8° 21' 14'' N, 11° 47' 10'' O
The layer of cloud thins out. Here and there, the outlines of fields and settlements emerge far beneath us. It’s impossible to tell where we are, or what lies ahead. The cabin crew have collected the last few cups and glasses, and are busy preparing for landing. Then the pilot announces that the aircraft is approaching Munich – but as usual, there’s so much traffic overhead that the plane has to circle endlessly before it is cleared for landing.
In these last few moments between take-off and landing, between departure and arrival, our thoughts go round and round as well. We think what it must be like to be an immigrant on his way in Germany. Here on the plane, ordering a drink in German, perhaps the rationale behind the mandatory German test finally starts to make sense. He might start to think how his basic German skills will make it easier to cope with every-day life, make him less dependent on his partner and help him to integrate. But then a member of the cabin crew makes another announcement, reminding him that he’s forgotten a lot of what he’s already learned, that there’s a lot he still doesn’t understand, and how important it is to carry on learning the language.
We wonder whether we’ve given him what he needs to prepare for a life in Germany. Have we given him good advice and support to help him pass the German examination and qualify for a visa – the most important travel document of all? Did we do the right thing by encouraging him, if he failed first time round, to take the test again, with all the stress that this involves? Did we promise too much when we said that learning German was the key to better integration in Germany? Why does the right to use this key have to be earned first in some countries – but not in all of them? We recall the numerous political debates and controversy over this issue. We want to continue our work to ensure that migrants have access to the specific services they need, not only to help them surmount the obstacle of the German examination more easily, but also to give them a sense that they are properly prepared for life in Germany.
Long before their journey starts, some immigrants ask us why they have to undergo this very time-consuming and often very costly process before they can join their spouses in Germany. And yet as the examination approaches, or once it is over, one question is uppermost in their minds: when will their day finally come? They are filled with hopes and expectations of personal happiness, confident that all the efforts that they have made, and the success they have achieved in preparing for life in Germany with the language and orientation courses, will pay off.
The flight attendant asks us to return our seats to the upright position and fasten our seatbelts. He thanks us and hopes to welcome us on board again soon. The reading lights overhead flicker briefly. Then the aircraft descends rapidly and we brace ourselves for the jolt as we touch down. It’s a brief moment of tension, but also one of relief.
Now we just have to wait until the aircraft reaches the stand at 48° 21' 14" N, 11° 47' 10" E and we can start to disembark. The signs in the terminal building convey a message in German that’s easy to understand: “Willkommen in Deutschland” – Welcome to Germany. Let’s hope that everyone who puts them up actually reads them. The new arrivals are welcomed by their friends and family in Germany with flowers and tears of joy.
We take the local train to our headquarters in Munich, tired from the journey, but relieved, too – certain that together with our colleagues in the migrants’ home countries, we have done all we can to help them on their way.
Goethe-Institut, Language Courses and Examinations Department