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The Project


Between 2011 and 2012 the number of new immigrants in Berlin has increased by almost 10%, from 69,936 to 77,104; 68,000 of them are not-Germans.

The reason why people move here is rarely related to the profession practiced: with the highest unemployment rate in Germany (11.6% against a national average of 6.6%), Berlin remains its sexy but poor capital city.


The project intention is to understand why Berlin has become so popular as a destination, by interviewing call center agents, who, in a vast majority, do a job that has nothing to do with their background, but that allows them to live in Berlin, precisely.

2013, Berlin.


Everywhere we hear that Berlin will become the new capital city of Europe over the next few years. And, living here, you can understand why. 


Berlin is the city where, on the threshold of this new millennium, you have to be. It is the European city that collects individuals from every side of the world, pilgrims who for a season, usually short, of their life will contribute to spin faster the wheel of change, who will contribute changing its identity, abandoning it when they will be fed up with it.  


Geographical center of EU28, Berlin, until twenty years ago urban depiction of the conflict communism-capitalism, is quickly becoming representation of the triumph of the latter and its daughter, globalized economy, with the consequent devastation of social alternative initiatives.

Invaded by its poor brothers in Europe, young and not so young, looking for the chance to live in dignity, from curious and from rich colonists, Berlin, forge of admirable subcultural and intercultural experiments, consistent with a global trend is concurrently developing the sores of xenophobia. Outside of the 4/5 districts colonized and gentrified, foreigners lose that sweet feeling of being at home, they feel lost, stranger, in danger. And in part they are.


The whole week can flow away as life at Luna Park, you can live like adults Pinocchio in Berlin, in a soap bubble suspended on life. Whole neighborhoods are sacrificed to the goddess Entertainment. But outside of the carousel there is a city that continues to live instances typical of any other city in the world, instances of ordinary people that become more and more feeble in the pumping techno. 


In order to make room and provide services to these guests, neighborhoods take on new faces, buildings are refurbished, knocked down, rebuilt, shisha bars get open and loft get sold. While rent prices have doubled.


Former and adopted berliners seem to observe each other from a distance and, also due to a language barrier, contacts are sporadic, sometimes it looks like they are even avoided.




This research focused on a specific category of foreigners, those who are in Berlin not for just one season. These persons have a job, well paid but not qualified, in a customer service call center, which, above all, is typically a job far from their educational and professional background; this job is normally the first access into the German labour market and sometimes it becomes a durable choice.


What emerged from these interviews is that generally work gives dignity to human beings by placing them in a social fabric, and represents a source of income that allows them to pursue their life plans.

Although not in line with the background of none of them, who mostly have university education, this work offers an enjoyable international environment and a good salary that, in fact, makes possible life choices, first of all, living in Berlin.

Because people don't move to Berlin in search of work but to live there: work is a consequence.


The choice to move precisely in Berlin normally comes by chance: the basis is a socially precarious and territorially unstable present. 

People get there to try and learn it is simple to stay, because compared to the main big european cities, it is still affordable, because it is not necessary to speak German and because the city offers a rich human landscape in which it is easy to find your own space, your own dimension. Even if you don't speak a single word in German, even if your friends circle does not count a single Berliner.

People choose this city because in Berlin you can finally regain dignity as a social subject as well as an individual: you do not depend anymore on parents, you don't need to jump through hoops to make ends meet, you are not forced to unlikely and unacceptable compromises, you can believe that there is a future and it will be brighter.


The purpose of this research is to give a face to these foreigners, to have them emerge from the darkness that creates misunderstandings and conflict and to place a brick in the construction of a bridge between locals and foreigners.

Because ignorance is the mother of all pettiness.

Some facts and data


1973, with the oil crisis Germany suspends the agreements that in the previous twenty years had called hundred thousands Gastarbeiter to support the so-called Wirtschaftswunder, economic miracle, in the industrial sector; those who were already in the country are pushed to leave it with a reimbursement of 10.500 DM. This led to the near-impossibility for non-Europeans to settle in Gemany: immigrants were only asylum seekers, repatriates and families of Gastarbeiter, many of whom had in fact chosen not to take advantage of the state incentive for the return and instead to be reunited with their families on German soil. The immigration flow therefore consisted mainly of unskilled workers who often end up expanding the percentage of unemployment.


In 2000 the direction of German policy in terms of immigration began to change radically: in order to meet the growing demand of IT experts, Gerhard Schröder promotes the Green-Card Initiative intended for non-European countries: in 2001 this leads to the draft of the first government document defining these new political horizons, and in 2005, when the immigration law enters into force, to the establishment of an integration monitoring program. The program will run until 2009 and its result will be a more detailed definition of the concept of immigrant and of the criteria that can describe the degree of integration into the social fabric, in order to make the phenomenon transparent and measurable.


In place of the term "immigrant" Einwanderer, it is now preferred "person with migration background" Person mit Migrationshintergrund, concept that gathers non-German citizens, naturalized citizens, repatriated, children born from these groups.


Despite the persistent elusiveness of the concept of integration, to it are referred all those activities that denote participation in social life and which can be divided into four analytical dimensions: structural integration, which refers to the access to major social institutions, including labour market, education system and political participation, passive or active; cultural integration, which is defined as the process of learning and socialization that involves both the immigrant and the adopting society; social integration, concerning social relations such as partner and group of friends; integration identification, concept that expresses the total identification with the host society identity structures.

The categories used for the survey space from language knowledge to participation to the labor market, from housing choices to crime rate, to education level.


These new policies, intended to fill the professional gaps of German society (currently doctors, engineers, mechanics and geriatric nurses) increasing the average education level and ensuring a large contributions influx for pensions, have been enormously successful, leading to an average immigration increase by 15% between mid-2011 and mid-2012 with thresholds of +88.7% for Polish and +78.2% for Greeks.


As for Berlin, according to 2010 statistics, the percentage of people with migration background amounts to 24%, in the middle between 42% in Frankfurt and 4% in Dresden; their age average is 34 years and the 47.5% of them are naturalized Germans.

Moreover, in Berlin itself there is a big difference between the percentages of the various districts: Mitte, Neukölln, Schöneberg and Charlottenburg are populated by around 40% people with migration background, followed by Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, while the district Treptow-Köpenick does not reach the 8%.





In conclusion, a video, found on the internet (here) about the gentrification process that is experiencing Neukölln, through the eyes of some locals who are observing the change from the beginning. Neukölln, until a few years ago one of the most infamous neighborhoods of Berlin with significant presence of immigrants of Turkish origin, is currently the favorite destination of this new generation immigrants, who contributed in the space of a very short time to a radical change in its identity.


Personally I have never had occasion to confront myself with the opinions expressed in the video, which I would take as a minority; in fact, so far, as an immigrant myself, I have always experienced complete openness and good treatment with the locals.

However, I think the worry, anxiety, anger expressed in this video may be understandable, if not sharable, and that certainly it can help to acquire a more complex understanding of this massive phenomenon. Because beyond the institutional dictate, integration passes through a mutual exchange between individuals within the boundaries of the community, of which we immigrants have chosen to be part of.

Because, again, ignorance is the mother of all pettiness.

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