Article: “Turks in Germany” by Ekrem Arasede


Turks are everywhere all around the world. They have moved from one place to another since very old times. For example, historical records shows that Turks lived in the Central Asia, and then they moved to different places, which started the well-known Migration Period. Later, Turks settled down mostly in the Middle East and then in Anatolia. For approximately 1000 years, Turks have  been living in Anatolia. Through the periods of Seljuks and Ottoman Empire, they spread into Europe as well. After the collapse of Ottoman Empire, they came together in the borders of the Republic of Turkey. Especially during the Second World War, a lot of European countries lost their human power and they needed workers to work in their factories. Germany was one of the countries that opened its doors to migrants from a lot of countries, and of course Turkey.

Through this article, I will give history, facts and statistics of Turks living in Germany, describe their culture and society in this country and share my personal observations in Germany. I will support the content of my article with figures and photos as well.


Historians give the information that Turks started to live in Germany in the 19th century, but they were so little in number. As I mentioned above, Ottoman Empire moved towards Central Europe, and that’s how a number of Turks stayed there and started to live in cities such as Vienna, Prague, Warsaw and Budapest. However, by time, they assimilated in the Christian culture. Migration of Turkish citizens in large numbers were mostly from 1960s to 1970s, during the “economic miracle” (Wirtschaftswunder) of Germany. In these years, Germany suffered from lack of labor and man power. Therefore, Germany or in other words, the Bundesrepublik and the Republic of Turkey made an agreement of trade of labor, and Turkish workers were invited to work at factories. Soon, among Italians, Yugoslavs, Spaniards, Greeks and other immigrants, Turks were the biggest group of migrants; they were called “Gastarbeiter”. The interesting point here is that both German and Turkish governments thought that these Turkish workers would live and work in Germany for a period of time and they would return back to Turkey. Later, when the German government allowed the reunion of Turkish families, most Turks stayed there permanently. Nowadays, millions of Turks live in Germany, and they have their own communities in different cities all around the country.


State Number of Turks  % of State population  % of Turks in Germany
North Rhine-Westphalia 1,019,000 5.7 34.0
Baden-Württemberg 508,000 4.7 16.9
Bavaria 377,000 3.0 12.6
Hessen 283,000 4.6 9.4
Berlin 218,000 6.2 7.3
Lower Saxony 221,000 2.8 7.4
Rhineland-Palatinate 122,000 3.1 4.1
Hamburg 93,000 5.2 3.1
Schleswig-Holstein 60,000 2.1 2.0
Bremen 49,000 7.4 1.6
Neue Länder (former East Germany) 25,000 0.2 0.8
Saarland 23,000 2.3 0.8
Total 2,998,000 3.7 100.0


Statistics show that almost 3 million Turks live in Germany. In fact, this number is a bit complicated. According to the report published in 2013 by the Statistisches Bundesamt, there were about 1.550,000 Turkish citizens in Germany. This number is decreasing due to the fact that about 30.000 to 70.000 Turks are getting German citizenship every year. Also, after the year 2000, children who were born in Germany are automatically Germany citizens if one parent has lived in Germany for eight years with a permanent residence permit. On the other hand, in 2005, there were approximately 840.000 German citizens with Turkish origin. In total, the number of people with Turkish origin is 2.998.000, and this makes up the 3.7% of Germany’s population. Another important fact that we can draw from statistics is that Turks make up about 63% of the total Muslim population in Germany as the largest group. (

When we have a closer look at the chart above, we can see that Turks in Germany mostly resides in urban areas. Currently, more than 60% of Turks live in big cities, and only one fourth of them are in small towns or villages. Most of the Turkish population is in the west of the country, and they are generally the areas where there is a lot of industry.


Due to the fact that Germany and Turkey are geographically not so far from each other, cultural transfer and influence from the country of origin has remained considerable among the Turkish minority. Furthermore, the majority of second-generation Turks appear to have developed emotional and cultural ties to their parents’ country and also to the country which they currently live in. Most Turks live in two conflicting cultures with in their daily lives, and they are contrasting behavior codes and patterns of belonging. At work or school, German culture tends to dominate, while during leisure time, social networks divide along ethnic lines of the Turkish culture. In the first generation of migrants, social networks were almost exclusively Turkish; however, nowadays in the second and third generations this segregation line remains just as effective as ever. (Kolinsky, 1996) In my opinion, this is what I have observed during my stay in Germany last summer. Turks in Germany really have difficult times in their daily lives, but new generation is more open to Germany culture, though parents usually call this assimilation.

Turkish is most widely used immigrant language in Germany. A lot of Turks speak German with a Turkish accent. German spoken by Turks is usually referred as “Türkendeutsch” , “Kanak Sprak” are “Ghettosprache”, “Türkenslang”, “Kiez-Deutsch”, “Kiezdeutsch” and “Kanakisch” (Feridun Zaimoğlu et al, 2011.) However, in some German schools, Turkish language is a subject of study for Abitur.

Turks are the predominant Muslim ethnic group in Germany, so, Islam in Germany has a largely Turkish character. (Hunter, 2002) In daily life, practice of Islam is not very difficult because there are mosques or Turks mostly live in their communities, which makes it possible to arrange a place to pray easily. A study shows that 35% of Turkish Muslim youths living in Germany attend religious services regularly. About 20% of the Turkish women in Germany wear a headscarf. (Gesemann, 2006)

Integration of Turks is a big issue in Germany. At first, Turkish immigrants were planned to be temporary. However, later, German government did not facilitate the integration of the Turks in the new society, and also Turks themselves did not work to integrate. There is an interesting study which shocked me a lot. It showed 72% of the Turks believe that Islam is the only true religion, 62% prefer only Turks as social contacts, 46% wish that one day more Muslims live in Germany than Christians. (Liljeberg, 2012) In fact, these findings show why Turks have difficulty integrating into German society.

With the problem of integration, we have to discuss discrimination as well. The number of violent activities was very high in 1990s, but nowadays there are only individual cases of discrimination.

On the other hand, there are some successful Turks in different walks of life such as cinema, music, sports and politics. They are all well-known in Turkey as well.


Some famous German-Turks. (Resource:


I have been to Germany two times, and I stayed there for about 5 weeks in total; so I think I had enough time to observe the society, especially the Turks in Germany. Also, I have my relatives living in Heidelberg, and I stayed with them during my last visit. However, during my first visit, I stayed with a German family. Therefore, I had the opportunity to see and experience both German and Turkish way of life there. I can evaluate my observations from different perspectives. First of all, in German family, daily routines and household activities are more equally distributed. For example, the father helps more to the mother. Family members have specific responsibilities, and they complete their roles punctually and in discipline. However, in Turkish family, the mother does almost all the housework. Family members do not have distributed responsibilities, so they act more occasional. They are usually not punctual in organizing their daily routines. Of course, Turkish family is not always negative in comparison to the German family. For example, Turks are more hospitable, sociable, sharing and caring. They open their hearts to guests, but German people tend to keep distant and they have more strict social rules. According to my aunt who has lived in Germany for about 40 years, German people have learnt a lot from Turks, especially to treat, to share and to be more sociable neighbors.

The German family that I stayed with was very eager to learn as much as they can about Turkey because they knew things only from the news on TV, but meeting someone from Turkey made them very enthusiastic. Of course, media is freer in Germany, so they knew more than I did about some points such as Gezi Park Protests, child marriage, and Kurdish issue, etc. Coincidentally, it was the first anniversary of Gezi Park Protests. During my one-week stay with them, we spent almost all evenings talking about Turkey and Turkish culture and sometimes comparing two countries. According to them, the main difference was the number and attitude of the police. They said that there were not a lot of police officers around in Germany, and they only appeared when there is a serious problem; but in Turkey, police is everywhere and they kill people.

There are some experiences that I had in Germany, but I think I cannot have in Turkey. First of all, food and drink is different. Even the taste of döner kebab is unique in Germany. I cannot find the same ingredients and sauces in Turkey. The second main difference is the design and cleanness of cities. In Germany, roads are organized better, houses are decorated better, there are more trees, parks and gardens everywhere, and most importantly, it is cleaner than Turkey. There is also a big difference that I like most; the speed limit on highways in Germany is higher than in Turkey. In addition, the traffic is better organized. During my whole stay in Germany, I was stuck in traffic only once, and it was because of an accident. In short, people in Germany do not waste their time in traffic. Taking all these differences into account, I can summarize my observations with this conclusion: Turks in Germany have better lives there than they would have in Turkey.

Note: This article was written by Ekrem Arasede, a student at Deutsche Schule Istanbul. All rights shared with YOUTHART.


Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund – Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus 2012, Statistisches Bundesamt, Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2, Wiesbaden, 2013,

Turkey in the EU Becomes German Election Issue, Spiegel’s Daily Take, September 15, 2005

Horrocks, David; Kolinsky, Eva (1996), Turkish Culture in German Society Today (Culture & Society in Germany), Berghahn Books, ISBN 1-57181-047-1

Feridun Zaimoğlu, Seyda Ozil, Michael Hofmann, Yasemin Dayioglu-Yücel (2011), 50 Jahre türkische Arbeitsmigration in Deutschland (Türkisch-Deutsche Studien) V&R unipress, S. 209

Hunter, Shireen (2002), Islam, Europe’s Second Religion: The New Social, Cultural, and Political Landscape, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0-275-97608-4

Frank Gesemann (2006), Die Integration junger Muslime in Deutschland, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 9

Deutsch-Türkische Lebens und Wertewelten, Liljeberg Research International, July/August 2012, p. 67f., 73

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Article: “Turks in Germany” by Ekrem Arasede

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- Youth Art Research and Training Association, based in Istanbul, is the Turkish partner of the project.