It may come as a surprise to those of you who have not read this blog before, but I’m an Alien. Yes, you heard me I’m an Alien, I’m a legal Alien and what’s more I’m an Englishman in Germany. OK, crap Sting references aside, I am an Alien under international law as I am not a citizen of the country I reside in. Despite this I blend in quite well. That is until I open my mouth and the garbled nonsense German I speak infects any poor listener in a two meter radius. I am what many would consider to be the acceptable face of immigration in Europe and the rest of the world. I am educated (to a point), have a job and most importantly pay taxes, oh so many taxes. I have never attempted to sign up for any benefits, and hopefully I will never have to. I have German Friends, I take interest in areas of German culture and I make an effort to speak the language. Even so, can I really say I’m integrated?
The question of integration is one that is on the minds of many in Germany when the question of immigration is brought up. Immigration itself is not frowned upon but it is vitally important that people integrate into the culture. When I logically ask what does this mean, I get different answers. To be honest the best answer I have got is integration means “speaking German and paying taxes”. Well I’m half way there at least, but for some that is not enough. Germany is not alone in this immigration quandary, Britain is in on the act too. As the world shrinks, and globalisation increases every country is asking itself how they can best deal with the movement, legally and illegally, of people. No one has yet come up with a coherent answer.
Britain has seen it’s fair share of immigrants over the centuries; We’ve entertained Romans, had the first 18-30’s holidaymakers in the form of the Vikings, some Jutes, some Angles, some Saxons, and welcomed our tapestry loving friends the Normans. In the more recent past we invited many of the commonwealth nations from South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean to our little island. And yet in 2011 the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, declared that multiculturalism had failed in a rather irony-laden speech attacking extremism and extremist views…using…erm…a rather extreme statement. Rather embarrassingly for D.C. he was not even being original. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, had made an almost analogous speech the year before concerning Germany’s problems of immigration.
Both speeches are strange for two reasons; Firstly they don’t appear to be aimed at voters but rather aimed at the most xenophobic members of their own parties, secondly they don’t really give any answers to the problems they are shining a light on. For example, no one likes extremism. If I actively told you I had extremist views on cereal, that no matter what evidence you produced I would always despise Weetabix in all it’s wheaty forms, and furthermore I hated all those who ate this brand of cereal and that I was currently writing a blog, managing a Facebook group and organising a series of protests against these breakfast-based evil doers, you might rethink having begun a conversation with me. On the second point, immigrants should integrate, but to what level? Do I integrate with local or national customs? What if people don’t want me to integrate? It might have been helpful for Merkel to at least give me a hint, I don’t want to rush off and buy myself some Lederhosen if they are not required. Especially as leather pants aren’t cheap and the thought of a second hand pair chill me to my very soul.
To be honest, I’m not intelligent enough to come up with any meaningful answers, but then I’m writing a blog, not making bold statements in front of the world’s media. All I know is that no matter how many clubs I join, how many friends I make, how much German I speak or how many Weißbier I drink, at the Wirtschaft I will never be German. Not that I wouldn’t want to but there are some things about me that will always be British. I like milk in my tea, I can’t eat cheese or salami for breakfast, I’m rubbish at speaking directly and will always say excuse me or sorry when I have nothing to be sorry about. When I’m not in the company of my German friends I naturally gravitate towards English speakers and natives from Britain who live in my area. When you leave your original country and call another country home it’s nice to occasionally be reminded of certain nostalgic elements from the past. In the end I will only ever be partially integrated and that’s no bad thing. Perhaps it would be better if both sides of the immigration and integration debate remembered that.