09 April 2017

"We're not in Kansas Anymore!"

A few weekends ago, I took the train to get out of Berlin a little bit in order to visit a friend, who happened to be living in Sachsen-Anhalt, about three hours away by train. Sachsen-Anhalt is one of the 16 states that make up Germany, and while I have been there before, my previous visit was relatively short (just a day trip to Lutherstadt Wittenberg) to actually allow me to explore it. This time I had a weekend, and I had enough time to check out two towns. I must say that what I saw was a stark reminder that Berlin is definitely unlike the rest of Germany.

I spent a whole day exploring one town, where all I saw where white Germans. The lack of diversity was indeed palpable: after all, foreigners only make up 1.9% of the whole Sachsen-Anhalt population, which is the lowest of all federal states in Germany. I also noticed that there is a huge section of society that is missing: there are elderly people, and there are young people who are still in school. But the people my age are not really there, which suggests that once people finish school, they find a job and move out elsewhere. The only ones that remain are the retired people and the people who are still in school.

The lack of diversity surprised me. I wanted lunch one time, and so I explored this town by foot. Almost all of the restaurants and cafes I saw were offering schnitzel. Even the Spanish restaurant had schnitzel on its menu. This is a far cry from Berlin, and I must say, it makes me appreciate my surroundings more.

In the previous state elections in Sachsen-Anhalt last year, the right-wing party "Alternative for Germany" won second place, and is now the opposition. Somehow, seeing the social make-up of this one town makes that result not surprising. It is a very insular place, and is most probably a place that is conducive for right-wing ideologies.

Oh well, it was an interesting visit, nevertheless, and I must say I learned something. It's not a place I could imagine myself living in, but sometimes I think it is imperative to visit these places once in a while to form an appreciation for the things we sometimes take for granted.

2 comments:

  1. I feel the same in some French towns, I'm amazed by the lack of diversity, something I've taken for granted in Canada.

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    1. Zhu,

      I guess that's just a natural pattern: every country has areas that are less diverse than others. Visitors and immigrants would tend to flock to the urban areas like Paris and Berlin, and not to rural villages and small towns.

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