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Arrival

A guide for your first weeks in Germany

Understanding how Germany works is the basis for getting on well together. Everyone has the same obligations and has to obey German laws. But everyone has the same rights too. In this app you get to know the rules of this country and learn what you have to pay attention to. Try it! And start right now...

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Stimmen und Meinungen

Umul from Somalia

Umul from Somalia

"In Somalia you kiss the hand of the person you meet as a welcome. In Somalia, women don’t offer men their hand. It’s to do with our religion. Offering the hand is a custom only between women or between men. So here, it’s difficult for me to shake hands with men. It makes me uneasy."

Umul from Somalia

Umul from Somalia

Umul from Somalia

"People in a lot of shops wouldn’t give me a job because of my headscarf. But that’s no problem now I’m working for a security firm. I always wanted to be a doctor’s assistant. I want to start training for that next year. I already spent eight months as an intern in a hospital in Somalia. I now want to carry on from that and learn more."

Umul from Somalia

Constanze from Spain

Constanze from Spain

"Shaking hands was very strange to me when I first arrived in Germany. I was used to exchanging a kiss on the left and right cheeks as a welcome, even with strangers. The people in Germany are more reserved, cooler and not as emotional. I even notice it among people who are related. In some German families they just say hello instead of giving a handshake or a kiss. For me, that would be impossible, we always welcome one another with a kiss."

Constanze from Spain

Su from Turkey

Su from Turkey

"There are always lots of other children when I pick up my children from primary school. I sometimes give them a hug, too. I’m not quite sure whether it’s right or not. For me, lots of hugs and cuddles are a perfectly normal thing. I’m not sure whether other parents like it all that much when I greet their children with a hug. For me, it’s a sign of warmth."

Su from Turkey

Taha from Iraq

Taha from Iraq

"Flea markets were something I’d never seen before. People selling old stuff to other people. Clothes, books and electrical stuff on long tables in back yards, or on the pavement in front of houses. It’s good that you can bargain for good prices, it gives you a chance to talk to people. You couldn’t do that in Iraq. Iraqis would be ashamed to sell anyone old and used things. But it’s perfectly normal here. People try not to throw old things out right away – and they teach their children to do the same."

Taha from Iraq

Umul from Somalia

Umul from Somalia

"I once wanted to buy a sandwich spread in a supermarket. There was meat in it, but I didn’t know what kind. I couldn’t understand what was written on the label. I asked a woman if she could help me. She read the label and told me there was pork in the spread. It’s wonderful when people help you like that."

Umul from Somalia

Anastasia from Ukraine

Anastasia from Ukraine

"I had never drunk water from a tap before I came here. In Ukraine, my family always bought water for cooking and drinking."

Anastasia from Ukraine

Ferhad from Syria

Ferhad from Syria

"Blowing your nose in company is perfectly normal here. In Syria, it’s very bad manners. It simply isn’t done. I would go out or on to the balcony to do it. We have had to get used to people doing it in a room where other people are."

Ferhad from Syria

Taha from Iraq

Taha from Irak

"There’s no such thing as medical confidentiality in Iraq. Sometimes, three or four patients visit the doctor at one time and everyone can hear what the doctor says to them. That’s normal. Here, it’s unthinkable. Because of medical confidentiality. That was something new to me. It’s important to be able to trust doctors and tell them all your problems. It’s good to know you have no need to worry that your doctor could tell them to anybody else."

Taha from Iraq

Ferhad from Syria

Ferhad from Syria

"People here have a passport with all the vaccinations they have had. Doctors check it to see if you have the ones you need. That’s much more rigorous than at home. I think it's good because it makes you feel safer. My daughter just had her vaccinations."

Ferhad from Syria

Taha from Iraq

Taha from Iraq

"On the streets of my home country you can get to know ten people every day – here, you could maybe get to know one person in ten years. There always has to be a reason to meet people: in a club, at an event or in some kind of organisation. I used to go to an international youth club in Munich two or three times a week to have the opportunity to speak German with other people. If you want to learn, you have to be interested and ask things. Music is very important, so are sports or cultural organisations. They are great places for meeting people. The last thing you should do is stay at home."

Taha from Iraq

Marharyta from Ukraine

Marharyta from Ukraine

"When we arrived here, we first lived in a small town. There were people there who helped us. An old lady invited us to breakfast at her house and we spent the whole day with her. Other people told us a lot about the system in Germany, about kindergartens, doctors and education. There are a lot of helpful people."

Marharyta from Ukraine

Su from Turkey

Su from Turkey

"Respect for your parents is deeply rooted in Turkish society and plays an enormous role. We often agree with what our mothers or fathers say rather than getting into an argument. In Germany, parents and children are more at the same level. It of course depends on whether the family is liberal or traditional in its ways."

Su from Turkey

Hilal from Iraq

Hilal from Iraq

"The people here talk about things with their children much more – that’s fantastic. They listen to what their children have to say, tell their children things or read to them. All as if they were equals. Really at eye-level, not like talking down to a dumb little creature. People here even ask their children for their opinions on things like planning what to do and where to go on holiday. Back home, grown-ups tend to give instructions and say things like 'Do this!' or 'Don’t do that!'."

Hilal from Iraq

Su from Turkey

Su from Turkey

"Quite recently, I was chatting with my children at normal volume on an underground train. I consider it perfectly normal to speak at normal volume in public. Here, people are more likely to speak with lowered voices or prefer not to speak at all. Many of them just sit and stare into empty space. Even though it seems a little grumpy, most people are not as grumpy as they look. I think the way of life here is much more reserved than in many other countries."

Su from Turkey

Marharyta from Ukraine

Marharyta from Ukraine

"My son is in kindergarten all day. He can’t speak German yet, but I’m sure he understands a little bit. He already says ‘Danke’ (thank you) or ‘Darf ich…’ (may I) und understands the word ‘aufräumen’ (tidy up). I think he will learn to speak the language step-by-step. It’s much easier for children."

Marharyta from Ukraine

Niki from Greece

Niki from Greece

"The educational system here is very good. Perhaps a bit too tough at the start. The very young children are all sent to different schools after the fourth class. I think that’s a bit too soon. The good thing is that there are so many ways to get a chance to study. Even if you went to a secondary school, you can go to a grammar school later to get the qualifications you need to study. There are always chances for improving your education."

Niki from Greece

Marharyta from Ukraine

Marharyta from Ukraine

"We came to Germany with our son. He’s four years old and hasn’t learned any German yet. He knows a few words, but he can’t speak the language. But it is very important to learn German. We want to live and work here, so we really must learn German."

Marharyta from Ukraine

Koriakes from Syria

Koriakes from Syria

"The German language is like a key. You can’t do anything here without German. You might just as well stay at home. I was studying mathematics in Syria, and now I want to study it here. You just can’t do it without the language. I have some experience with English, German is easier for me. I love the grammar."

Koriakes from Syria

Taha from Iraq

Taha from Iraq

"I had a flat next door to the caretaker ("Hausmeister") of the house. That was something totally new to me. I didn’t know what his job actually involved. I once used my electric drill around lunchtime and he knocked on my door to tell me I had to stop because of a regulation that says you have to be quiet from 12 to 3 pm ("Mittagsruhe"). He was also the man I had to ask to fix things that weren’t working in my flat. The Hausmeister came and repaired the electrical sockets in my flat."

Taha from Iraq

Marharyta from Ukraine

Marharyta from Ukraine

"There was a gay pride parade in the city centre when we lived there. That wouldn’t be allowed in Ukraine. There are homosexual people in Ukraine but they don’t speak openly about it. For us, it’s a bit abnormal and a little difficult to accept. I accept that there are people like that, and I have nothing against them, but it is a bit unusual for me that they are allowed to make it so public."

Marharyta from Ukraine

Ferhad from Syria

Ferhad from Syria

"A friend of mine had a baby, and the father took parental leave from his job. He could stay home to look after the baby because his wife has the right to continue working. No man in Syria would do anything like that."

Ferhad from Syria

Constanze from Spain

Constanze from Spain

"In Spain, family values are different. In Germany, there is more emphasis on self-centred questions like ‘what will my future look like?’ or ‘how can I find fulfilment?’. The focus is more on the individual. There are people here who see their parents only once a year. That does happen sometimes in Spain, but it’s not as common as here. We see each other more often, talk together more and spend more time on the phone with each other. The family ties are much closer."

Constanze from Spain

Ferhad from Syria

Ferhad from Syria

"There were all sorts of new things I had to get used to. For example, what happened the first time we went to the district administration offices (“Landratsamt”). The civil servant asked my wife to sign a form. That was it, we were finished. I said: 'But I haven’t signed it yet.' He told me my wife’s signature was enough. That wouldn’t happen in Syria, the husband is always the one who signs."

Ferhad from Syria

Taha from Iraq

Taha from Iraq

"The people are not as open, they tend to be rather reserved. Apart from saying ‘hello’ and ’goodbye’, people don’t speak to each other at all in the lift. In Iraq, you spend much more time with your neighbours for a chat or a cup of tea. I’m a very open-minded person and love to communicate with people. Some people find that a positive attitude, but others don’t like it at all. Their first thought is ‘what do you want?’. I now know that I must be less direct and take care that people don’t get a wrong impression."

Taha from Iraq

Marharyta from Ukraine

Marharyta from Ukraine

"We have German neighbours. But we don’t see each other all that often. They are at work and we are at our language course. But we do help each other a bit, like when the postman brings a parcel. I take the parcel for them when I’m at home and they do the same for me."

Marharyta from Ukraine

Ferhad from Syria

Ferhad from Syria

"Here, you are free to say whatever you like on the street and in the S-Bahn (suburban trains). Nobody ever says things like “You can’t say that, it’s taboo”. The day before yesterday I saw a show on TV with people making jokes about Angela Merkel. That would be taboo back home. No one is allowed to criticise the President or officials, it’s forbidden. People who do are sent to prison. Freedom means a lot to everyone in Germany."

Ferhad from Syria

Taha from Iraq

Taha from Iraq

"I began writing 30 years ago. There was no freedom of the press at home, so I had to write secretly and couldn’t publish anything I wrote. You couldn’t criticise the system or have your own opinion. In Germany, I can express my opinions openly and will soon be launching my own blog. I am free to say or write what I want. It says so in the constitution (“Grundgesetz”). You also have a free vote. A German chancellor has to go when he or she doesn’t get enough votes. Even the president can’t stay in office for ever. The Grundgesetz is a wonderful thing and it’s a wonderful thing that we have it in Germany."

Taha from Iraq

Su from Turkey

Su from Turkey

"In Turkish, we tend to be more descriptive. German is more direct and people are quicker with criticism. In Turkish we try to formulate things more politely. For example: if you come from a Turkish background, it’s terribly hard to refuse a gift. More often than not, you would praise the giver and tell them how much you like it."

Su from Turkey

Zeki, born in Germany

Zeki, born in Germany

"You do have contact with your neighbours in Germany, but it’s generally very reserved. You hardly ever visit each other, if at all, but you do say hello when you meet on the street or at the door to your flat. A few words at the door are quite normal, but no one is invited in for a chat. That would never happen with a Turkish family. You would immediately invite them in, offer food and drink and talk together for hours. When you live in the country, relations with neighbours in Germany are also much warmer than in the city. That’s what I’m used to in Turkey, people always have time for each other."

Zeki, born in Germany

Marharyta from Ukraine

Marharyta from Ukraine

"I don’t think it’s good that so many people here in Germany don’t go to church. But that’s all up to them. Nobody here forces anyone to go to church."

Marharyta from Ukraine

Zeki, born in Germany

Zeki, born in Germany

"Religion doesn’t seem to play much of a role here, but the people are religious anyway. They foster the culture, even though many of them don’t go to church. I know a lot of people who pay church tax ("Kirchensteuer") every month. I find it fascinating that even atheists here know a lot about religion. They are interested in it. For me, that’s a sign of tolerance. Everyone here can practice the religion they like, without bans or repression."

Zeki, born in Germany

Umul from Somalia

Umul from Somalia

"At Christmas here, the people give each other presents and sweets. We also give gifts and visit the family at the Sugar Feast in Somalia. At Christmas I saw that a man with a white beard and a red coat comes. He comes and gives presents to the children. That’s different."

Umul from Somalia

Hilal from Iraq

Hilal from Iraq

"Even celebrations and parties here are organised, reliable, punctual and planned. It’s less spontaneous and chaotic. I’ve even been invited to garden parties. The people are very friendly and tell you where everything is – where you can find the noodle salad and where to find the drinks. Where I come from, everything is more chaotic and a bit more colourful, too. The first thing you notice when you’re from the Orient is how much alcohol the people here drink. It almost always seems to play an important role."

Hilal from Iraq

Zeki, born in Germany

Zeki, born in Germany

"In Germany, they have what they call ‘Schützenfeste’ (shooting fairs). I used to think they were very strange. There are lots of ‘Schützenvereine’ (shooting clubs) who practice shooting all year round and then get together at a fair with competitions to show how good they are. You can eat, drink and have a great time with everyone there. We always went to the fairs; you get to know a totally different side of the Germans."

Zeki, born in Germany

Umul from Somalia

Umul from Somalia

"At Christmas here, the people give each other presents and sweets. We also give gifts and visit the family at the Sugar Feast in Somalia. At Christmas I saw that a man with a white beard and a red coat comes. He comes and gives presents to the children. That’s different."

Umul from Somalia

Hilal from Iraq

Hilal from Iraq

"Germans have good table manners and eat very tidily with knives and forks. They only cook enough for the number of people who will be eating. Nothing is wasted and it’s mostly only enough for only one invitation and no more. Everything is cooked fresh and eaten up straight away. Everyone helps to tidy things up when the meal is over. Even the guests help by taking their plates into the kitchen. Where I come from, that’s taboo. I suppose it is very helpful, but, back home, a guest who did that would be insulting the family honour."

Hilal from Iraq

Niki from Greece

Niki from Greece

"I think it’s good that there are rules and regulations. For example that you can’t have a barbecue just anywhere in parks. This protects the environment and doesn’t disturb other people. If people could party wherever they like, where could people go to get some peace and quiet? I think this rule is good for everyone."

Niki from Greece

Hilal from Iraq

Hilal from Iraq

"Environmental protection and separating refuse are not a topic at home. We have other problems. Here, everything’s so disciplined. People here separate organic rubbish from paper and separate residual refuse as well, all in different bins. I did it right from the start. I was fascinated by the idea and was happy to go along with it."

Hilal from Iraq