In many different cultures it is quite common to serve tea as a welcome drink. It helps make visitors feel more at ease to start a little conversation, and to finally get to know one another better.
In a virtual way, I’d like to do this here, too. So, please, make yourself comfortable and let’s start up a conversation.
Hello human! For me, welcoming a person who is new to a place is absolutely natural and self-evident – almost like brushing my teeth in the morning, I think. Why? Maybe, because I’m curious and willing enough to engage myself for “others” beyond my own interests?
To welcome somebody means to me to be friendly, to listen closely and to help wherever I can (of course only if my help is desired).
This requires a bit of an effort from my part, of course. Welcoming a person means to exceed one’s own limits and not to judge in advance. To be able to do this I have to be in balance.
After 50 years of recruiting foreign workers, Germany finally started to understand itself as an immigration country and the notion “welcome culture” became much talked about.
This happened in light of a fear that’s looming above us: the shortage of skilled workers, which, in reality, might not exist at all. But nevertheless, contemplating the meaning of “welcome culture” started and the national legislator made it somewhat easier for highly qualified persons to immigrate into Germany and work here.
So, are we done now? Are Germans better at welcoming foreigners than before? Well, maybe. Maybe not – because it’s not only a more liberal legislation that raises interest among potential immigrants, but also, yes, …, this feeling one could have as an immigrant, to really be welcome in Germany.
In Germany “shoes pinch” in some part or other: At school, during training, when starting a career, migrants and their children are disadvantaged. Racist and xenophobic offences increase. Unfortunately, this kind of news is recurring year after year.
Another kind of discrimination however stays somewhat underexposed: discrimination against “Ossis” (easterners). A hardly noticed survey of the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin substantiated that only a small percentage of easterners are part of Germany’s decision-making-class. 25 years after the fall of the wall, this seems quite astounding.
But what can a person, who is experiencing discrimination do? Whereto can she turn? The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency provides information and gives advice. The German Institute for Human Rights lists points of contact, which advocate equal opportunities. Initial approaches towards anonymised job applications seem particularly interesting to me.
And what about [w]ortsfremd, what are we actually doing for a welcome culture? We believe that self-empowerment of migrants is essential. In accordance with the old motto “knowledge is power”, we’d like to help immigrants to find their way through Germany. In this vein, knowing the language is helpful, but also getting an insight into German history that is integrated into the narrative of European history and tradition. Language and culture are common elements, about which we exchange views with newcomers to Germany and which we hope might help them to find reference points of their own.
And you? What does “being welcoming” mean for you? Did you come to Germany as a highly qualified person? Which experiences did you make?