Integration in Germany: The Second Generation

Extract from an article by Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, in The New York Times, February 9

Unlike the first generation of immigrants, who were eager to prove their utility to the host state, the second generation, while better integrated, expresses humiliation at having to imbibe the norms of others. Many in this second generation have graduated from German schools and were socialized in Germany, but they are using their education and freedom to grapple with their complex identities, and chafing under parental and social pressure to conform.

These children of immigrants don’t dream of returning to their familial or national past. But they are eager to make their way, and frustrated by the prospect of being second-class citizens.


6 responses to “Integration in Germany: The Second Generation

  1. The question of how to sensibly and effectively deal with the inter-generational cultural continuity, rupture or adjustment to ‘socially constructed integration’ at both the individual and social levels as well from an education policy perspective is, I believe, paramount to many first- and second-generation immigrant or ‘mixed ethnicity’ families in Canada, my own included.

  2. Hearing about some immigrant families in Britain in the 1960s suggested to me that the initial immigrant had first-hand knowledge of the conditions that led to immigration and that knowledge was passed on to the second generation. Problems arose with the third generation who had little idea of what the original `home’ had been like, but did have first-hand knowledge of the `new’ country and its people and customs.
    Further, they were born in that country, educated in that country and had every right to be treated as a citizen of that country – but too often were singled out and discriminated against on the basis of race, creed or colour.
    The integration challenge is long term and involves a mindset change by the people of the country.
    That is too often ignored or opposed with the apocryphal but frequent comment: If you don’t like it here, go back where you came from.’

    • The last line of your post reminded me of a bumper sticker I wish I could forget: “Fit in or F#€¥ Off” The attitude is more common than we want to admit.

      • John, you are correct. I chose the words to remind people of the bumper sticker messages that you wish you could forget. Please don’t think it was an endorsement of that sentiment.


    Canadian immigration experience, while having its own flaws, is unique. Fewer feel second class. Inherent in our National identity is that we are all (except aboriginals) all immigrants, and we are without American exceptionalism. Immigrant voices and faces are on the letterheads and in the corridors of power. An immigrant kid can grow up to be a PM, GG, Mayor or Corporate boss. Few if any other nations have had “national” identity transcend a single religion, language, or racial heritage. Where else could there be Hockey Night play by play in Punjabi, or “Sugar Sammy” an Indo-Cdn, making a career doing anti-separatist humour in impeccable colloquial French. Where national identity is defined by a single religion, language, or racial heritage, immigrants will continue to struggle with second class citizenship..

  4. Elisabeth Ecker

    I have a contrarian opinion. The best advice I ever got as an opinionated teenage immigrant was: “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go home”.
    As an explanation when I came for one year intending to learn English the Canadian embassy in Vienna asked me, do you want an immigration visa or a visitor’s visa. As an immigration visa gives you more flexibility, I chose it. The rest is history. To get back to my original statement, there is value for an immigrant to first try to fit in and find out all the good things about Canada. Eventually, good cultural habits immigrants bring get adapted. I am sure we all can think of many examples. Maybe a better way to phrase it would be: “It is important to first learn about Canadian ways and keep remembering why you left home.”