Previous month:
August 2015
Next month:
October 2015

Now, The One-Post-A-Week Rule Finally Takes Effect

I've been fascinated by the migrant crisis enveloping Germany, which is why I've been posting so much about it. But frankly, I think I've made all the points and predictions that I thought worth making.

I'll sum up the points I've made in the previous month:

  • Germany is going to accept something like 1 million migrants this year.
  • These people were not screened in any way. Many are legitimate refugees from Syria, many aren't. Germany currently has only the most basic information about who these people are.
  • Germany is not prepared to handle anything like this number of new residents.
  • Between 1/3 and 1/2 of these migrants are not refugees and do not qualify for political asylum, and therefore don't have any legal reason to be on German soil.
  • Most of these migrants come from profoundly dysfunctional countries with primitive educational systems.
  • Almost none speak German, and only about 5-10% speak proficient English.
  • Perhaps 15-20% of the entire mass of migrants have college degrees or the equivalent. Because of the dismal quality of universities in much of the developing world, they will likely not be trained to anywhere near the level of the graduate of a German university, no matter how clever and motivated they may be.
  • Probably at least 15-20% are illiterate, and many others likely have modest cognitive ability. This means they will never learn to speak anything but primitive pidgin German.
  • The majority of these migrants are conservative Muslims, and probably 5-10% would qualify as extremists. Syrian immigrants themselves have repeatedly warned that there are some terrorists and radicals among the migrants.
  • The economic migrants chose Germany as their destination because they believe Angela Merkel 'invited' them and that the German state is going to give them a place to live, money and a job. Almost none appear to have given serious thought to whether they want to or can adapt long-term to a radically different culture.
  • Under current German law, many migrants will be able to secure 'family reunification' visas and be able to bring 3-4 more family members into Germany in the coming years.
  • Germany's system for deporting illegal migrants is broken. Under current law and practice, it is effectively impossible to deport someone who really wants to stay, even if they lied to German authorities, have no legal right to be in Germany, and have committed serious crimes.
  • Germany does not have anywhere enough available housing to provide a brick-and-mortar accommodation to all of these migrants.
  • Hundreds of incidents have conclusively demonstrated that many of these immigrants come from ethnic and religious groups which have long-standing conflicts, and that they have brought these conflicts to Germany.

I think that about covers it. Now for a few predictions. These predictions are based on the fact that, as of now, German political leaders responsible for actually dealing with migrants (not newspaper columnists or public-radio talking heads) know that they face a severe crisis.

  • In the next year or so, Germany is going to radically change its laws on asylum, family reunification, border security, and deportation. If the German Basic Law needs to be changed to make this happen, it will be changed. 
  • To try to reduce violence in overcrowded shelters, German authorities will begin seizing commercial and residential real estate properties.
  • Working- and lower-middle-class Germans will perceive the new migrants as a threat, and will resent the fact that new migrants get housing, cash, and special education and other services for free, while working-class Germans struggle to make ends meet on meager salaries.
  • The current cost estimate for dealing with this crisis, something like €10-12 billion, will turn out to be a hopeless underestimate. Lucky profiteers, whether they make mattresses, cots, portable toilets, or containers, will make millions in windfall profits as German officials desperately struggle to accommodate too many migrants. Same thing for landlords.
  • Germany will try to place migrants in underpopulated areas in the east of Germany, but they will not stay there.
  • The currently most 'respectable' anti-immigrant/Euroskeptic party, the Alternative for Germany, will start getting 15-20% of the vote in the east, and 10-15% in the west.
  • The migrant crisis will further damage the German Social Democratic Party, which is already struggling.
  • Germany is not being invaded, is not going to collapse, and will of course never be 'Islamized'. Those are mindless rhetorical exaggerations. Germany has needlessly imported a galaxy of new, expensive, insoluble social problems, but it will muddle through.

That about covers it. I don't anticipate any major new developments now, except that the problems we already see will continue to exist and, in many cases, get worse.

So from tomorrow on, I'll post about the migrant crisis once a week at most. I've basically said all there is to say. Now time to move on to the pleasures, delights, and curiosities of live in Germany. And other, completely unrelated topics.

Citizens, my work here is done. You may now return to your normal activities.


Which is Better: A Fence, or Clubs and Tear Gas?

6554954-3x2-700x467

Les bien-pensants assure us that border fences are somehow inherently evil. Austria would never think of building a fence on any of its borders, it assures us.

The problem is that migrants continue to stream into Austria, but the escape valve -- further migration to Germany -- is beginning to squeeze shut. Germany is begging other countries to slow down the flow of refugees who want to resettle there, but most of those countries have neither the ability nor the will to do so. Germany invited them here, say officials in Greece, Macedonia, and Croatia, so let Germany figure out what to do with them all. So they all end up in Austria.

Germany is trying to slow down the flow of refugees from Austria, too, and is now telling (g) economic migrants outright: "Don't come, you have no chance of staying, and we will force you to leave our country." The federal government is now considering introducing rapid-response 48-hour asylum decision centers on the German border to ensure that economic migrants are identified and kept out of the country. Of course, the recent changes to asylum laws won't take effect until November 1st, long after they were necessary, and the proposed changes will take much longer. In the meanwhile German officials are desperately looking for ways to slow down migrant flows under existing law.

So Austria has a problem -- it fears getting stuck with tens or even possibly hundreds of thousands of migrants. So the government there has just said that it's going to start enforcing its borders more vigorously, and has warned that there may be scenes of violence (g) as its border guards try to keep out thousands of migrants desperate to make it across Austrian territory to Germany or Sweden.

As you may recall, Hungary was attacked for building a border fence on its border with Serbia, with the Social Democratic premier of Austria even comparing Hungary's leaders to the Nazis. But now that the fence is up, and Hungary made clear it was going to defend the fence, the border is calm. Central European countries are eventually going to adopt severe, effective measures to stop migration. Anything that can't go on forever will stop, Herbert Stein said, and these dramatic numbers definitely can't go on forever.

So when the time comes, countries will have a choice. Either they can build a fence, or they can send teams of black-armored riot police to beat back roving mobs of desperate rock-throwing migrants, clubbing them, spraying them with tear gas, and drenching them with water cannons. Only to see the migrants regroup and try a flash-mob border crossing somewhere else. And don't forget all the individuals who will run across the fields, only to be tackled and clubbed into submission by Darth Vader look-alikes.

Which option is more civilized? Which option is less likely to kill and injure people? Which option is going to remind the world more of Europe's 'dark decades'?

"Good fences make good neighbors," the American poet Robert Frost once wrote. In context, Frost was using this old saw mockingly. But still, there's a reason certain pieces of folk wisdom exist.

Oh, and the image at the top of this post? It's not the vicious, evil, cynical Hungarian border fence. It's the fence Bulgaria built on its Turkish border in 2014. I wonder why we never read dozens of anguished editorials about that fence?


"Almost Beyond Human Power to Deal with This"

The Washington Post reports on chaos in Berlin.

“I read about how industrious and successful the Germans are,” said Hamadich, who worked as a lab technician in Damascus. “But this,” he said, using both hands to indicate the refugees bundling up for another night on the sidewalk, “is not working.”

Germany is trying to distribute refugees to its states, cities and towns based largely on population and tax revenue. The city of Berlin, for instance, is set to receive more than 5 percent of all those coming and is attempting to manage the arrival of more than 9,000 asylum seekers in just the past three weeks. Shelters are so full that some of the refugees are receiving vouchers for private hostels.

But volunteer aid workers say the city is so behind on payments that many hostels are no longer accepting the vouchers. A city spokeswoman said that she could neither confirm nor deny the problem but that the city is trying to make good on its payments as soon as possible.

The national and local governments are racing to hire thousands of new police officers and bureaucrats to manage refugees. Schools, meanwhile, are desperately looking for new teachers to help with an estimated 300,000 new students. Irina Wissmann, principal at Berlin’s An der Bäke Elementary School, said none of the 300 qualified instructors provided to her in a list by city officials were available to work. She said that with 20 new refugee students already and double that number expected by year’s end, she is afraid of surging class sizes as well as issues with traumatized children.

“This is going to be very difficult,” she said.

...Outside the capital, meanwhile, allegations of rape at refugee centers are emerging. In the central city of Giessen, officials are investigating four cases of sexual assault at one temporary shelter. Civic groups say there was a lack of proper separation between men and women at the facility.

Coming at a time when the Volkswagen emissions scandal is tainting the reputation of Germany as a country of law-abiding winners, the strains of the refugee crisis are challenging perceptions of national competence.

“The state has clearly nothing under control here,” said Leila El-Abcah, a volunteer with Moabit Helps, a refugee aid group in central Berlin. In the evenings, she is trying to guide some refugees on the streets to the private homes of people willing to offer them shelter for the night. “If it weren’t for the many volunteers,” she said, “nothing would work, everything would collapse.”

...

“We are talking about numbers for the past two weeks that we are normally seeing in one year,” she said. “It is almost beyond human power to deal with this.”

The system described in this article will have to feed and house one new city of Frankfurt every 10 weeks.


Arab Spring and Arab Immigration

Marc Lynch is an American professor and Middle East expert who blogs at Abu Aardvark. Late last year, he wrote a disarmingly frank and honest article for the Washington Post on what scholars of the Middle East had gotten wrong about the Arab Spring of 2011. Many of them had high hopes at the time, which were later dashed. As I read it recently I thought to myself: 'Some of this wishful thinking and distorted perception reminds me a lot of what I am seeing currently in Germany.'

See if you agree:

I asked a group of the authors from my edited volume “The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East” to write short memos assessing their contributions critically after having another year to reflect. Those memos have now been published as POMEPS Studies 10 “Reflections on the Arab Uprisings” (free PDF available here). Their auto-critique is full of worthy observations: We paid too much attention to the activists and not enough to the authoritarians; we understated the importance of identity politics; we assumed too quickly that successful popular uprisings would lead to a democratic transition; we under-estimated the key role of international and regional factors in domestic outcomes; we took for granted a second wave of uprisings, which thus far has yet to materialize; we understated the risk of state failure and over-stated the possibility of democratic consensus.

One point that emerged in the workshop discussions is the extent to which we became too emotionally attached to particular actors or policies. Caught up in the rush of events, and often deeply identifying with our networks of friends and colleagues involved in these politics, we may have allowed hope or passion to cloud our better comparative judgment. That’s a fine quality in activists, but not so helpful for academic rigor.

...

As for me, there are a number of areas where I’ve been rethinking things over the last year or two. There are some negative developments that did not surprise me, I should add, even though I had hoped they would be avoided. My earlier book, “The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East,” devoted an entire chapter to demonstrating how each previous round of popular mobilization in modern Arab history had ended up with the consolidation of even more heavy-handed authoritarianism. The disastrous results of the decision by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to field a presidential candidate were easily foreseen. So were the catastrophic consequences of external support to the Syrian insurgency, which has produced unbelievable human suffering but few real surprises to anyone versed in the comparative literature on civil wars and insurgencies. We’ve paid a lot of attention to the problems of Yemen’s transition.

...

New Arab Public: For a long time I believed that a mobilized Arab public would never again allow themselves to be manipulated and dominated by autocrats. Whatever the tactical setbacks and inevitable ups and downs of difficult transitions, I thought that the generational transformation would keep trends moving in the direction of more open politics. It was this new Arab public that gave me at least some optimism that the region could avoid repeating the failures of the past.

That conviction suffered a near-mortal blow in Egypt, where a shocking number of the youth and public voices who had made the uprisings proved more than willing to enthusiastically support the restoration of military government and violent repression of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was not simply the military’s successful coup that was shocking – such a denouement was always a possibility. The shock was the coup’s embrace by many of the popular forces upon whom hopes of irresistible change had been placed. The new Arab media and social media proved to be just as capable of transmitting negative and divisive ideas and images as they had been at spreading revolutionary ones. Egypt’s military coup traveled just as powerfully as had its revolution. The pan-Arab revolutionary unity of early 2011 has long since given way to sectarianism, polarization between Islamists and their enemies, and horror over the relentless images of death and despair in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The media generally played a highly destructive role in the post-uprisings environment. For a brief, tantalizing moment, independent television stations and newspapers seemed to constitute a genuine Egyptian public sphere. But that quickly collapsed. Unreconstructed state media offered up a relentless stream of propaganda. Many private media outlets were captured by the state or by counter-revolutionary interests and the airwaves filled with the most vile forms of populist incitement. Meanwhile, transnational broadcasting descended into little more than transparent vehicles for state foreign policies, a change most noticeable – and damaging – with the once proud Al Jazeera. And while social media and new Web sites have certainly offered a plethora of opportunities for information to flow and opinions to be voiced, they have largely failed to supplant mainstream media as a source of news for mass publics.

"[W]e understated the importance of identity politics...we may have allowed hope or passion to cloud our better comparative judgment."


Germany Must House One New Frankfurt Every 10 Weeks

The Ugliest Building in Frankfurt

Let's put the refugee numbers in a little perspective.

Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany. It has a nice riverside and a world-famous skyline. It was never one of my favorite German cities. The Allies bombed it to pieces, and Frankfurt got a disproportionate number of those boring, hastily-built post-WW II buildings thrown up to provide some sort of housing (see above). But still, it's got world-class museums, some very nice parks, and it's surrounded by lush forest.

Frankfurt is 238 square kilometers and has a current population of 717,000. Now imagine if all those skyscrapers, apartment buildings, and luxurious villas vanished. You would suddenly have 717,000 people needing to be clothed, fed, and housed right now.

That's what will happen to Germany in the next 72 days.

The German tabloid Bild just reported, based on German security sources, that 150,000 people illegally entered Germany in the last two weeks alone. Currently, 10,000 people are entering Germany each day. You may have heard about those border checks Germany started a couple of weeks ago. Here's how they work: Someone approaches the German border and tries to enter illegally. If they say they plan to file for political asylum, they are waved through.

They all say they plan to file asylum claims. 10,000 a day.

This means that Germany will have to provide shelter, food, clothing, education and medical care for the entire population of the city of Frankfurt -- the fifth largest city in Germany -- by December 10.

And then, assuming the flow keeps up, Germany will have to find room for another Frankfurt by early February. And then another one by the end of March.

And this in a country whose migrant shelters are already packed to 2-3 times capacity and are a daily site of violence.

Can you see why I am posting a lot about this situation?


Albanians and Pakistanis (Why Are They Here?) Stage Hours-Long Riot in Kassel

Yesterday, there was an hours-long riot (g) in a migrant shelter near Kassel. Apparently the cause was an Albanian teenager hitting an 80-year-old Pakistani who the teen thought was cutting in line for food. The riot kept going in waves. Albanians and Pakistanis attacked each other with sticks, pipes, clubs, and tear gas.

Yes, the migrants have tear gas.

50 police were needed to break up the riot. Fourteen migrants and three police were injured, some seriously. Police have now separated the two nationalities. German officials are now calling for migrants to be separated on the basis of ethnicity. Meanwhile, the German police union notes that outbreaks of violence are a daily occurrence (g) in shelters. (h/t MM). Oh, and in the past years, Germany has eliminated 16,000 police jobs, just in time for the arrival of hundreds of thousands of violent young male strangers.

There are many, many questions raised by this latest riot (including how did migrants get tear gas?!) but I'll focus on just one: What are Albanians and Pakistanis doing taking up expensive, scarce space in German migrant shelters?

Albania, as I've pointed out before, is a peaceful, stable country and attractive vacation spot which is very prosperous by world standards, and has been receiving hundreds of millions of Euros in EU aid to get it ready for its admission to the European Union.

Pakistan is not at war, and has problems no more serious than dozens of other developing countries. Add to that the fact that Pakistan is far away from Germany, so only the middle class can afford the bribes necessary to get here. A recent Daily Mail article interviews a few:

It is the same story when I meet Janaid Jamshad, a 25-year-old former student.

Also from Lahore, he has been here for ten days. ‘I came to Germany first in 2013 and they pushed me out again,’ he says with a laugh. ‘I came back when I heard Mrs Merkel was opening the doors. I have claimed asylum and they are processing my application. Because I am young, I hope they will take me.’

Not that everything is rosy for him now. ‘The camp is overflowing,’ he says. ‘I have just been to the doctor in the shopping centre because I have a headache. Even there, there are queues of migrants waiting. The doctors at the camp will only give one pill at a time. So we find other places for medical help, and pay for it.’

Back in the Giessen curry house, I continue talking to asylum claimant Atif. ‘We think having children will help us,’ he says. ‘Our house is very big, and they give us money, too.’

I point out that Karachi, despite the political violence there, is not in a war zone.

He still hopes to persuade the authorities he is a genuine refugee, though, and hopes he won’t be returned to Pakistan because he now has no official national identity — in a deal with the smuggling gang, he handed them his own passport and those of his family when they arrived in Germany. They were the ‘payment’ in exchange for the family’s fake visas and will be used again to smuggle more customers into Europe.

Do these sound like victims of political persecution to you?

Why are they still here, rioting, firing tear gas, and injuring each other and long-suffering German police?


How To Exclude Violent Migrants

A few commenters have wondered how Germany could go about excluding migrants who commit crimes.

I'm no expert on German or international law, but here's the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, Article 2: "Every refugee has duties to the country in which he finds himself, which require in particular that he conform to its laws and regulations as well as to measures taken for the maintenance of public order."

Beatings, assaults, and threats of murder are against the "laws and regulations" of Germany. Any country has the right to exclude foreign nationals who commit serious crimes on its territory.

I would say that Germany could pass a law tomorrow saying that any asylum seeker found liable of serious crimes on German territory has forfeited their right to asylum in Germany and may be excluded. Article 16(a)(4) states

In the cases specified by paragraph (3) of this Article and in other cases that are plainly unfounded or considered to be plainly unfounded, the implementation of measures to terminate an applicant’s stay may be suspended by a court only if serious doubts exist as to their legality; the scope of review may be limited, and tardy objections may be disregarded. Details shall be determined by a law.

The law would specify that persons who are found to have committed violent crimes in migrant shelters can be deemed to have "unfounded" cases for asylum, since they have violated the 1951 Convention and demonstrated a tendency to violence. It's a semantic stretch, since there's no necessarily link between their behavior in a German migrant shelter and the reasons for their alleged persecution back home. But any legal system is full of such imperfect logical fits; there are dozens in German law already. And in any case, the law's purpose would be very popular and would make sense, which is something you shouldn't discount.

The key thing would be to make sure the migrant got a hearing that satisfies minimum standards of fairness. Since migrants aren't German citizens, have no legal residency status, and are not being threatened with prison, I don't think you would have to give them anything near a full-blown trial on the merits. You would give them a brief hearing, an appointed lawyer, and a chance to speak. The standard of proof could be something like clear and convincing evidence, not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

The result of the hearing would be a finding that the migrant has engaged in acts contrary to the 1951 Convention, forfeited his right to seek asylum in Germany, and therefore should be immediately deported.

Of course, then you have to actually deport them, which brings a whole host of complications of its own. Some countries won't be all that eager to take back violent religious fanatics.

This, my friends, Is. Why. You. Screen. Refugees. Before. Letting. Them. Into. Your. Country.


After the Flood: Austrian Anti-Immigrant Party Doubles Vote Share

The province of Upper Austria in Austria just held a parliamentary election, the first major election in one of the areas most affected by the migrant crisis since it started this year.

The result fits the near-universal pattern in recent European elections although these results were particularly extreme: the anti-immigrant right-wing Austrian Freedom Party doubled (g) its vote share, from 15.3 to 30.3 percent. It almost caught up with the major center-right party, which dropped 10 points to 36%. The social democrats collapsed to 18.4%. So the far-right anti-immigrant party is now almost twice as powerful as the long-standing traditional social democratic 'mass' party in Austria.

The results of the migrant crisis are becoming clearer and clearer: anti-immigrant/Euroskeptic parties are experiencing massive gains. Existing cordon sanitaire policies, in which all mainstream parties in a European country agree not to form coalitions with the right-wing, is coming under enormous pressure, and will collapse in many EU nations. When your center-right party gets 15% of the vote, it's possible to exclude it. When it gets 25-30% of the vote, siphoning strength from both center-left and center-right, that becomes impossible. When the center-right finally decides wielding total power with a slightly unpleasant partner is better than trying to form awkward coalitions with Greens and Reds, the stage will be set for long-term center-right far-right domination.

What will happen to the Social Democrats? They will fade away into insignificance getting between 10 and 15% of the vote, like the Greens. Their voter base, such as it is, is union members, the working-class, retired bureaucrats and teachers, and immigrants. The working and lower-middle class in Europe are definitely not on board with mass migration, so many will defect to the far-right parties. Retired bureaucrats and teachers no longer have to worry about competition in the job market, but their numbers are dwindling. And the dependence of many social-democratic parties on votes from former generations of immigrants will render them unable to stop the hemorrhaging of anti-immigrant voters.

 

 


Religious Fanatics Threaten Yezidis and Christians in German Shelters

I remember when just a few short months ago, I was scorned -- scorned!! -- for suggesting that migrants to German would bring their conflicts with them, just like all migrants in history have always done everywhere.

How times have changed.

The Welt am Sonntag publishes a long piece (g) on religious intimidation in German refugee shelters. The culprits are usually Sunni Muslim extremists whose main targets are Christian and Yezidi migrants. Where they're in the majority, they insist all shelter residents follow Sharia law, and insult and threaten those who don't. To intimidate other religions, they chant the same Koran verses IS members recite before beheadings. Christians are not allowed to help prepare food.

In Hemer, Algerian migrants attacked Eritrean Christians with a glass bottle. In Freising, an Iraqi Christian family reported threats from a fanatical Syrian Muslim, who beat his children and threatened to kill the family and drink their blood. They eventually returned to Iraq. Christians from different camps in Germany reported that private security guards do little about these incidents, because the guards themselves are mostly Muslim.

Simon Jacob, leader of the German Council of Oriental Christians, says: "The number of unreported incidents is high. We must anticipate further conflicts that refugees bring from their homelands into Germany. Between Christians and Muslims. Between Shiites and Sunnis. Between Kurds and extremists. Between Yezidis and extremists."

Max Klingberg from the International Society for Human Rights says: "We have to free ourselves of the illusion that all the people coming here are human-rights activists. Among the ones who are already here, there is a non-trivial fraction which, in their religious intensity, are at least at the level of the Muslim Brotherhood. Volunteers have reported aggression rising the level of threats of beheading by Sunnis against Shiites, but the ones hit hardest are Christians and Yezidis. The chance of a Christian convert who doesn't hide his or her faith being attacked or subjected to organized harassment is almost 100 percent."

Two questions:

First, why is Germany allowing tens of thousands of violent religious fanatics into its territory?

Second, once these fanatics reveal themselves by illegal threats and violence, why aren't they immediately being deported?

If German politicians think only xenophobes want answers to these questions, they are mistaken. And they'd better come up with some convincing answers soon.

This is one reason why I think there's a 20% chance Merkel will lose her job before the end of 2015. Even her closest party colleagues and friends have made it clear the decision to open Germany's borders was hers and hers alone. She owns this crisis. She still has an enormous amount of good will buffering her, but she's burning through it faster than a spaceship re-entering earth atmosphere.


A Refugee's Story: Andrew H. Speaks

German newspapers have graciously conferred refugee status in every foreigner here, so I would like to publish the story of Andrew H., whose story stands for so many.

Andrew H. in his state-subsidized apartment reading one of his favorite books"My name is Andrew H. I'd rather not give you my last name or where I live, except to say it's near the Rhine river. 

I arrived in Germany 10 years ago with nothing but two suitcases and a few college degrees. I was fleeing my home country. Perhaps you've heard of it -- it's called the United States of America. A backward and foolish leader had just taken power. He promptly plunged the country into several different wars at once. He ran a huge budget deficit, and appointed corrupt cronies to important government ministries. He was finally removed from office in 2008, but just as I thought it might be safe to return, a massive financial crisis enveloped the country, so I decided to stay.

The trip over was harrowing. I had to pay a shady outfit called "Air France" a small fortune for a tiny, cramped place among hundreds of other people. To add insult to injury, the in-flight 'entertainment' was Police Academy 3. I kept looking out the window in terror, wondering whether we would end up on the bottom of the Atlantic, like so many other Air France flights.

At first, Germans were welcoming. I found a job at a college, but it was only a temporary position, which needed to be renewed every 6 months. It took a long time getting used to the local customs and conditions. Attractive young female policewomen, seasons, crappy television, front-page tabloid tits, fantastic public transportation, the baffling omnipresence of kale, legal drinking in public, the constant grumbling and bitching -- all these things were new to me.

I found out that Germans had many prejudices about my people. They thought we Americans were loud, fat, arrogant culture-free boors who knew nothing about the rest of the world. They kept asking me why the rulers of my country were so violent and paranoid. People would call out: "Hey Ami, where's your SUV?" or "You can take your Big Mäc and shove it up your big fat white ass, Ami!" That really hurt. They were also concerned about the effect Americans would have on the job market. Time and again, they asked me: "So, you're an American, eh? Did you come here to give us jobs?" 

I soon realized I would need to learn German. I was kind of ambivalent. Not speaking German insulated me from the stupid things people said and wrote in my new homeland, significantly improving my mental health. Yet I knew that I needed to learn the language to advance my career. I won't lie to you -- it was hard learning German. But eventually I managed to scrape together enough German to get by. I found out that the natives here can't even begin to pronounce my first name correctly, and my last name actually means something not very flattering in their language.

I guess you could say I've fit in, sort of. There are still many things I miss about my homeland: Twinkies, twinks, 64-ounce sodas, random gun violence, Hummers, American Gladiators, chocolate-covered bacon, BaconBits, and bacon-flavored mayonnaise, just to name a few. But I've found lots of new things to like about Germany, including Sex-Kino 'Wichskabine', Schlager festivals, Heino, Sido, and Kotzbecken. All in all, it's been a rough transition, but I feel I've learned a lot as a human being."