More Turks leaving Germany than coming in

Stephen Beard Jan 6, 2011

More Turks leaving Germany than coming in

Stephen Beard Jan 6, 2011


Kai Ryssdal: There was a report out today from the European Commission talking about consumer sentiment over there. It’s pretty high, back to where it was before the recession started. That’s thanks in part to how well Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, is doing. It’s doing so well, as we told you yesterday that Germany’s having trouble filling all the jobs it has. That labor shortage is being made worse by a specific pattern of reverse migration. For the first time since Germany started importing workers from Turkey 50 years ago, more Turks are moving out of Germany than are moving in.

From Istanbul, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: Ahmet Bahadiarli is driving around the pleasant suburb of Bahcesehir on the outskirts of Istanbul. Ahmet settled here when he arrived in Turkey more than a year ago, because it reminded him of Germany, the country where he was born.

Ahmet Bahadiarli: I was looking for the Germany in Istanbul or the Germany in Turkey. Bahcesehir is a planned suburb. I’m living in a gated community.

He likes his gated apartment complex not because he’s worried about crime. It’s because in unruly Istanbul, he craves German-style order — prompting the question: Why did he leave Germany?

Bahadiarli: I never felt really comfortable in Germany. May I behave like a German, I think like a German, but I never feel like a German. I always feel myself as a foreigner.

Even his German friends, he says, were too ready to dismiss all Turks there as muggers or Muslim fanatics. But here in Istanbul he feels at home. And since he makes a living as a day trader and all he needs is a laptop and an Internet connection, he says the move has been fairly seamless. He thinks he’ll stay.

Bahadiarli: I’m feeling comfortable, earning enough money not to starve. I don’t think so that I will go back to Germany. I don’t think so.

Sound of ferry horn

A ferry ride away across the Bosphorus Strait — on the other side of Istanbul — another young German Turk has a rather different story to tell. Architect Emine Sahin says she never suffered discrimination growing up in Germany. She came back to Turkey four years ago for economic reasons, because the construction industry was booming here. She donned a hard hat and worked as a site manager — and here she encountered discrimination.

Emine Sahin: As a woman in the construction sector, it’s difficult, because it’s a sector that’s male-dominated sector. It’s difficult.

Difficult to get male workers to carry out her instructions. Now she works in real estate development and has other frustrations, like, she claims, Turkish timekeeping.

Sahin: The German people are punctual. If you have your meeting at ten o’clock, you will be there two minutes to 10. But in Turkey, they are sometimes two hours late and they say, “OK , I’m sorry because it was traffic.” But if you know there is traffic, go two hours earlier.

Sound of Turkish folk song

The German-Turks, it must be said, are not entirely popular with the locals. This song sums up the feeling. It complains about inconsiderate returnees. Others claim the incomers speak poor Turkish.

There’s always going to be a cultural clash, says business manager Yildiz Taylan. She left Turkey at the age of nine, and now is back from Germany at the age of 40 to find her roots.

Yildiz Taylan: I am very, very German, I have to admit it. The first step to finding myself and finding the culture, is to admit “OK, I’m too German to be Turkish anymore. I’m sorry, it’s gone!”

Taylan laughs

Nevertheless, thanks to Turkey’s buoyant economy, many thousands more seem likely to follow her path. A recent survey suggests that one-third of all German-Turkish college students plan to pursue a career in Turkey.

In Istanbul, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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