Rethinking 'Us' & 'Them': Integration and Diversity in Europe

Chapters 2 › Unit 2: Who to you is a 'real German' (or anything else)? View instructions Hide instructions

Who to you is a 'real German' (or anything else)?

Tell us: Who to you is a 'real German' (or Spaniard, Brit, Canadian, or anything else!)

In this chapter, you've been given a lot of food for thought on identity and belonging as it is understood on the personal and academic levels in Europe, Canada, and beyond. This is a topic that has likely hit home for many of you who may or may not be tied to particular borders, have questions or concerns about who belongs in your society, or may still be unsure about the whole thing. The 'Us' & 'Them' course community would love to hear from you:

Here are some guiding questions to draw from:

  • What do you think the criteria should be for becoming a 'real' citizen or resident of your country?
  • What makes you a 'real' anything? (German, American, Spaniard, Turk, etc.)?
  • Do you see a cognitive vs. emotional dissonance in the way your society sees immigration, belonging, citizenship, etc.?
  • How do you identify with the word 'multiculturalism'? Do you see yourself or your society as multicultural?
  • Who is represented as nationals or residents of your country in public life?
  • How do politicians and public figures in your society or country portray multiculturalism? As a good, bad, or normal thing? What about schools and museums?
  • What type of language do you use to talk about the 'Other' or what kind of language do you prefer others use in reference to you? (e.g. migration background vs. migration history, 'Turkish-German' or 'German with Turkish roots', etc.)

Now what?
Click 'Start in Journal', and fill out the entry. How you do this is up to you: You can use just words, or add pictures or links to articles or videos to highlight your point!

Is this journal assignment required?
No! Nothing in our course is 'required', and there are no grades, but we encourage you to reflect on these topics and share if you feel comfortable, so that others in the course can benefit from your experiences.

Communication is key - the rest comes step by step


I think as for becoming a "real" citizen, language is key, whatever the country maybe. Sure, in many places one can get along with English (fairly) well, but in my opinion to truely belong to a country it is inevitable to achieve a degree of fluency in the local language. What comes next is a harder question, because it ideally comes automatically, over time. Learning the local language eases (and facilitates, e.g. via tandems) getting to know and befriend locals, learn about national holidays, customs, food, music, etc. It's important to note, I think, that the perceptions of the own country can be very different according to regions (living in Colorado to a degree certainly implicates a different experience than, say, living in Florida, as is living in rural Bavaria as opposed to coastal Schleswig-Holstein). What unites people are are respect of the common laws, a common history, some cultural aspects (which, again, can be fuzzy- is really every German punctual, efficient, and loves to drink beer?) and in the end it is this very unclear notion of x-ness, a social construct. And that can - I think - not be instilled by force but has to be aquired over time. And that's where multiculturalism comes into play: Even within a country people might aquire different cultural backgrounds when they move from one place to another, backgrounds that are not mutually exclusive. The same is true for migrants who come to a new country and add customs of their own to those of the place they are coming to while both, newcomers and people already living there, learn about each others'.

That being said, I do notice, also in my everyday language, the unconscious labelling of self and other, which also portrays the emotional dissonance that exists in Germany (what was being said in the video very much corresponds with my experience). Probably the only thing that helps is to ram home to oneself and the social circle that there is not ONE type of German/whatever, but probably millions, who have millions of ideas/priorities/preferences - being able to communicate them already helps a lot.

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