Cultural readjustments of new migrants to Berlin


Survey report by Dr. Jaroslava Gaidosova-Lisker


The survey took place in a period from May to July 2018 in Berlin. Most of the respondents were male adults (age 25-35) who were seeking enrollment in colleges or vocational schools in Berlin. The questionnaire was in German, the follow-up interviews with 11 respondents were conducted in German or English.


Total number of respondents: 118

Countries of their origin: Afghanistan (16), Egypt (3), Eritrea (3), Iran (5), Iraq (18), Libya (2), Pakistan (1), Syria (73)


The follow-up interviews enhanced the quantitative data and provided valuable insights into the respondents’ understanding and/or mis-comprehensions of German culture, the areas and scopes of new opportunities, career expectations, educational demands, bureaucratic culture in Germany and the set of skills or a cultural "toolkit" that is necessary for a successful communication with German authorities. Respondents were keen to share their impressions of their life situations, their self-understandings (in terms of their prospective careers, personal trajectories, family lives, etc.) and their ‘feeling well’ or less well in German society.Though most respondents have acknowledged that the conditions of their living have improved upon the arrival in Germany, they sill feel the precariousness of their life situation. The outcomes from the interviews, and to some extent from the survey, identified the following areas that respondents perceive as problematic:


  • Pervasive uncertainty about their status and difficulties with planning their future in Germany
  • Inflexibility of administrative processes
  • Feeling unaccepted culturally and socially (as a second-rate person)
  • Imposition of strict normative behavior by majority society (school, workplace, authorities, etc.)
  • Cultural hierarchies (overt and latent racial and cultural biases particularly in formal interactions with majority society)
  • Glass ceiling with regard to opportunities (cultural and/or bureaucratic impediments in vocational training and in employments of skilled workers)

The survey and the interviews further identified following main areas of discrepancies between respondents’ assumptions/expectations and the reality of their cultural and social readjustments. The main impediments lie in the following areas:


  • Understanding of opportunities (real vs. assumed)
  • Understanding and assessment of demands and standards (school, re/training, employment, culture of workplace (German "Arbeitskultur"), the pace and amount of work, individual responsibility)
  • Self-assessment vis-à-vis those demands (including, but not limited to the lack of experience with making own decisions and adhering to them)
  • Understanding and re-assessment of respondents’ own experience in Germany (particularly with regard to education, vocational or other professional training, employment, micro-culture of the workplace, vertical vs. horizontal hierarchies and interaction therein, etc.)
  • Making informed choices (including understanding the information that was obtained)
  • Cultural re-valuation of gender roles (relative equality of both genders and the proliferation of choices of gender and sexual orientations)
  • Understanding and acceptance of religious freedom (toleration of non-believers)

At this date the survey shows already a historical set of data since most of the values have evolved – for instance, language proficiency and learning experience in Germany have grown, qualification and skilled-work expectancy rates have risen, career plans have evolved, accommodation situation has improved. However, the main discrepancies between the expectations on both sides, e.g. newcomers and the majority society, persist and have even slightly grown in their significance.


Diese Informationen entstammen unserer eigenen Datenbank und Forschung und sind Eigentum von Dr. Jaroslava Gaidosova-Lisker und Advena CIS.