Whenever I converse with a foreigner living in Germany, I hear that they find it hard to make friends with locals, and their circle is mostly other migrants and internationals. And every time I listen to it, I wonder about the causes. Are we Germans racists who don’t want to interact with others? Or are the foreigners not even trying to be a part of society and try to stick with their own culture? I don’t want to blame anyone. I neither want to force migrants to assimilate nor do I want to accuse all locals of xenophobia.
It’s often a language issue for new arrivals in the country. That can only be a partial explanation, though. There are a lot of second or third-generation migrants in Germany who speak German fluently without a hint of accent. Their circle of friends still appears to be people from their own culture.
Again, I’m not saying that people must always mingle with everyone. We naturally gravitate towards those with a similar background. However, there’s always the risk of groups forming Parallelgesellschaften (parallel societies) and being alienated from each other in times when we need to all work together. If I go to an event and the ethnic markup of people in attendance is fundamentally different from those I saw on the street or train to get there, I can’t help but feel that something’s off.
It’s not a German problem per se. When I wrote about attending Jesscamp in my previous post, I pointed out that the event didn’t have racial diversity because practically all the attendees, even those from far abroad, were White. But I live in Germany and care about politics and society, so it’s my focus. I’ve thought about what I can do to help connect over various boundaries.
Twice per month, I’m running a public board game night with around 10-30 people joining. We have good diversity in terms of gender, age, occupation, and social class. But there are no people who aren’t White locals. Board games are a very German thing, but not exclusively. Everyone likes to play. It may be an excellent place to start and explicitly try and invite people that would make the event more diverse and could help them connect to others. Some games are problematic because of language, but others only need a little language skills, and I can help translate and explain rules, at least in English.
How do I find the people that I want to attend, though? I know some local groups for different nationalities can be found and contacted via social media, so maybe I’ll do a cold reach-out. One of my online friends, also an expat living in Germany, encouraged me to do so and said that many international groups are open to hearing from locals.
Lately, I’ve desired to host more events and connect people, but I have not made any moves. It may be a topic for another post, but what I said above is a point to get the ball rolling. As it’s the beginning of October, let’s agree that this is one of my goals for the month. I’ll give you an update in November on how it went.