I sat last night watching the late news on German public-TV. They had this one interesting segment...a city-run integration program for immigrants.
The deal was beyond language or job-training. The city had brought in various people to talk about public transportation, purchasing, banking, German behavior, etc. I've often pointed out that this was a severe weakness among the Germans....not laying out the complex nature of German society.
So, they keyed in for this segment on one interesting part of the big 'cog'.....recycling. It doesn't matter if you arrive from the US, Syria, or Japan.....German recycling is a fairly complex episode and you need to devote a minimum of hour or two in understanding your responsibility and duty in the situation.
In 1978 when I first arrived in the Frankfurt area....recycling didn't exist. Six years later, when I returned for a second tour in 1984....they were just getting around to bottle recycling. By the end of 1992 when I returned for my third tour to Germany....the base (Bitburg) had a German hired to be the recycling expert and you got a 30-minute orientation as you in-processed to the base. To be honest, I was a bit shocked over the amount of structure that they'd added to the whole program.
I watched this news segment, and the Syrians (mostly all Syrians as far as I could tell) were paying attention and attentive to the structure of this. Toward the end of the training period, was some 'test' of sorts to ensure they grasped the whole thing. So the camera swung around to the 'professor' giving the lecture and test, and here was two Syrian guys to his side.
The 'professor' was talking to the entire group of fifteen individuals but the camera was focused mostly on him, and the two Syrian guys (who I will name Akil and Musad). Akil and Musad were whispering back and forth during this demonstration test situation. And at one point....Musad can be seen just shaking his head. My guess is that Akil wisely noted that this is pretty crazy stuff, and awful complicated, and Musad just shook his head in full agreement.
The thing is....if you stand back and admire the German recycling program, and your 'duty' to it....it's fairly complicated. It's not just the four cans that you dump your house stuff into....it's the battery business and where you can dump your bag every three or four months....it's the bio stuff and what can go into the can....it's the old refrigerator that you'd like to get rid of....it's the Christmas tree that you'd like to have picked up....it's the living room sofa....it's the laptop or old printer, and on, and on.
You can go and ask most Germans where their local or regional recycling center is located, and be surprised that a quarter of the public has absolutely no idea where it is. You can ask your German neighbor about the twenty-odd rules on bio-garbage, and at best....they might know half the rules. You can ask about the regular garbage can, and the forty-odd items which cannot go into the can...and find that your German landlord can only recite half the list. The Germans themselves....aren't that sure about all the recycling rules. And you expect Musad and Akil to pick this up and run with it?
Yeah, I'm guessing that Musad is just sitting there at the apartment and talking to his wife about this stuff and asking if she's sure about staying here. It probably was a lot simpler back in Damascus with just one garbage truck per week, and just one big can to dump stuff into.