Migration in Germany: Cultural Diversity

Many regions of Germany have been influenced by immigrants and refugees, especially by Turkish, North African, and Middle Eastern settlers. New cultures have impacted popular foods, available restaurants, religious worship, the composition of neighborhoods, spoken everyday languages, and so on. Instead of only typical German culture that is foremost perceived by foreigners and tourists (i.e. Oktoberfest, drinking beer, German cars, Dirndl and Lederhosen, etc.), German culture continuously evolves with the diverse backgrounds of many Germans themselves or refugees/immigrants to Germany. Now, with many refugees from Ukraine, Ukrainian can be heard spoken in supermarkets, on public transport, or simply along the street. One of my good friends here speaks Russian and can instantly recognize Russian or Ukrainian being spoken often around us in everyday life. 

In years prior, many Syrians fled to Germany as refugees, and their presence within Germany is noticeable in current German culture or in daily life. For instance, at the gym, I started up a conversation with a woman on the treadmill next to me—a Muslim woman, older than me. We had a lovely conversation, two foreigners both conversing in German, our second language. Further in our conversation, she told me about fleeing to Germany, her difficulties in learning German, and her goals here in Germany. She was 30 years old, here in Germany with her husband and two children. We realized that we are both studying for the same official German exam (C1), and she is studying for that same level (C1) in English, so that she can attend the University of Konstanz nearby. Besides the trauma of her and her family fleeing Syria, she expressed her difficulties integrating into German society, especially because of the pandemic. As she was nearing the C1 level of German (advanced), the pandemic halted much person-to-person contact outside of her family, making contact with locals difficult, if not almost impossible. She lamented how her German had regressed after the lack of interaction, and she equally lamented how the pandemic had isolated her. Though well connected with her immediate family and some Syrian friends, she still said she did not feel integrated into German society even several years later after settling in Germany, given that she had been unable to interact outside of her own cultural, linguistic, and religious circle due to the pandemic. With much of her time spent caring for her 3- and 11-year-old, she then simultaneously teaches herself German and English, unable to afford the language courses offered locally. Therefore, her free time to engage within the surrounding community is minimal. She noted that she found many Germans very welcoming, but questioned why, during the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, she continued to experience difficulties making German friends and speaking German often. 

We later exchanged phone numbers so that we could practice our German together and that she could practice her English with me. Despite our common situation of learning German, we otherwise face dramatically different circumstances and struggles. However, our common pursuit of another language and our desire to integrate into another culture helped form a friendship, as we embark upon our goals together, able to help one another and make “outsider” situations not so alienating.