When a country suddenly gains over a million new residents, you’d think it would be easy to tell the newcomers from the locals. In my first few days in Darmstadt (Germany), this didn’t seem to be the case.
Germany has granted asylum to more refugees than any other European country, currently just over 1 million. Knowing that, I expected to see many Syrian refugees while out and about in Darmstadt. So far, I have seen a handful of people dressed in traditional Muslim clothing (about ¾ of the Syrian population is Muslim). For the most part though, I cannot easily distinguish long-time Darmstadt residents from refugees who have arrived in the past few years.
Do I not notice a defined separation between these two groups because I am not familiar with Germany? Are refugees so integrated into German culture that to an outsider such as myself the difference isn’t obvious, or do they keep to themselves?
We met a Syrian refugee today who is a student at Hochshule Darmstadt (Darmstadt University). Even when describing his journey to Germany, he emphasized that he did not want to be considered a refugee, and said that mentality is extremely common among other refugees. That confining identification refugees feel likely contributes to them blending in relatively well with native Germans.
It was incredible to hear his story, and I hope this blog as a collection of stories will help us as the United States understand we cannot continue to sit idly by.
“You live on two things in Syria: fear and hope. That is all there is.” -Syrian refugee