Not at Home in Germany: Almost Half of Turkish Migrants Want to Leave

This week, results of the first study comparing opinions of Germans, Turks and Turks living in Germany were announced. There were some grounds to celebrate integration but there were also problems. Many immigrants say they feel out of place in both countries, almost half want to return home and Turkish youth are becoming more conservative than their elders.

Some estimates say almost four million people of Turkish descent live in Germany. Zoom
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Some estimates say almost four million people of Turkish descent live in Germany.

There are almost three million Turkish people living in Germany and, according to a new study released this week, almost half of them intend to return to Turkey at some stage. And interestingly, more younger Turks want to return to Turkey than their elders.

This is despite the fact that almost two thirds of respondents to the study (61 percent altogether)-- one of the first polls to compare the world views of around a thousand individuals from Turkey, Germany and the Turkish population living in Germany -- had been born in Germany or had been living in the country for over 30 years. Turks are the largest ethnic minority in Germany and make up almost 4 percent of the country's population. Yet only 21 percent of those polled feel happy to call Germany home.

In fact, over half of the Turks living in Germany (62 percent) said that when they are in the country they felt like Turks. But when they were in Turkey they felt like Germans. A significant percentage of the migrants (45 percent) felt that they were not wanted in Germany and only 54 percent believed that Turks and Germans had the same educational opportunities.

Liberal Attitudes Indicate Some Integration in Action

The study, which was conducted by Info Research, a company based in Berlin and Liljeberg Research International which is based in Antalya, Turkey, was released on Thursday and questioned interviewees on subjects like politics, morals, relationships and religion. Despite not feeling completely at home in Germany, the answers from the Turkish-German indicated that there was some integration in action. While German respondents were generally more liberal -- in everything from their approval ratings on gay marriage to virgin brides to abortion rights -- and the Turkish respondents were generally less liberal, the Turkish-Germans were somewhere between the two.

For example, most Germans trust their police, their schools and tertiary institutions and German justice. They trust political parties and big business least. And apart from having less trust in the German police and military than their German friends, most Turkish-Germans feel about the same.

The most dramatic differences come in questions related to family life. Only around 10 percent, or less, of Germans believe that a man and woman should not live together before marriage (8 percent), that a woman should not have sex before marriage (7 percent), that a virgin bride is important (6 percent), that bringing up children is women's work (9 percent) and that one's parents should have a say in whom a person marries (5 percent).

On the other hand, the Turkish-Germans and the Turkish are far closer on these matters. Almost half of Turkish-Germans (47 percent) believe that a man and woman should not live together before marriage and over half (67 percent) of Turkish think they shouldn't. Almost half of Turkish-Germans believe a bride should be a virgin (48 percent) and over two thirds of Turks in Turkey (72 percent) agree.

The figures are similar for women being responsbile for children's upbringing (Turkish-German: 32 percent, Turkish: 52 percent) and whether your parents can tell you whom you should be marrying (Turkish-German: 48 percent, Turkish: 68 percent). Abortions and homosexual relationships are still taboo in both of the Turkish populations and in general, the two Turkish populations were also far more religious.

Younger Turkish-Germans Becoming More Conservative

Having said that though, the Turkish-Germans came closer to their German counterparts again when it came to tolerance. For example, while only a third of Turks were happy with an unmarried couple as neighbors, over half of Turkish-Germans (57 percent) felt fine about it, as did over two thirds of Germans (76 percent).

In announcing the results of the study, Die Welt newspaper reported that research leader Holger Liljeberg noted that those traditional values seemed to be a lot stronger among younger Turkish-Germans surveyed. Those aged between 15 and 29 held more conservative opinions on everything from virginity to abortion to believing in heaven. Liljeberg felt this might be a reaction that the young Turkish people had to the pressure of trying to fit into German society. "The younger ones think: If they don't want me here, then I would rather have a Turkish identity," Liljeberg said on Thursday. Whereas the older immigrants were more relaxed about it, he added.

'We Are Not a Society that Prescribes Individuals' Views'

For Liljeberg, the answer lies in education. "The problem is that many don't know the language perfectly," he said at a press conference Thursday, suggesting a Turkish-language school that includes German courses in order to prepare students for the future. "One cannot get a handle on a culture and education with only 30 percent of the vocabulary."

However, Barbara John, Berlin's state official in charge of immigration issues who was also at the release of the study, said that the problem lay beyond language and that it was also a cultural issue. John said she didn't see any problem in the differences in values and compared the Turkish values to earlier German social values from the 1960s, which had since changed. "Each individual decides their own moral code," she said. "This is a small thing for those living together in a constitutional state. We are not a society that prescribes individuals' views."

It was also noted that the number of younger Turks living in Germany who were sampled was small. Of the 331 Turkish-German respondents, only 86 people were aged between 15 and 20. Additionally the survey's authors cited a margin of error of 3.7 to 5.4 percentage points.

sed, with reporting by Lisa Hemmerich

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