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Nogo_Headergrafik© Nancy Schneider

“Social hotspot,” “ghetto,” “no-go zone” – certain urban areas are seen as “troubled areas.”  But how did this happen in the first place, and how do residents deal with it?
On the basis of selected urban districts in Belgium, Germany, France and Italy, we present causes and processes of stigmatisation of urban spaces, as well as initiatives for improving community life.

Why No-Go?

How does it happen that certain neighbourhoods acquire the reputation of a “no-go zone”? Apart from social, economic and structural causes, do the media play a role?

What do the numbers say?

Numbers and statistics never reflect the diversity of life. But they do provide a point of reference to size up reality better. Starting out from this idea, we decided to present the neighbourhood of our “No-Go” dossier – in all its variety – on the basis of a few selected key data.

Where is the quarter located? How many people live there, where do they come from, how young are they? The numbers often produce different results from what we expected. A couple of facts of a completely different kind are even more surprising – test your knowledge!


How do residents themselves view their neighbourhood? How does their neighbourhood’s negative image influence their lives?

“Wedding Mile”: Tulle and dreams

Weseler Straße in Duisburg-Marxloh is known as the “wedding mile“: nowhere else in Germany are there so many bridal shops in so small a space, so many shop windows full of clothes, dinner jackets, rings and wedding cakes. In-between: supermarkets, barbecue restaurants, baklava bakeries. Here something is always doing. Weseler Straße is also the main street of Marxloh, a neighbourhood that struggles with the stigma of being called a “sink estate”. Whoever shops, lives and works here, is usually asked only about the problems. Very rarely about the life.

  • Mahircan Küccük, “Hobi Collection, Grooms’ and Men’s Suits”, Weseler Straße 15 Photo: Anne-Nikolin Hagemann © Goethe-Institut

    Mahircan Küccük, “Hobi Collection, Grooms’ and Men’s Suits”, Weseler Straße 15

    Mahircan knew how to knot a tie at the age of seven. He grew up here, in his father’s shop, between clothes racks full of suits and mannequins wearing dinner jackets. In 2011, at the age of twenty, he took over the shop. “Fashion is in my blood.” The customers come from all over Europe: Belgium, the Netherlands, England. What looks good on whom, says Mahircan, he usually sees at first glance: colour, cut, size. How does he know which suit is the right one? “When I see the spark in the customer’s eye, then I’m right.“
  • Aylin Küccük, “Melisam Bridal Wear”, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße 304 Photo: Anne-Nikolin Hagemann © Goethe-Institut

    Aylin Küccük, “Melisam Bridal Wear”, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße 304

    Mahircan‘s sister Aylin, 22, runs her father’s bridal wear shop, just round the corner. “Other children want only their parents’ money, want to go out instead of helping. We’re not like that”, she says. Aylin, Mahircan, their parents and young sister live together. Sunday is family day, time for talking. Brides, says Aylin, are more difficult to advise than grooms; they take longer to decide. But once she sold a customer the perfect wedding dress and perfect wedding shower dress in twenty minutes. “A miracle.” On Sunday the family talked a long time about that.
  • Mustafa Yilmaz, supermarket in Weseler Straße 50 Photo: Anne-Nikolin Hagemann © Goethe-Institut

    Mustafa Yilmaz, supermarket in Weseler Straße 50

    “You speak quite good German”: one of the worst things to say to Mustafa. He then usually replies: “You don’t speak it badly either”. His parents come from Turkey; he himself was born in Germany, took his school-leaving examination here and studied business administration here at university. “But so long as I won’t let go of my roots, I’m seen as a foreigner”, he says. Before, he used to fight back against this. Today, he contemplates moving to Turkey with his wife and children. The family lives near Dusseldorf; in the supermarket owned by his in-laws in Weseler Straße, Mustafa only helps out. It isn’t his world. He has the feeling that the longer he works, the worse his German becomes.
  • Kenan Özen, „Photo Studio Özman“, Weseler Straße 35 Photo: Anne-Nikolin Hagemann © Goethe-Institut

    Kenan Özen, „Photo Studio Özman“, Weseler Straße 35

    The ladies decide, says Kenan. The men want something fast and uncomplicated. The ladies want to be princesses. As a wedding photographer, his job is to make them both happy. Perfect lighting, perfect colour, perfect pose, perfect moment. Per job, he says, there is at least one picture in which everything is right. Always works: “When the two look at one another. And then they smile. You know: the photo’s going to be good.” With a little luck, he snaps not only the engagement and wedding but also the children, their first day at school, family gatherings. And then the next engagement ….
  • Hatice Tufan and Cem Sen, in front of the jeweller in Weseler Straße, corner of Grillostraße Photo: Anne-Nikolin Hagemann © Goethe-Institut

    Hatice Tufan and Cem Sen, in front of the jeweller in Weseler Straße, corner of Grillostraße

    Cem and Hatice want to get married. Today they were at the Turkish consulate to apply for documents required by the civil registry office. Maybe they will buy the wedding rings here; it’s easier to bargain with fellow countrymen. The rings should be simple, silver. The festivities, on the other hand, will not be so simple: 800 guests for the engagement party, 1,000 for the wedding. Hatice was surprised that Cem asked for her hand so soon; they had been a couple for only about a year. The proposal? Rather spontaneous, says Cem: bought ring, bought roses, went down on his knee. “And then, thank goodness, she said ‘Yes’.”
  • Leyla Prestin and Neriman Pekgüleç, saleswomen at “Ekol Gelinlik”, Weseler Straße 66 Photo: Anne-Nikolin Hagemann © Goethe-Institut

    Leyla Prestin and Neriman Pekgüleç, saleswomen at “Ekol Gelinlik”, Weseler Straße 66

    It’s not about selling, says Neriman, anybody can sell. It’s about bringing the ideal pair together, dress and woman: “A customer in a dress that fits her perfectly is the best advertisement”. Leyla is the expert for wedding dresses, Neriman for evening gowns. Recently, the latter said, she had a yellow dress with embroidery in the shop that was perfect for a certain customer. The customer, however, didn’t even want to try it on; no amount of persuasion helped. Then she went for a coffee, returned and slipped into the dress. “She gave me a hug”, said Neriman. And beams.

What’s next?

What local and national initiatives exist for improving life in the affected neighbourhoods? How can the emergence of “troubled areas” be avoided?