Welcome to Germany: TV Show Teaches Refugees to Adapt to Life in Europe

Germany expects to receive 1 million asylum seekers by the end of 2015.
(Photo: YouTube)
Dec 16, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Germany’s open-door policy has allowed for an influx of refugees from war-torn countries who now call the European nation home. Now, one TV show hopes to make the transition from refugee to common citizen a little bit easier with tips about the German way of life.

On Thursday, talk show Marhaba (“hello” in Arabic) will hit German TV screens. Hosted by Constantin Schreiber, a journalist and a native of Germany who spent years perfecting his Arabic while reporting from the Middle East, the show will be primarily in Arabic, accompanied by German subtitles, Reuters reports.

Marhaba was originally a Web series; its positive reception convinced network N-TV to turn it into a 40-minute program. In the first installment posted online, Schreiber discusses simple rules and customs, such as staying off cell phones while driving and refraining from making phone calls late at night, when most Germans are relaxing after a hard day’s work.

“Through this show, I want to portray life in Germany, and I want to address some of the issues that are important for us as Germans,” Schreiber told Al Jazeera.

Sending a late-night text message may not seem like a threat to the fabric of German culture, but the series also digs deeper into issues of sexuality and freedom of expression. Web clips compare Germany’s laws with Sharia law, noting that the nation’s constitution takes precedence over religious doctrine. The show also discusses satire, noting that citizens are free to joke about the Koran.

While Germany has been praised for its open policies and for accepting the majority of asylum seekers in Europe, other countries have been less than welcoming. The conservative government in Denmark took out ads in Lebanese newspapers that warned migrants of difficult requirements to enter the Nordic nation. Hungary built a razor-wire fence to keep out asylum seekers. In the U.S., some politicians have suggested selecting refugees based on religious tests, proposing even harsher vetting processes in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris in November.

Not every German is a fan of Schreiber’s series. He told Reuters he has received death threats and emails expressing concern that his show will encourage more migrants to settle in Germany.

Alongside the criticism, Schreiber has also received positive feedback about his show.

“I am a Syrian national and I want to thank you for your programme, Mr. Constantin,” a Syrian woman wrote in an email to Schreiber. “People who are older than 50 find it difficult to learn German, and we ask you to continue providing information for them.” Schreiber told Reuters he has received nearly 6,000 emails of support.

“I hope that this show can act as a positive example for discussing the refugee crisis in Europe, and in Germany in particular,” he told Al Jazeera.