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People and Politics Forum 18. 02. 2008

"To what extent must immigrants conform in their new homeland?"

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More information:

Turks in Germany - Difficult Integration

During his recent visit to Germany Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earned applause when he warned his countrymen not to assimilate. Many German politicians and Turks in Germany were appalled. Some members of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party called Turkey's bid to join the EU into question. And the chancellor said the loyalty of Turks with German citizenship belonged to the German state. Even if Erdogan's remarks were motivated by domestic Turkish politics, they clearly expressed concerns shared by many Turks in Germany. German-Turkish relations are at a low point, not least due to the fire in a house in Ludwigshafen which killed nine Turkish immigrants.

Our Question is:

"To what extent must immigrants conform in their new homeland?"

Walter Augustiniak, USA, writes:

"Just imagine asking a US citizen if he or she is prepared to adapt the customs of an immigrant. They would simply laugh at you. If Turks living in Germany think Germany is such a bad place to be then why do they subject themselves to such an ordeal? They could do a lot of Germans a favour and go home."

Anna Losso, Brazil:

"If you live in a foreign country you ought to adapt to its ways. You can keep up your own language and customs at home and with friends. After all you are a guest and guests have to adapt. You don't lose your identity as a result and anyone who says the opposite would also have identity problems in their home country."

Florian Schmidt, Finland:

"I have lived in Finland since 1987. I have learned the language and made friends here who are surprised I still don't have a Finnish passport. I tell them a new passport would not change my roots and my way of thinking. I am pleased to be a German who is fully integrated and respected here in Finnland. Nobody asked me to come here. If I don't like it I can leave. I cannot expect my hosts to adapt, that is up to me."

Maria Mueller, Canada:

"I emigrated to Canada as a young girl in 1963. You must adapt to your new homeland, no matter where you come from and respect its laws. I also think you must learn the language of the country you have chosen to live in. It makes life so much easier."

Gerhard Seeger, Philippines:

"Immigrants always adhere to the customs of their homeland to a certain extent. But this can only be acceptable if it is kept to a certain extent. If a Turkish leader speaks out against assimilation then maybe those who say Turkey isn't ready to join the EU might be right."

Harald Schmitz, Brazil:

"It must lie in every immigrant's interest to adapt to their new homeland and learn the language. That is the prerequisite for success. The state must be allowed to decide whether or not it wants to give assistance."

Joachim Wagner, Dominican Republic:

"We, too have to adapt wherever we are. No foreigner is forced to live in Germany."

Rainer S. Letzelter, Brazil:

"I have lived in Brazil for 13 years. I have had no problem with integration. You have to adapt but nobody forces you. I am respected as a German and can pass on my German culture to others. It is a cultural interchange.
As a foreigner you need to adapt, but you don't have to relinquish your own culture and way of thinking."

Dirk Marotzke, Brazil:

"Immigrants might have mixed feelings about their new home but for those born in Germany I say love it or leave it!"

Herbert Fuchs, Finland:

"The first thing you have to do in a new country is learn the language. I have lived here for almost 20 years and I am in tune with the people here. But it is a process that takes time. I can understand that the Turks cannot replace their own culture with the German culture from one generation to the next. It can take many generations until the Turks have fully accepted the German culture."

Steffi Fischer, Argentina:

"There is hardly another country that helps foreigners integrate as much as Germany. If they don't feel happy they should return home. I live in Argentina and here it is much harder for immigrants to get a foothold. They are forced to adapt if they want to succeed."

Helge Weyland, Argentina:

"Anyone who lives in a foreign country has to accept the laws and requirements of that country. Otherwise his presence there is senseless, questionable and lacking credibility."

Martin Burmeister, Venezuela:

"Immigrants have to learn the language and adapt to the culture of their new homeland. If they want to preserve their own language and customs at the same time nobody should be allowed to stop them as long as they do not contravene any existing laws."

Tanja Mercer, Canada:

"I am a German citizen who has lived in Canada for a year and I had to adapt. I think all Muslims in Germany, not just Turks have a problem with integration. The main problem is their religion. I think the German state does too much for Muslims."

Rina V., South Africa:

"Immigrants have to adapt completely to their new homeland. That includes language, culture and religion. Otherwise integration is not possible."

David Rentzel, USA:

"I ask a question: Why stay in a country that you do not want to adapt to? I say "Go back to where you came from!" People who want to be a citizen of a foreign country should speak the language and respect the customs. Their loyalty should be sworn to the country before all other considerations. This is especially important if we are dealing with Moslems. All over the world they have moved into countries and refused to adapt. (...) But, on the other hand, do Moslem countries allow immigrants to live as they would in their home country? No way! (...) My own ancestry is mostly German, but I was born in America. I am an American, but I also respect the background and history of my ancestors. When my ancestors came here, they took the language and customs of this country. In America there is already talk of a bilingual society because we have so many illegal Mexican immigrants, who speak Spanish. Does Germany want to start learning the Turkish language?"

Sami Haddad, Syria:

"It‘s very difficult to define the meaning of word assimilation. Minorities have the problem of integration all over the world. The turkish people must understand: it is a bad idea to live in a country and have the loyalty to another country. So the turks have to try hard to make a kind of real integration with the German community. On the other hand Germans have to understand the nature of the turkish community in Germany and try to deal wisely and gently with it (...) and show respect to personal turkish traditions and culture which doesn‘t effect the turkisch integration in the German community."

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