Germany is a country of active citizenship: some 23 million German citizens are involved in work for their fellow men and women and for society as a whole – in clubs, schools, environmental organisations and charities, as well as in migrant organisations, intercultural groups and religious communities. This commitment constitutes an important contribution to society which is complementary to government measures and more far-reaching. Perhaps you would like to get involved too. Besides the feeling of doing something worthwhile, you also have the chance of developing your networks or even finding new friends.
Active citizenship in Germany
Do you want to get actively involved in environmental or social work? Or would you like to have contact with people from your home country or of the same religion as you? You’ll find a wide range of possibilities in Germany. The "Engagiert in Deutschland" Web page in German provides a good initial overview.
You are free to decide what voluntary work you want to do, as under German legislation everyone is free to choose which legal association, party or religious community they wish to join. However, you may be expected to pay a membership fee. You can ask the organisation you wish to join for details. Of course, you can also found a club or another kind of organisation yourself.
One thing is certain: it will do nothing but good. Because your commitment means not only exercising social responsibility and helping others, it is also a way of achieving personal development. You can let your potential and creativity unfold, meet other people, get to know local or internationally operating bodies and improve your language skills. So why not play a day-to-day role in this and help to shape your environment by giving something of yourself!
Involvement in intercultural work
Virtually all towns and cities have places where peoples of different cultures and immigrant organisations can meet. Here, people of different origins, cultures, religions, ages and nationalities come together. Besides their involvement in social issues, these associations usually offer a multitude of different intercultural activities – cultural festivals, leisure activities, sports, and grants for basic and advanced education. But the principal aim is to foster cultural exchange and mutual respect. Many towns and cities have an office for multicultural/intercultural affairs, or for integration, an integration officer and a council of religions. Here, committed individuals work towards ensuring that different cultures and religions in Germany live together in harmony. Perhaps you would like to do voluntary work with one of these organisations, or share your culture and traditions with others too.
Networking with people from your home country
For many immigrants, it is important to maintain their cultural and religious roots or to teach their children and descendents something about the traditions, language or religion of their country of origin. This is why it is important to build contacts with fellow countrymen and women who are living in Germany. Try looking on the Internet or in the phone directory to see whether there is a community or association near to you which does something that interests you. In Germany there are countless communities and associations which cater to the different cultural, linguistic and religious needs of people from all over the world. These often function as counselling and networking centres and can help you, especially during the early days of your stay, with useful tips and their experience of all aspects of life in Germany.
Active citizenship for your home country
If you want to do something to help your home country, again Germany is a good place for doing so and offers a variety of possibilities:
- Joining an association/donating money: Do you want to help fund an actual issue or project in your home country? In Germany, you could collect donations, join an association or even found a new association yourself.
- Exchanges: You might even get a chance to put the contacts and experience you have acquired in Germany to good use: perhaps your new company is interested in setting up a permanent exchange with your former school or university as a means of fostering potential new recruits. Otherwise, you might have the opportunity of finding new markets for your employer in your home country, or of putting your knowledge and experience at the service of development in your home country in a domain where there is a particular need.
- Helping the family: For many people who move to Germany, it is important to support their family back home with goods, or financially by transferring cash to them. The figures of the World Bank provide cogent proof of this. They show that in 2010, private individuals transferred a total of just under 16 million US dollars from Germany to foreign countries. The fees charged for this kind of transfer vary widely depending on the service provider and the type of transfer. This is why the independent www.geldtransFAIR.de (German) offers a cost-free comparison of providers and methods for transferring money abroad, so that you can find the best one for you.
Active citizenship at work
Companies too provide plenty of opportunities for getting involved and for inputting your ideas, culture, or experience of other countries. For example, you can join the staff representative body, one of your company's internal networks or a work group which counts particularly on international know-how. By getting involved, you are not only demonstrating an interest in your new employer; it is also a quick way of getting to know colleagues from other sections of your company. You will overcome your initial difficulties with the German language and also pick up valuable tips about your new locality.
Incidentally, more than 1,200 companies, public bodies, associations and charities in Germany have already signed the “Diversity Charter”, committing themselves to fostering a tolerant, pluralistic corporate culture.