Living in Philadelphia means being exposed to different people and ethnicities. Philly is a very diverse city and I thought that moving to Germany was going to be different in the aspect of diversity. I was surprised though when I first arrived in Mannheim that it shares a lot in common with Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is known to have a diverse population. Whites, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics all live in the city and the influence of each group can be felt. Comparatively Germany as a whole is a much more homogenous population. I thought that I was going to be in an environment with less diversity when it comes to race. The stereotypical blond hair blue eyes white German was what I pictured before coming here. Although there are quite a few people like this I was surprised to see that whites are not as big of as a majority as I thought in Mannheim. In fact, much like Philadelphia has a split between the white population and the black population, Mannheim has a split between the white population and the Turkish population.
Turkish immigrants started to come to Germany after the war to rebuild the country. These people were called Gastarbeiter or guest workers and the idea was that they would come work in Germany for a couple of years, earn some money, and go back home to Turkey. In reality what happened was that the workers brought their families over and today Germany has a large Turkish population. It also needs to be said that not all guest workers were Turkish. In Mannheim this presence can be heavily felt. The most obvious is in the form of kebab stores in the city. I’ve been to many German cities and I really think that Mannheim has the most kebab stores I’ve seen. They are literally on each street and around every corner. Also the presence of other stores that sell Turkish food and items illustrates the diversity in the city. In fact half of Mannheim’s center is a Turkish neighborhood. The problem is that it’s very divided. Just like in Philadelphia the populations don’t mix very well. The Turks, like the Blacks are generally poorer and live in the less desirable part of town. Also the boundary between populations is very clear. In Mannheim the main street separates the whites from the Turks. The Turkish population is also very segregated and chooses to interact with one another instead of with other ethnicities. This brings about tension between native Germans and the immigrant Turks.
Other groups also exist in Mannheim. I was surprised to find a rather large Italian population in the city. I often hear Italian being spoken on the street and I unwittingly live right next to what I would call Mannheim’s little Italy. Eastern Europeans such as Bulgarians and Romanians are also present in the city but to a lesser extent.
Overall, Mannheim has a very diverse population just like Philadelphia. I was wrong in assuming that the city was going to be more homogenous. (picture of a Turkish restaurant in Mannheim)