We conducted this interview with a family, but separated their stories to show their different perspectives on their life in Germany so far.
We arrived in Germany from Cameroon in 2018, but I don’t remember the exact date. It’s quite a long story, and it gets so emotional. I don’t think I can repeat it right now, but there are many circumstances that made us leave our country, so that’s why we are here now. We’re still waiting for the process to go through, for them to accept us here. Let’s just leave it at that, because there are things that are private and confidential for me and my family.
When we first arrived, we were sent to the camp at Eisenhüttenstadt and stayed there for about a week. It was a huge culture shock because we weren’t used to staying in a camp with all these refugees. This camp has not been so bad so far. The only problem that we have with this camp is the housing situation. All six of us are crammed into a single room. The room is quite congested, with six beds and all of our belongings. It’s difficult with four children. These children are now growing up, so we only want one extra room.
I don’t understand, because I’ve tried to complain to the people in charge here, but nothing has been done. They tell us, that is your room, you have to wait until your process is over. They say, “That is where you belong.” But when you look at other refugees with big, families just like us, they are given two rooms. Why not us? I find it quite unfair. There are many extra rooms here, and all we want is one more room. But they keep telling us to wait, and it’s not like we can take it by force.
I am waiting for my youngest to go to daycare. We haven’t gotten a daycare spot for her yet, and I’ve heard it’s quite hard to get one. We’ve also had a lot of problems getting her birth certificate, even though she was born in Germany. She has an identification card now, but I can’t get her birth certificate. I’ve gone to every office and done everything to get it, but I’m still waiting. We need that birth certificate to enroll her in daycare.
Some of the people at the immigration office are very rude. Every time I go for an appointment, I have to go with one of my children, because at least they understand a bit of German. When I go there by myself, no one will explain to me what is going on. If there is any issue, they will just speak German and not explain it to me. They just brush me off, and there’s no way one can sign a document if you don’t understand what it says. Some of the doctors are just unprofessional and they can be very rude, but some of them can be nice. The driver in buses and trains are not so friendly either; some are good but some are just unprofessional. My children’s doctor just speaks German throughout the session, but does not care to explain it to the parent and doesn’t want to be asked questions. I hear she knows English, but whenever I ask her to explain, she just throws up her hands and walks out. It does not make sense at all. What if the child is in danger, and you are just there? As a parent, I get frustrated. It’s not about the money, but there’s a life of a child at stake here, so just let the parents know what is wrong. I think that’s what education is all about.
Other than that, most people are nice. Sometimes in the supermarkets or parks, we encounter a bit of discrimination. In the park, the children want to play with other children, but the parents will pull their children aside just because of the difference in skin color.
Overall, I love Germany. It’s a good country. Some people are not very friendly, but it’s only one or two people who will spoil a country and that happens in every country. No country is perfect, The education system here is very good, and it’s free. In Africa, you have to struggle to get an education, and you often can’t afford to send your children to school. One thing I love about this country is that they put their education first. And their health department is also very good. So, Germany is a very good country, especially when you learn the language. Once you are able to communicate, this is a very good country for you to stay in.
I also like the way the German government supports refugees. That is something I salute them for. I cannot complain. It is not a lot, but it is sustainable. If they wish to increase it one day, that would be good, but this is better than nothing.
The only thing that has shocked me about Germany is the food. These are things I never ate back home. They love bread and sausages so much here. There are like a hundred different types of sausages and cheeses, and they all have different names, but I can’t even tell the difference between them all. We have to get used to it because there’s nothing else we can do. You have to adjust to the people you live with; if you get friendly people, be friendly to them. If they want to talk to you, be there. Nobody’s special in this camp, we are using the same bathrooms, the same laundry facilities. You will still meet one another there, so just mind your own business. That’s all we can do.
My third born is also experiencing this. This is her first year in school, so she’s just getting used to it now. She says that some of the children are not so friendly, so most of the time she is on her own. Some of the girls are nice, but most of the children do not want to interact with her. I don’t know why that happens. I don’t understand it. There are times when she’ll come home and she’s so unhappy, so disappointed. The teacher says she needs to make friends, but when she goes up to these girls they don’t want to talk to her. What is she supposed to do?
Still, my children are at peace here. When I see them in school, when I see them performing well and getting better grades it makes me happy. I know they have peace of mind here, and that’s the most important thing. I would love to work with old people. I really want to go to school to get a certificate that would allow me to work with them. I love that so much. I know my husband loves driving because he drove back home, but he needs to go back to school to get that certification. It’s quite expensive here, so maybe once he gets a job he can save up and go to driving school.
I only want people to treat each other as human beings. It’s only the color that changes. When you chop off my hand, what will come out of this hand? Red blood. When you chop off your hand, what will come out of it? It’s not green or black blood, is it? It’s still red blood. We are all human beings, so let us be treated like it. If someone needs help, help them. It does not cost you a leg or a tooth to help somebody. Just help them with a clean heart. Let’s teach our children that they should be friendly to others It does not cost anything.
I was 14 when we left Cameroon. I remember we boarded a train at around 1:00 on a Tuesday to come here. We started school immediately after getting to the camp, so I learned German quickly. The teacher spoke to us in German and most of the students were talking to us in German, so it was easy to learn. I also watched some Youtube videos to improve my German. I met a group of friends in my first year here who went to the same school. In my school now, there are very few people who speak English, so I was forced to learn German well. School is okay here, and everyone is very nice, including the teachers. I like that the teachers take time to explain things and make sure everyone understands everything before giving out homework to help them.
I feel like I am adjusting well to life here. I’ve learned a lot of German since we arrived, but also a lot about friendship here. I’ve come to learn that someone can say they are your friend and then talk about you behind your back. Especially in my class, I’ve seen a group of girlfriends together, talking about how they’re friends, and then at the same time saying, “Oh, look at her, look at how she’s dressing.” One moment, a girl’s saying, “That’s my best friend,” then another moment she’s talking behind her back. It just doesn’t make sense. So, I’ve learned to mostly choose your friends wisely here in Germany and to stay in your own lane. It’s good to have one good friend, that’s enough. You don’t need a group of friends.
I’m about to finish the final grade in high school here. After I graduate, I’d like to do a traineeship as a nurse, so I’m applying to some right now. I’ve only applied to two so far, but my goal is to apply for 10 or more so that if one doesn’t reply, I have other options. I just completed an internship here that was required for my school. I was able to get a place at a hospital because the woman in the camp here called and asked if there were any places available for me. I applied and got an internship there, which is what I really wanted. But I didn’t like it because I was dealing with old people, so it was a little traumatizing. But by the second week, it was okay because I was used to it. I didn’t expect that I would be working with old people, though. I wanted to work with children because I want to be a pediatrician when I’m older. So, I really wanted to get some experience with children, but the only place they had available was with old people. It was okay in the end. For now, I’m just going to do my traineeship as a nurse first to see if I like it, and then I can apply for school to be a doctor. I’ve heard that it’s really hard, and I don’t want to stress myself out too much.
I can’t complain about our life here. At least we have somewhere to stay. We have peace, we have the freedom to do whatever we want. Also, in Germany, when you’re around 16 or 17 you can do whatever you want, so there’s this freedom here. I’m actually happy that we are here in Germany. I’d like to move out of the camp, though. I want to meet new people, people my own age. Maybe somewhere like Berlin or Köln or Potsdam. Somewhere that’s not as quiet as Luckenwalde, where there are more people who are my age. My dream has always been to study in the UK or the US. I’ve never imagined myself living here in Germany but for the little time I’ve been here, I like it so far. I think I should first study as a nurse and make a little money and then see what’s next after that. I’d like to continue my studies and one day become a successful doctor so that I can help my parents.
The one thing I’d like to say is that everyone should be treated equally. No matter what color or religion. Remember what goes around always comes back around. You might treat me badly one time, the next thing you know is, you’ll be in my office asking me for a job or something like that. Remember we are all the same.
I was only 6 when we left Cameroon, but I still remember everything about our lives there. I like my life in Germany better. I like my school. My teachers explain everything to me, and my friends even help me if I do not understand something. During Corona, they split the class into two groups, so one group went to school one week, and the other group stayed at home doing homework. The homework was quite a lot especially if it was a stay-home week, but I can’t complain. School’s okay for me, and I do well. I want to be a scientist when I grow up, so I need to work very hard in school. Everyone is nice here, too. Some of my friends are not happy with me because I know English better than them but they also know German better than me so I really don’t know what the problem is. But some of them are just nice. They stand up for me if I’m alone or something like that. It’s important to be friendly to others, even if they are not from your country. If someone needs your help, just help them.