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.

Multiculturalism and citizenship

1 comment

Lots of interesting perspectives in this chapter! I think these days we're dealing with a kind of double standard on immigration: on one hand, most leaders (except for a small - but loud - minority) are still open about immigration, and indeed most countries continue with similar immigration policies. On the other hand, we're doubling down on what's "acceptable" or not for immigrants to be in receiving countries. I think if you're going to end up arguing that newcomers "will never be truly like us" then you might as well stop immigration at all. Either you show some flexibility on what you consider a "real" citizen of your country, or just admit you simply don't want anybody coming in (which, personally, I think is pretty silly).

Multiculturalism is, I think, a tricky thing. Overall, I believe the idea of a pluralist society is a good one, but I also think you need to have something strong that binds that society together in order to make it work and prevent it from breaking apart, or becoming a series of nations within nations. The main reason it works so well in Canada, it seems to me, is that they've always struggled with a self-admitted lack of national identity/strong culture (honest - this struggle is about as old as the country itself). It's almost like when Pierre Trudeau officially declared Canada a multicultural country, he finally gave it an identity, i.e. "if we don't know who Canadians are, then everyone is a Canadian". That, coupled with coherent government policy and strong binding symbols, like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, made it work perfectly.

Europeans, on the other hand, seem to be struggling with multiculturalism for similar reasons: Germany, Italy, France, etc, are countries with old, strong ideas of national identity (it doesn't matter how many of those ideas are real or myths, they're still there). It's complicated to say you're officially multicultural when those ideas are still strong, so I feel they can't quite figure out how to make both things work together.

I feel absolutely blessed to have Italian citizenship, but at the same time I sometimes feel it's a bit silly that I was able to get it: the only reason I have it is that my great-grandfather was Italian. Up until a couple of years ago, I hadn't even set foot in Italy, yet I have an Italian passport, and am even allowed to vote in some (limited) elections. At the same time, if an immigrant who moved to Italy years ago, lives and works there, speaks perfect Italian, etc, has children, they're not automatically Italian. Again, I'm happy to be a citizen - but that concept always seemed a bit strange to me.


Hi Leo, thanks so much for this entry. On a personal level, I can very much identify. I was born in the US but have German citizenship because my mom is German and I have German "blood" - she however only has half German-blood which only makes me 1/4 in the end, yet until they allowed birthplace citizenship in Germany in 2000 (!) I could get a German passport but someone born in Germany couldn't. I was appreciative for sure, but it definitely felt very hypocritical!

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