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“Everybody Welcome” in Germany

“Everybody Welcome” in Germany

What do some Germans really think of the refugee crisis? Away from reporters and real names, we take an inside look at a behind-the-scenes regular dinner with some regular Germans.

“They say you should never discuss politics or football,” our friend said as we had dinner and avoided politics. But as the drinks came and we went deeper into the night, comments started to seep out about the refugees in Germany. Does that count as politics?

I’m not a journalist. Journalists keep their opinions out of their reporting—or at least they’re supposed to. It sounds like a difficult job to me. My “reporting” is usually my opinion. I’m going to play reporter and try to keep my opinion out of this.

The comments were the same sort that swirl around in this election season across the Atlantic Ocean in the U.S.:

  • They don’t want to integrate into our culture.
  • They don’t try to learn the language.
  • They don’t have respect for women.
  • What do they do all day?
  • They get subsidies from our government that, of course, we pay for in taxes.
  • There’s more crime.
  • It’s no longer safe.
  • Why don’t they just go back home?

Of course, back home, if they’re from Syria, is a war-torn disaster that doesn’t seem to be getting any better anytime soon. Is this just a case of “NIMBY” (Not in My Backyard)? Maybe they have true sympathy for the refugees, but they think that their town shouldn’t be the one the bears the brunt of their arrival.

I saw the “Everybody Welcome” door mat just a few houses from my friends. It was in stark contrast to what I’d been hearing from their neighbor.

"Everybody Welcome" in Germany

“Everybody Welcome” in Germany

As we walked through the quaint German town with buildings dating back to the 1300’s, anything bad we noticed happening was the fault of the “Ausländers.”

  • Loud music coming from an apartment window,
  • A cyclist that didn’t stop at a stop sign and we almost hit,
  • A woman pushing her stroller,
  • Kids sitting on a bench listening to music.

Wait a second, what did those last two do wrong? Nothing, they’re just here.

It was a glaring contrast between what I was hearing and what I saw on the welcome mat at a neighbor’s house.

I suppose an investigative reporter would have fired back with questions and facts, dug deeper into where the comments come from. But I’m a longtime friend and it just wasn’t the place, time or occasion to bring any of it up.

I could have reminded them that I, too, am an Ausländer in Germany, but I can guess their answers.

Is there a right or wrong? People are entitled to their opinions. Should I have pushed back? Should I have questioned them? We’re friends, we’re drinking wine.

Then why bring it up? To give a little insight into a regular family in a regular town going through a not-that-irregular time in their history.

This is why I travel.

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