Where does the German fear of foreigners come from?

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The real barrier behind the hardship for migrant integration in Germany

It is defined as reserved culture in the eyes of every foreigner who lives in Germany for different reasons or purposes. The fear of German citizens of the foreign is seen on spotlight whenever they meet a foreigner. It is an awkward situation that is hard to bear to both sides for some people. This affects people’s mind-set, acting and living in social life.

Normally, people fear changes, new things and are worried to be defined in another culture. Nevertheless, it is known that fear comes, when someone is in an uncomfortable environment, culture or situation. Here comes one question: who is in an uncomfortable environment between German citizens and foreigners? Is it to worry for citizens to fear foreigners ( Ausländer*innen) when they are in their own country familiar with everything?

In my country, foreigners fear local citizens which is the opposite in Germany. The reason is that these foreigners without any other problem feel uncomfortable in the new environment and culture, hence their fear makes sense somehow.

I approached two students from Leuphana University in Lüneburg, asking them this question, they replied: “From our childhood we were taught to take care of ourselves, for example to not leave the drink unfinished in a restaurant or club. Moreover”, they added, “our parents told us to be careful with the stranger’’.

This term “stranger” is defined as a person who does not know or is not known in a particular place or community. From this definition, foreigners are “strangers” in some perspective. The reserved culture, the fear of strangers in German communities and the refugee crisis’ negative reputation mediatisation are the major factors of this paradox.

This fear’s proportion is highly rated in old and adults. The fear tricks them to act in a racist behaviour, even if it should be unconsciously. But there are some others, who use this fear to discriminate foreigners voluntarily, mostly people of colour. The fear is less in young people since Germany has become an open society after joining the European Union. In 2005, the German parliament Bundestag approved a migration law rather than return policies which has been applicable since the end of the Second World War and was undermining the reality of migration and integration.

The 2015 report of the Human Right Commission of the United Nations showed that racism in Germany is still highly numbered in education, job and the housing system. The UN commissioners for human rights recommended German politicians to make policies that should reduce this racism and discrimination. Is it going to be easy to establish a system that can reduce this fear, racism and discrimination for Germany politicians?

Well, the integration is still a long way to go. There is a need of changing the way the culture defines a foreigner or stranger. In the globalized world, we need a society that can open its norms and taboos to embrace multiculturalism to make the world more connected. The United States is an example where this has been a key to the success and power in the world.

Terrorism, ISIS and other criminal gangs around the worlds make migration and integration very hard for foreigners. These criminal gangs shape people’s mind-set about the fear and awkwardness of the human being. Moreover we need to overcome the fear to move forward in a harmonised society.

Change perspectives when you meet foreigners, Ausländer*innen or strangers. Seeing them as aggressors will never solve any problem but instead will worsen the situation for both sides. Racism and social discrimination are harm to the society development and harmonisation, therefore should be fought by any means.

Text: Jean Ngendahimana // Photo: Mohammed

(Jean is a journalist and human rights activist, studying now digital and media management at Hamburg Media School.)