Saturday, October 11, 2014

The New Germans

In recent weeks in Germany....there's been a fair amount of news play on immigrants arriving in Germany, and getting shuffled into marginal living situations.

This week, after the Octoberfest operation ended in Munich.....they shifted the fest tents around to become temporary immigration housing areas.

What can generally be said is that the fest tents aren't acceptable....but they are more acceptable than sleeping under cardboard-like structures (reportedly by the press, at least a hundred were living in this situation).

The political figures are in a bad situation.....they will talk up how they are in a contingency operation with no real "nice" housing available, and this has to be accepted for the time being.  Some are even stupid enough to say that fest-tent living is just a one week situation, with better housing coming.

What they will end up doing....having lived here in Germany for twenty-odd years and knowing the game that gets played shuffle these folks out of the front door to a van, which will take them to some rural town in the middle of nowhere, where the local mayor has city-acquired property that he can lease out to the state or federal government.

The apartment house?  These will be older structures that are at least forty years old, with a stable roof, a heating system that functions, and doors/windows that are functional.  Ghetto-like?  Well....yeah.

You see.....public housing around urban areas of Germany are being challenged.  There's simply not enough for regular folks.  These immigrant folks are arriving and basically being pushed out the front door to some hinterland two hours away from the urban area and jobs.

So, you can imagine this van pulling up with eight refugee individuals and dumping them off to a fairly old house in some small town with seven-hundred residents.....two hours driving from Frankfurt.  The house is gray, with no character or charm.  The mayor will be there to greet the refugees immigrants....smiling as some local press or state-run TV team shows everyone just absolutely thrilled to have new folks in town (cynically spoken of course).

The local Red Cross will offer up some pots and pans.  There'll be some big box of soap, detergent, toilet paper, and kid's diapers.  Someone will donate an old TV or two from their garage to the apartment house, and the four units will be quickly occupied by the new residents.  Each will sit there for an hour or two.....thinking....they remember TV pictures of wonderfully-built houses in Germany, with bright colors.  And this doesn't match up with the image they had.

A day will pass and the new immigrants will ask about work.  The mayor will sit there....listening to the translation guy explain the question....and grin....saying you just need to show up at the Arbeitsamt.

The clerk at the Arbeitsamt will note that you lack language you need to take these German classes.  After a week of German classes.....the new immigrant is sitting there in the apartment and shaking his head.  He never knew German was so hard or complicated.  This language class thing....might take months and months.  He notices a cockroach on the floor, and then looks at the crack in the wall.

Somewhere around the sixth month.....some of the refugees will question why they have to stay at this town in the middle of nowhere.  There's no jobs other than stocking shelves at the grocery or working at some local farmer's operation.

The social worker kinda explains things.  Germany doesn't have an abundance of housing in urban areas.  If you want to move to Berlin or need to find affordable housing.  Then the refugee gets a shock.....his salary, even if he ever gets ahead....will barely afford a marginal place of limited quality in a major urban area.

Maybe because of the threat back in his homeland....the idea of leaving makes sense.  You can't deny that part of the whole thing.  But then you come back to the German planning around this whole thing.  There is no plan.

Germans tend to make vast plans, that take years to put together and show a vast sense of the overall requirement.  When they say an autobahn is coming by your will know five to ten years prior, and you will know the precise entry and exit points.  When some German notes a new grocery coming into your "burb".....he's got everything planned out.....down to the aisles, number of parking spots, the number of part-time employees versus full-time employees, and store hours.  When some German parks department official lays out the modernization play for the city's usually not a one-year plan, or a five-year plan....but a vision that might even go up to twenty years ahead.

In this case.....I don't think any German city official, state employee, or political figure....ever thought they would have to deal with thousands of refugees or immigrants suddenly showing up.  To be'd almost need an American hauled in to do contingency planning for them.  We Americans seem to have a knack for split-moment decisions like this.

 So, if you happen to be driving out in some rural section of Germany, passing through a one-horse town, and note some guy sitting at a park bench with an odd jacket, some 1969 bad fashioned shirt, and a plaid pair of pants on on.....looking kind of's just an immigrant on another day of self-reflection.  Somehow, he thought it would have been better.


Anonymous said...

very well written article..

Anonymous said...

Well said Ripley!!!