Sports are truly interNATIONAL Monday, Aug 17 2009 

In watching the 2009 Swimming World Championships last night, something became clear. Germans are coming yet another step closer in expressing their national belonging and pride.

Every time a German won a race and the national anthem played, my TV was flooded with images of people dressed in black, red and gold and with a huge smile on their faces that had GER or D written all over them.  It seems that sporting events have really pushed this quest for national identity forward. It is here, where one can see the patriotic display of all nations, without shame and political connotation.  It is here where an athlete can represent their country in a peaceful, non-political way.

Soccer Pride Wednesday, Jun 14 2006 

With the World Cup taking place in Germany this year, many German have decided to put up flags, paint their faces in black, red and gold, and show some patriotism.

 WM 2006 Deutschland Nationalstolz Flaggen

A survey by Stern Magazine found that 61 per cent of the readers found the flags to be good or very good, while 21 per cent were not as happy with this new wave of patriotism.

World Cup fever has broken out in germany with gummi bears, underwear, cereal and everything in between showing the colors and themes of the 2006 Cup.  

Does a language need protection? Thursday, May 11 2006 


Markus Söder of the CDU wants to include a new law in Germany’s constitution: German as the official language of the country. Kamikaze Demokratie puts it this way:


Manchmal frage ich mich ernsthaft, was mit Markus Söder los ist. Nimmt der seine Pillen nicht? Er schafft es immer wieder mit total blödsinnigen Vorschlägen und Forderungen Aufmerksamkeit zu bekommen. Aber er ist ja nicht immer allein, auch diesmal nicht. Es geht also um den Schutz der deutschen Sprache, Söder will gleich mal Deutsch als "Staatssprache" im Grundgesetz verewigt sehen, seine CDU-Kollegin Erika Steinbach fordert ein "Gesetz zum Schutz der deutschen Sprache". Wer schützt uns eigentlich vor solchen Politikern?


Sometimes I as myself, what is wrong with Markus Söder. Is he not taking his pills? He keeps getting attention for his silly proposals and demands. But he is not always alone, not in this case either. This is dealing with the protection of the German language, Söder wants to introduce a clause into the constitution making German as the official language of the country. His CDU party college Erika Steinbach is asking for a “law to protect the German language”.  Who protects us from such politicians?


The ongoing integration and immigration debate in Germany has stirred up these ideas. According to Focus online, Söder finds that the top goal for integration is the German language and that by anchoring this idea into the constitution, a sign is posted for immigrants.


Erika Steinbach wants to protect the German language from foreign influences, such as English. I just wonder what this has to do with immigration, since there are not that many English speaking immigrants in Germany and globalization, pop culture and many other things are much more influential in replacing German words with hipper , cooler English words.


In a Bild Zeitung interview, she said that 30 per cent of Germans speak no English and might feel marginalized by the many English expressions. Sehpferd blog has an interesting comment on this:

Sie sagt, dass 30 Prozent der Deutschen gar kein Englisch spräche (aus meiner Sicht ist der Prozentsatz bei weitem höher) – aber das kann doch wohl nur eines bedeuten: Nämlich dass sich diese angeblichen 30 Prozent schnellstens auf die Schulbank setzen müssen.

She says, that 30 per cent of Germans do not speak English( that percantage is much higher in my opinion) – but that can only mean one thing: Tose supposed 30 per cent should goand learn English fast. 

It would definately in the best interest of those 30 %  to learn English as that seems to be the language used in many businesses, even in Germany. I also doubt that those non- English speaking people really do feel marginalized as many English words used in Germany, actually are used in their own unique way and knowledge of English does not help much. A German cell phone is called a “Handy”,  anything that is cool has nothing to do with temperature and kids are never children, but rather cool teens. Kids call their cliques "Posse" and while older people call hitch-hiking still tramping, the younger generation now calls it hitchen. 


Why become a German citizen? Thursday, May 11 2006 

54 immigrants from 15 different nations became German citizens today. Berlin Online asked three of them why:

Andrea Gimenez, 27, enjoyed the ceremony, including the singing of the German national anthem, even though the Argentinean is not quite sure of the lyrics yet. She got married in Germany and decided that she is now integrated into the society and wanted to have the same rights as her husband, a German citizen.

Nabaz Dargalaee, a Kurd from Northern Iraqi who has been living in Germany for nine years and entered the country as an asylum seeker. He says he feels good about having an EU citizenship and is happy that he can now vote. One of the requirements for German citizenship is to have lived in Germany for at least eight years legally, that’s why his wife, who has only been in Germany for five years, will have to wait. Their daughter however already has German citizenship, as she was born there.

Nabaz Dargalaee said he did not mind giving up his Iraqi citizenship, not only because he is a Kurd, but also because he feels that it will be easier to find a job with a German passport.

The 18-year old Ahmet Ögrenci, a Turkish immigrant is also hoping to better his career chances. He still feels Turkish, even though he also says that now that he has the German passport he also feels part German.

I think they do have a point. Immigrants are often not able to access certain services or obtain certain rights such as voting, as they are not citizens. Job chances for young people in Germany are already very low and immigrants might not be considered for interviews, as many employers fear that their language abilities and education are lacking. However, a German passport does not change the name of the person, and that in most cases will still hinder immigrants from getting job interviews.

Burkas instead of school uniforms? Wednesday, May 10 2006 

As Blognjus reports, small crowds were protesting against the proposal to make school uniforms part of public schools. They suggested that wearing Burkas might be a better solution. This protest comes weeks after two girls were suspended from school because they decided to wear Burkas to class for several days. 


In response to the Burak incident, some politicians such as Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries had suggested school uniforms. However, this does not promote integraytion. It might work when trying to fight consumerism and brand addiction in high schools, but not even that is for sure.



Integration by Assimilation- A Policy of the Past Tuesday, May 9 2006 

CSU leader and former candidate for Chancellor Edmund Stoiber wants to cut social and welfare benefits for immigrants that refuse to integrate. At the end of June, an integration conference will take place and Stoiber finds that clear rules need to be negotiated when it comes to immigration.

Currently, cuts of these benefits are possible at the agency’s digression; however Stoiber wants to put it in a new law. But what makes someone what refuses to integrate?  Stoiber says that they should respect German culture, have an ability to speak German and visit integration classes.


It seems that this narrow idea of integration has not been very successful. While some societies have initially created differentialist policies such as those in Germany and Saudi Arabia, where guest workers were not expected to become part of the society, others such as the U.S. have adopted assimilation policies that are aimed at integrating immigrants into the national culture.  Neither approach seems particularly effective in today’s world as societies have grown more diverse and immigrant instreams have soared.  Immigrants want to keep their culture of origin as well as become part of their new society.


A better approach for integration might be some sort of multiculturalism, which recognizes the value of diversity and supports multiple identities as is the case in Canada.  In Australia, Canada and New Zealand official policies disclaiming multiculturalism exist.  However, even in other countries, where other policies were originally employed, multiculturalism seems to be coming up.  In the U.S. for example, local and state level policies reflect the multicultural idea.  Where it used to be un-American or unpatriotic for immigrants to express pride for their ethnic identity, this is now normal.  Though following the events of September 11, immigrants of Muslim or Arab descent now have somewhat of an uneasy feeling to express their culture and identity. 


By allowing immigrants to keep part of their original culture and promoting an open cultural environment, immigrants are not marginalized and better integration of immigrants can take place in the long run.



Immigrants to fill the Baby Gap? Sunday, May 7 2006 

As Germany’s population is growing older and young Germans are not having children, immigrants are actually a way of filling the baby gap. An English Spiegel article describes this problem well. The government has long tried to encourage couples to have children, however without much success.


On Tuesday, lawmakers decided to introduce Elterngeld — tax money paid to parents so they can stay home with their baby. The change makes it easier for parents to stay home longer with their newborn without having to sacrifice their entire income. It also provides more incentive for the main breadwinner to remain at home.

The change is just one of several incentives dreamed up by Germany's own hero mother, family minister and mother-of-seven Ursula von der Leyen. In a Merkel cabinet so far characterized by docility, von der Leyen has been stirring the waters as she tries to unleash a baby wave on Germany. To help families once they have children, she has proposed an "Alliance for Upbringing" — part of which involves teaching German and Christian values as early as preschool. "Christian values like reliability, helpfulness, respect and fairness are at the basis of our society," she said at a press conference last month.

However, I don’t expect this to be successful, as Kindergeld, a certain amount of money paid to parents each month per child, has not done much to raise the number of children per women. Child care initiatives by employers are low and most schools end classes at around noon or 1 for small children. This makes it hard for women to work and have children. Spiegel further explains that

"The German population is permanently shrinking while the foreign population is permanently growing," says Dr. Herwig Birg, a demographic expert who just retired as head of the Institute for Population Research and Social Politics at the University of Bielefeld and authored "The Demographic Time Change." "Germans will soon become a minority in major German cities [like Berlin] in the under 40 age group."


A quick glance at birthrates in Germany highlights Birg's point. Immigrants in Germany — those of Turkish origin make up the largest immigrant group in the country — have about 1.9 children per woman. A modest rate given that demographic experts say a birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is necessary to maintain population stability. But it's productive compared to ethnic Germans. They only have a paltry 1.3 babies per woman. In other words, a dropping population isn't the only societal change currently going on in Germany.

It's a trend that will likely only accelerate. According to projections from the Federal Office of Statistics, the country's population will shrink from its current 82 million to 70 million by 2050 assuming an annual influx of 200,000 immigrants. The population drop, combined with Germany's aging society, is likely to have dramatic effects on the country's social system and labor market.

However, this trend can be observed in almost all of Western Europe with birth rates going down and people growing older, most of the working force today is unlikely to see their social security check from the government when they retire. In the U.S., the Hispanic population rose about 58% from 1990 till 2000. Discussions about family values and religion also surfaced; however, birth rates in the U.S. are not as low as in Europe. It will be interesting to see how and if this trend continues. In the German case, however, I doubt that more money paid to parents will lead to higher birth rates, as that does not seem to be the issue.

When talking to many of my friends, they do not want children, because they would much rather have a career than stay home and raise children. If the government does not address the problems women face, when having children and a career, they probably will never see birth rates go up.

Star Phoenix Base  discusses this article in further detail including the impact on society, if the indegenous population were to be replaced by immigrants.


What is German? St. Pauli in Bavaria? Sunday, May 7 2006 

Milan Obradovic, a German living in Los Angeles posted a very interesting and funny article on his blog Living in America. He discusses the stereotypical German as defined by Americans. Export goods such as cars, machines and beer are seen as high quality and Germans are seen as punctual, efficient and organized, which Milan says would make a German in California the “anti-Mexican”.

Problems arise when German are mainly associated with Bavaria, which is clear when looking at the ‘St. Pauli Girl’ beer, which depicts a women wearing a traditional Bavarian dress, whereas St. Pauli is actually a part of Hamburg, which is about 600 kilometers away from Bavaria. I have encountered this many times myself.  When going to local “German Festivals” for example Bavarian outfits and foods equal Germany.  When talking to people about Germany one of the first questions/comments often includes one of the following: “Oh, Oktoberfest!” And “Is that near the Black Forest?” Or some other indication that Germany is really just seen as an extension of Bavaria.


Milan further talks about typical German food sold in the U.S., as in Pumpernickel, and Liverwurst which neither actually looks and tastes nothing like the German Version.


The VW Jetta is actually a cool car in LA and Birkenstock sandals are sold in boutiques on Melrose Avenue, rather than at Granola stores, as is the case in Germany, whereas German cultural goods such as Goethe’s novels, Beethoven’s music or Günter Grass’ books are hardly known, some exceptions such as movies (Run, Lola Run) or the song 99 Red Balloons by Nena do exist.


German names such as Fritz, Hans, Heidi or Gretchen are not very common in Germany at all, except with people 60 and over, yet in America these are the “German names”. Gretchen is actually a nickname.  Some German things are not identified as such, one example being T Mobile or Milli Vanilli, which actually might not be so bad in the latter case.

German Flag in Flames Saturday, May 6 2006 

Today protestors in Pakistan burned the German flag in reaction to Amer Cheema’s suicide who was being held in Germany for trying to attack the editor in chief of the Welt.  The Welt had printed some of the Danish Mohammed cartoons.  

While the burning of the American flag tends to trigger outrages and emotional newspaper articles in the United Sates, the burning of the German flag in this and other cases did not.  My first thoughts when reading the Spiegel articles mentioning this were: “So what.”  The attachment to the national flag or other forms of patriotism are much less developed in germany than in the United States, yet when discussions were raised regarding the national anthem and the possibility of having a Turkish version, reactions were much more emotional than I had expected.

Naturalization Tests or Classes? Saturday, May 6 2006 


Ministers of the Interior of each of Germany’s states have decided on a national rule regarding naturalization tests. After months of discussions, they have decided on six requirements:

Applicants have to have lived in Germany for 8 years, have not been sentenced to more than certain amount of social hours or fines, have to attend a class for naturalization, have to declare loyalty to the German state, have to be willing to be questioned regarding membership in radical organizations and need to know enough German. Some ministers had wanted to include tests. However, test can be given as part of the classes required. Some of the tests previously promoted asked questions that even many German intellectuals were not able to answer with certainty.  The new accord seems to allow each state to design classes as they see fit.  This is dangerous, as there is no national outline.  Tests could include multiple choice as well as role plays or other question types.

In the US classes regarding citizenship are offered and prepare immigrants rather well for naturalization interviews. Besides, naturalization is often a way of gaining access to social benefits within the United States. In Germany, most immigrants receive benefits even without German citizenship and are unlikely to acquire German citizenship, since it requires giving up one’s original citizenship.

German flag with Turkish crescent? Saturday, May 6 2006 

Reactions to Green party politician Christian Ströbele’s idea of offereing a Turkish version of the German National Anthem have been mainly unsupportive of the idea. Some were talking about offering the German flag with either an eagle or the crescent moon. Letters to the editor of many newspapers were sacracstic asking that government workers should now learn Turkish. But I wonder, if it might not be a good idea. In the U.S. most government offices have someone that speaks Spanish and most paperwork from the DMV to immigration forms are available in Spanish as well.  In Germany, not much is available in Turkish at all, even though Turkish immigrants are the largest immigrant group within Germany.


A KA News poll that was taken by 788 readers came to some interesting conclusions. While 42 %  were wondering why a Turkish version would be called ‘song of the Germans’, 34 % think the idea was a late April fools joke. 14.85 % cannot imagine Turkish immigrants singing this hymn anyway, and only 3.55 % would love to have this version available right away. 2 per cent find that a Turkish version would help when Germany wins the soccer .world cup, since everyone then can sing along, while another 4 % do not care anyway, as they don’t sing the anthem

Brain Drain, Not Just A Problem in Developing Nations Thursday, May 4 2006 

According to Spiegel, in 2004 alone 150 000 Germans have left their country in order to find jobs abroad. These people are usually well educated and young and are looming for better ways to make a living. German doctors leave for England, IT experts for Australia and scientist for America. It’s not that those professionals feel they are pioneers and want to move, they just find better conditions for work elsewhere.


This tendency is growing. In 2005 four time as many Germans left their country for a new job, than did in 2000. Social reforms, not enough job offers and unequal pay makes them emigrate to better pastures.



Europe: A Smoker’s Paradise? Wednesday, May 3 2006 

Every time I fly to Germany to visit my family I immediately know I have arrived in Europe by the way the airport smells after smoke. Though smoker zones are the only areas where one can smoke in most airports, these zones are not separated by any barriers, thus leaking the smoke to the rest of the airport.


In Spain, one in three adults smoke, in Germany about 38% of men and 27% of women smoke, French smokers make up about 36% of the population.


Germany had recently been reprimanded by Markos Kyprianou the EU commissioner for health since it was taking a longer time to adjust its laws to the antismoking laws of the EU.  Germany was supposed to introduce laws prohibit advertising for tobacco products in April, but has not done so yet.


About three months ago Spain had introduced anti-smoking laws regulating smoking in public spaces.  While most smokers adhere to the rules in offices, hospitals, theatres and museums, but will then smoke outside or in the restrooms.  .In other public spaces such as airports and subway stations many are still smoking.  Clubs and bars are still full of smoke and even when someone lights up a cigar in a non smoking area in a restaurant, the waiter usually looks the other way.


When I finally fly back to New York, I enjoy the smoke-free airport, bars and restaurants so much more than before I left.

German National Anthem in Turkish? Tuesday, May 2 2006 

© Meike Gerstenberg für ZEIT online 

According to a Spiegel article, Hans-Christian Ströbele of the Green Party, is asking for a Turkish version of the German National Anthem. When I read this I was wondering if he got the idea from the Nuestro Himno, the much discussed Spanish version of the American National Anthem.

Ströbele finds that a Turkish version would give Germany a symbol of multilingualism. While the liberal FDP Party supports this move, Ströbele’s own Green party does not. The conservative CDU is against this as well, since according to Wolfgang Bosbach this would be counterproductive to integration as the German language is one of the major pillars of immigration. Most of the 3.5 million Turkish immigrants in Western Europe live in Germany (2.3 million) and Turks make up the largest immigrant group within Germany.

In Germany, Turks tend to live in a certain part of town, much like China town in New York.  Communities form and attract more immigrants as life in these communities is easier for them than in other parts of town.  These Turkish neighborhood exist in any major city in Germany, be it Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin or Duisburg. 


Turkish businesses are all over the main shopping streets, most of them being Döner Imbiss places that serve quick meals or green groceries. Others include music stores, shops that sell imported jewelry and doctors’ offices that provide service in Turkish as well as lawyers and financial services.  Kiosks sell daily Turkish newspapers as well as magazines.  Selling satellites that can receive Turkish TV is a growing business.  The tea houses are another place where Turkish ties are established. They usually have Turkish television, newspapers, and games and serve mainly males. Customers will spend long periods of time there socializing.  Each tea house is frequented by a different type of immigrant, some being geared towards sports, while others emphasize a particular region of Turkey or attract only men under thirty or over 50.  When buying real estate, Turkish immigrants are much more likely to stay in Turkish immigrant areas in Germany, even if they could afford to move to better areas. This is due to the strong attachment to the community and its feeling of Turkishness. So maybe, providing them with a Turkish version of  the German National Anthem would giving them an opportunity to express themselves in Turkish rather than German which might actually aide integration, as many Turks living in Germany are not fluent in German and feel marginalized by the society.


A Spiegel online poll however found that almost 89% of the over 17 000 respondents are against a Turkish version.



No Federal German Naturalization Test Tuesday, May 2 2006 

Ministers of several states within Germany tried to push for a naturalization test that would be given to any foreigner applying for German citizenship.  The tests would have included questions in history, values and language.  When I looked at some of the proposed test questions, I wasn’t sure if I could answer all of them correctly. They finally agreed upon classes for new immigrants. I think that those courses are a much better solution as proposed tests that ask for the name of the person who discovered the TB virus and the like. 


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