Nick Russell, the new British Consul General for the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland at the Düsseldorf Industrial Club, was thus. He not only introduced himself by saying that he has been working on digital issues for the British government since 2013. But he is disabled and has suffered from a neurological disease, a very rare form of multiple sclerosis, since he was 19 years old. Temporary coordination problems are the result. And he feels like someone carrying three cups of beer on a small boat in a choppy sea. always. Even if it’s not always consistent, sometimes it’s worse, sometimes it’s better. That’s why he sometimes carries a stick with him. But he will be happy to answer any questions about his disability. This poses a challenge for him.

Nick Russell (Photo: C. Todtman)

Only Wolfgang Schäuble appears as a disabled politician, but the managers do not appear as a politician

I can’t remember a similar situation at my job. In particular, I cannot think of a single name of a board member or employee director of a company with a specific disability. One of the many DAX board members? I don’t know anything. In the world of politics, Wolfgang Schäuble has at least been confined to a wheelchair since his injury and is still working. In the news, only one person with a disability stands out from time to time: the spokeswoman for the VDK, who is sent to the front by her employer: Verena Bentelli. But more? no one.

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I congratulate the British government for standing by its much-disabled diplomat – and sending him from his office in London to the world as the country’s representative. Hats off also to Nick Russell’s attitude, courage and daily efforts.

And Germany? I fear that because of all the efforts to promote women, people with disabilities have been completely ignored as a group in need of support. On the contrary: the strangest things happen to them in the daily life of the company and they feel the strangest fears of communication. Do you want an example? Even their bosses act as if disabilities don’t exist. Way too embarrassing. Thinking? no one. Just ask the person concerned how he or she is doing? Just don’t do it.

When people with disabilities are noticed, it becomes funny: the ID card of a severely disabled person had to be extended, one ID card has expired and the authorities have not yet created a new ID card, as the entire HR department discusses: The additional five days of vacation for people Disabled people are now one day and this gap must be deducted. It is as if the disabled person is no longer disabled and is as physically fit as any healthy person in those exact weeks. Although he couldn’t help the pace of power. It was as if he had healed automatically during this transitional period. It’s no joke, German bureaucracy does not come from the authorities, but from the employers’ camp.

Especially since one thing is certain: most people with disabilities are not born that way, but only become disabled over the course of their working lives.

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But back to Nick Russell, who arrived in Düsseldorf with his wife and two daughters. As if he did not face enough challenges, the Briton decided to cross North Rhine-Westphalia on foot. Next year, he wants to cover the distance from the Dutch border to the Hesse state border in 60 days. To get to know NRW and its people. He says he’s happy to have fellow hikers around, even if it’s on a daily basis. Journalists are welcomed just as much as government politicians, colleagues or corporate managers have already promised. To prepare himself, he actually purchased a cross trainer to “train.”

Incidentally, the NRW tour is much shorter than his big trip across the United States twelve years ago, when he walked with his wife to San Diego, California. At that time it was 5000 km. It lasted six months and his employer granted him leave.

Tabir and spaghetti ice cream

Did he settle as a Briton in the Rhineland? Oh yeah, Russell thinks the Rhinelanders are just like the Brits. For example, with her dry jokes that are “not immediately obvious.” He loves Altbier – more than Kölsch – and in Düsseldorf he discovered for himself something not available in Great Britain: spaghetti ice cream.

Russell says he still has to get used to the fact that stores in this country don’t open on Sundays. But even from that he gains something positive: things will then become calmer.

The best part of his job anyway: understanding the locals. Russell has four years to do that in Düsseldorf. Carnival, for example, remains a mystery to him. His predecessor managed to fit in well in the Rhineland: Rafe Courage not only became a member of the carnival club, but also posted his costumes on Twitter.

Nick Russell on Twitter: @NickRussellUK