Germany: Integrating Immigrants

Germany is a country shaped by immigration. Between 1950 and 2014, 44 million migrants came to Germany. During the same period, 32 million people emigrated from Germany. Migrants make up a slightly bigger share of the population in Germany than in the United States. The recent increase in immigration is a result of both the EU’s freedom of movement and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. As a result, integration is now an important topic in Germany.

“It is very important that we perceive integration as an opportunity for people who chose to migrate to Germany, but also as an expectation that they will learn German and abide by our laws.”

– Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany

Julius Böhme represents Germany in World Brain Bee Championship

A 17-year old student from Germany is in Washington this week to compete against 24 other contestants in the World Brain Bee Championship – an annual neuroscience competition for youth. Julius Böhme, a student from Demen, Germany, is representing his country in a competition that tests students on their knowledge of the human brain, including intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensations and various diseases.

A few months prior, Böhme won Germany’s Deutsche Neurowissenschaften-Olympiade (DNO e.V.), which hosts neuroscience Olympiads as part of the International Brain Bee Organization. By receiving first place, Böhme went on to represent Germany in the United States.

While in Washington, Böhme visited the German Embassy with his parents and girlfriend and spoke about his passion for neuroscience. His interest in the field was sparked about two years ago after his grandfather was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological condition that adversely affects the mind and the body, he said. Witnessing his grandfather’s suffering is what initially triggered Böhme’s quest for knowledge about the brain. As a young student, Böhme had not learned neuroscience in school, and what he knows now has been self-taught.

“The brain is so fascinating to me and many others because it is that organ that makes us who we really are and we don’t truly understand it,” Böhme said. “Everybody carries a brain. But the majority of people don’t think about the organ that we need to think. I would like for more people to think about how beautiful their organ is and that you really need it. You can live with one kidney, for example, but you can’t cut off half of your brain.”

Böhme is troubled that doctors and scientists understand so little about psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders. After he graduates from secondary school next year, he hopes to attend a university and study medicine, specializing in neurology and psychiatry. His goal is to contribute new knowledge to the field, which would potentially help those who suffer from psychiatric disorders.

Winning the World Brain Bee Championship would “be amazing,” Böhme said. The $3000 scholarship prize would help him pay for university, which can be expensive, depending on where someone chooses to study. “It’s also nice to get feedback that you already know a lot about certain regions,” Böhme says.

The competition will feature six knowledge stations and tests will have various formats, including multiple choice questions and timed oral exams. But regardless of how Böhme fares, his interest in the brain will not waver – and he’s already thinking about the future of the field.

“Every brain is very unique and all the connections throughout the brain make a personality,” he said. “For me it would be great if humanity at some point in the future would be able to track all the connections in your brain and be able to store it in a computer or so, because you can really draw a personality from someone that way.”

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Arschbombe

You’re standing at the edge of the swimming pool, getting read to jump in. As you make the leap, you bring your

knees in as close as you can and wrap your arms around them. You tuck in your chin and get ready for the impact. Like a cannonball, you meet the water with a huge splash – one that grabs the attention of other kids and provokes glares from angry sunbathers trying to stay dry.

You have just created an Arschbombe.

The German word Arschbombe describes the type of jump that creates the biggest splash in the water. In English, we refer to this as a “cannonball jump”. But the German word is even more amusing; literally translated, it means “butt bomb”. There’s no need to describe why; anyone who has jumped into a pool cannonball-style knows that their rear end hits the water first – like a bomb.

Kids particularly love Arschbomben; these type of jumps have the greatest impact on the water and leave the biggest impression on bystanders. To perfect an Arschbombe, it is important to jump high (preferably from a diving board, if there is one) and to tuck your arms and legs in as much as possible. The more spherical your body is shaped, the bigger the splash.

There is truly an art to perfecting the Arschbombe. So much, in fact, that people from around the world compete in the so-called Splashdiving Championship – an annual competition that is taking place in Sindelfingen, Germany this weekend. The competition seeks to find those who create the biggest splash. Contestants are judged by the degree of difficulty of the jump and the size of the resulting splash. In many cases, the preferred jumping style is the Arschbombe.

Word of the Week: Freibad

Germany has more than 7,000 public swimming pools, half of which are Freibäder (“free pools”). Does this mean they are free? Unfortunately not. Although Freibad translates to “free pool”, this type of freedom has little to do with entrance fees. A Freibad is an outdoor swimming pool, or an open-air swimming pool.

Germans like to define things very specifically, so they have many words for “swimming pool”, depending on the type of pool they’re talking about. The general word for swimming pool is Schwimmbad. If the pool is inside, it’s called a Hallenbad (“hall pool”) or Allwetterbad (“all-weather pool”). If it’s a pool for exercise it would be called a Sportbad. As we just learned, an outdoor pool is called a Freibad.

And a Freibad can have some elements of the other pools as well; Freibäder often have a mix of attractions, including a section for exercise swimming and a section for recreation (often with water slides and other attractions). Freibäder are often accompanied by food vendors where Germans can order an ice cream or french fries. With so many things to do, it is possible to spend an entire day at a Freibad.

And those who want to work on their tan can hang out at the nearby Liegewise.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Gänsefüßchen

If you’re a writer, you use Gänsefüßchen all the time. But the word means nothing what it sounds like. Directly translated, Gänsefüßchen would mean “little geese feet”. The term comes from Gans (“goose”) and Füßchen (“little feet”).

These geese feet, however, are not attached to a bird. Instead, they find themselves enveloping words or sentences. The English definition for Gänsefüßchen is “quotation marks”. So what’s with the odd metaphor?

Well, if you look at a goose, you’ll notice that is has very short legs with big feet. Its tiny legs could (with a little imagination) resemble quotation marks. Rather than calling them Anführungszeichen (the proper term for quotation marks), many Germans prefer the more colorful, colloquial term Gänsefüßchen.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Fruchtfleisch

With summer around the corner, many of us are drinking more smoothies and fruit juice than usual. From fresh squeezed orange juice to strawberry smoothies, there’s plenty of options to energize yourself on a hot day! But here’s a question for you: with Fruchtfleisch or without? Some of us love it, some of us don’t. Fruchtfleisch comes from the words Frucht (“fruit”) and Fleisch (“meat”). But this type of “meat” is one that our vegetarians can comfortably consume. Fruchtfleisch means the “meat of the fruit” – basically, the internal part of a fruit (the part that most people eat). Fruchtfleisch can refer to the inside of the fruit or it can refer to pulp (since pulp is made up of a fruit’s “meat”). Some people prefer their juice with Fruchtfleisch, while others buy it without it. When you peel an orange, the inside of the orange is called its Fruchtfleisch. Similarly, when you drink orange juice with pulp, you would refer to the pulp as Fruchtfleisch.

The Fruchtfleisch has more vitamins than the juice alone. So make sure to eat your meat!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Augenblick

If you’re familiar with German, you’ve surely heard the phrase “einen Augenblick!” But an Augenblick (literally “eye-glance”) is usually a longer period of time than the word suggests. The word Augenblick comes from Auge (“eye”) and Blick (“glance”). It defines a very short period of time (like the glance of an eye). The best English equivalent is “blink of an eye”, but the English language does not have a single word to describe a very short moment. In German, a cashier might tell a customer to wait one moment while she checks the price of an item. In German she may say, “einen Augenblick!”. In English, however, you cannot say “wait for a blink of an eye”; it does not make sense. You could perhaps say “wait one second”, but the metaphor of an eye-blink/glance would not exist here.

As we all know, Germans love metaphors. Most likely, if you are telling someone to wait for an Augenblick, you don’t mean it literally. A blink of an eye takes 300 to 400 milliseconds (which is about one-third of a second). A glance can be a little longer, but it is not defined. If you’re asking someone to wait einen Augenblick for you while you finish tying your shoes or while you respond to an e-mail, you are ensuring them that you will be quick, but realistically, you will take at least several seconds or minutes. Comparatively though, einen Augenblick is faster that ein Moment. An Augenblick is the fastest way a “short moment” can be described in German.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Blumenpracht

If you visit a small town in Germany in the spring or summer, we’re sure you’ll see at least one beautiful Blumenpracht on someone’s balcony. That’s because Germans love to show off their flower displays! The term Blumenpracht comes from the words Blume (“flower”) and Pracht (“splendor” / “glory” / “magnificence”). Blumenpracht describes a glorious display of flowers – one that has any nature lover turning their heads in awe. Blumenpracht is more than just a few flowers in a pot; it’s a very serious display of flowers that goes beyond what your average person would have at home. This type of flower display requires lots of attention and care.

But Blumenpracht is not necessarily found in someone’s home or garden. It can also be found in public spaces – like a park or botanical garden. If it makes you whip out your camera or stop in awe, then you’re surely looking at a magnificent Blumenpracht.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Lebenskunst

Is your life as beautiful as a painting in an art gallery? Then you have mastered Lebenskunst! Lebenskunst means “the art of living well”. It comes from the words leben (“to live”) and Kunst (“art). If your life is filled with fine wines, exotic travels, delicious food, strong friendships and many hobbies, you have probably mastered the art of living; in other words, your life itself is beautiful – like art. You don’t have to be wealthy to be a Lebenskünstler (“artist of life”). You simply need to understand how to make the journey through life as joyful as possible.

Every individual has a different idea of how to create an artful, magical life that gets you excited to wake up every morning. Some people may be struck by the magic of a beautiful sunrise, and need nothing more to experience joy. For others, drinking a $300 bottle of wine would be an example of Lebenskunst.

But here’s one tip we can give you: if you see the beauty in every detail of life and use this beauty to create your own happiness, you’ll be on your way to becoming a Lebenskünstler. In very little time, examples of Lebenskunst will surround you.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Word of the Week: Frühlingsbote

How can you tell that spring is around the corner? For some, it’s the weather forecast. But for others, it’s the Frühlingsbote.

The German word Frühlingsbote means “herald of spring” or “harbinger of spring”. It consists of the words Frühling (“spring”) and Bote (“herald”/”harbinger”) and it refers to a person or thing that signals the approach of spring. A few examples of Frühlingsboten would be birds chirping at sunrise, flower buds emerging on the trees, restaurants opening their outdoor patios and clothing stores displaying shorts sandals in the store windows. A prime example of a Frühlingsbote is also the blooming of the cherry blossom trees (which exist both in the US and Germany). The cherry blossom trees typically bloom before other species, signaling that spring is right around the corner. After the Yoshino trees bloom, other trees will soon follow. Before long, you’ll be walking out in shorts, tees and sunglasses as you soak up the rays.

The Frühlingsbote marks the start of a new season. Which means Biergartenwetter is soon to follow.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany