More ethnic Turks are now moving out of Germany than in. As the German economy lags, a Western education helps professional Turkish Germans find work in a booming Muslim nation. But they aren't always welcomed "home."
The stories often involve well-educated, well-integrated Turkish Germans -- the vast majority of emigrants who return to Turkey are young academics moving for economic reasons. Around 40,000 Turks and Turkish-descended Germans left for their parents' country of origin last year, or 10,000 more than the number of immigrants arriving from Turkey. A decades-long immigration trend has reversed.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
According to a survey by the Dortmund-based Futureorg Institut, one-third of all Turkish-German college students now plan to pursue a career in Turkey, not Germany. "They have far better opportunities to advance there than in Germany," says Marc Landau, head of the German-Turkish Chamber of Commerce. Mercedes Benz, for example, employs Turkish Germans as 30 percent of its mid-level and upper management in Turkey.
Most of these returnees go to Istanbul, where the job market is richest and where culture shock is manageable. This was the case for Emine Sahin, 37, an architect who calls herself a "model of integration" and pretty much had it all -- a sheltered childhood in a small western German town, German neighbors, German friends, good grades in school -- yet chose to leave. A job as a construction engineer took her from Frankfurt to Izmir on Turkey's west coast. Shortly afterward she joined a British real estate company in Istanbul. Now she works as a consultant for a German drugstore chain looking to open new markets in Turkey.
Sahin says she was never discriminated against in Germany on the basis of her name or her background; many things were simply more petty and less dynamic there than in booming Turkey. "Not everyone has realized yet what potential well-educated Turkish Germans hold," she says. "Someone who moves between two worlds can cope better with globalization. Really, the Germans should be bragging about us."
They are here, above all, to network and make contacts. Sometimes they share grievances over an unfamiliar culture and daily life in Turkey's cumbersome bureaucracy. "Many of us are not actually returnees, but are here in Turkey for the first time, coming not as Turks, but as Germans," Sahin says. They have German ideas, German values and German customs.
Sahin, the architect, landed in hot water in Istanbul when she contradicted a superior, breaking an unwritten rule. She later caused a commotion by fasting during Ramadan. It was something Sahin had always done in Germany, calling it a "vacation from my body." But among her strictly secular colleagues in Turkey, she now fell under suspicion of being religious.
Academics trained in Germany have excellent opportunities on the Turkish job market, while less qualified Turkish Germans prefer to remain in Germany rather than move to a country where they would have to compete against hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers. Those who do come to Turkey have to settle for odd jobs or working under the table. The minimum wage in Turkey is just 729 Turkish lira (€380 or $466) a month, while unemployment benefits amount to around €170 per month and welfare benefits are nonexistent.
See also: Germany: Turks emigrating back to Turkey