Who are the “new Germans”?


At Language on the Move, Ingrid Piller reviews a new German book by Özlem Topçu, Alice Bota, and Khuê Pham called Wir neuen Deutschen: Wer wir sind, was wir wollen (Us new Germans: Who we are, what we want). The three authors grew up Turkish, Polish, and Vietnamese, respectively, in a newly multicultural Germany.

As young adults, Topçu, Pham and Bota, too, find strength in the fact that they have learnt to live with difference. What they grapple with now is the fact that, despite having been socialized in Germany and feeling German and despite their successful careers in Germany, they continue to be imagined as somehow not German or less German by the majority society.

Pham currently works for German paper Die Zeit, though previously she worked for British paper The Guardian and US National Public Radio. She wrote a piece for NPR back in 2008 about immigrants and children of immigrants in her native city of Berlin:

I have a Vietnamese name and a German passport. When I was born in Berlin 25 years ago, the wall was still dividing East and West, and the city wasn’t very multicultural. At the birth clinic, my mother was the only person who wasn’t German.

[...]

But being an immigrant means you’re not equal to the Germans. It annoys me that most Germans think of me as an auslaender, a foreigner, even though I have German citizenship and speak the language perfectly.

Take that term — immigrant. Even though I was born here, Germans call me an immigrant. And worst of all, so do I!

Topçu, Özlem, Alice Bota, and Khuê Pham. 2012. Wir neuen Deutschen: Wer wir sind, was wir wollen. Hamburg: Rowohlt.




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