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The dynamics of Deutsch Suffrage ( Das Wahlsystem.)

I used to think that only the German language was complicated till I read about the whole system of German elections.....sehr kompliziert! Sometimes, I find the entire German fabric, confusing!

 

Article 38.2 of the Basic Law talks about universal suffrage as, ' Any person who has attained the age of 18 shall be entitled to vote; any person who has attained the age of majority maybe elected'.

 

Elections determine who is in power, but not how the power shall be used. Whether you get ruled over or be served, depends on the type of candidate you have chosen, so, use your vote wisely, otherwise you will have to bear a fool or a tyrant for the next four years.

 

But in this topic, we aren't discussing the do's and dont's for the electorate, rather, we will try getting an insight into the whole system of German governance. If only the system was as simple as- one person, one vote; like in most countries. The voting system for Bundestag is complex yet fairest at the same time. To understand the voting pattern you need to first acquaint yourself with the coalition mathematics.

 

A provision is made for the voters to make two choices. Though, it hardly takes any time to mark two crosses on the ballot sheet. But those two crosses play a pivotal role in determining who should govern? As an electorate, you are part of the central decision in a democracy. Right to vote is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the Constitution. The Basic Law regarding voting specifies- ' All state authority is derived from the people'. Furthermore, Article 38 states that elections must be 'general, direct, free, equal and secret'. As in most countries, the elections to the German Bundestag are held every 4 years based on the constitutional requirement for elections to be held 46-48 months after the first assembly of Bundestag. Elections can, however, be held earlier in case of emergency for e.g. when the Chancellor loses the vote of confidence in the Bundestag, the Federal President can then dissolve the Bundestag, and call for fresh elections to elect the new Chancellor. In exceptions like this, should Bundestag be dismissed before the stipulated four years, elections are held within 100 days. The exact date of the election is announced by the President and it has to fall either on a Sunday or a public holiday.

 

The ballot sheets handed over to the voters to mark their choices have two columns. On the left side, they vote for the constituency candidate. And on the right side, they put a cross against the political party they support. Each candidate, who wins majority of first votes in each of the country's 299 districts, secures for himself a seat in the parliament, irrespective of his party's overall performance. The second vote determines the relative strength of the political parties in the Bundestag. Hence, it is called the conclusive vote as it concludes which parliamentary group or coalition of parties will elect their preferred candidate as Federal Chancellor.

 

However, there is a famous five percent clause that is strictly adhered to in Bundestag. According to it, if a particular party fails to meet to clear the five percent hurdle nationwide, then it is denied any seats in the Bundestag. Nonetheless, if the party has secured at least three constituency seats, in such a case it will be granted additional seats based on its percentage of vote. Basically, the concept of five percent threshold was introduced to prevent fragmentation, and to keep far right political parties like NDP ( National Democratic Party) from gaining any foothold in the Parliament.

 

The German electoral system is based on proportional representation. Nearly half of the 598 members of the Bundestag are politicians who came directly after winning the maximum first votes in one of the Germany's 299 constituencies. The remaining half of the members secure their positions via party lists in the individual Länder or federal states. These lists are drawn up by the parties which nominate candidates they deem well-versed to occupy parliamentary seats or the ones who are believed to be popular with the electorate.

 

It is said, if a specific party wins as many seats as it is permitted to according to its stock of the second votes, then even the top candidate on the list will not be appointed till they have won a district seat. This was a decision taken unanimously by the Constitutional Court, so as to prevent the Bundestag from swelling from its original size of 598.Now, if a party wins more constituency seats than authorized according to its share of the second votes, it keeps these additional seats known as 'overhang mandates'. In such a scenario, the other parties too get compensated by additional seats.

 

German Federal elections are for all members of the Bundestag, who in turn appoint the Chancellor of Germany. The entire process is carried out in a very systemic manner, to bring to power the right candidates, chosen in the fairest of manners, to govern the country....after all, governance is not an easy play!

 

In Germany? Then make it better!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king's horses and all the king's men,

Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again.

 

Had Humpty Dumpty been covered by an optimum insurance scheme,

Humpty Dumpty could very well have been put together again.

 

Let's come back to the real life scenario, shifting to a new land poses a plethora of new challenges aswell. And what gives an extra headache is the task of sorting out those insurance policies that shelter you every time the rain of misfortunes starts pouring. How? Sometimes, by your goofiness and other times, plain bad luck. In short, getting hold of the right insurance schemes, which best suit you and your family, is very important. In the market flooded with legion of insurance policies that claim to be the best among the rest, the confusion keeps on mounting. After all, moving to Germany or for that matter, any country is not just about picking up your bags and passports, buying an insurance cover is a requisite which can't be overlooked.

 

Germany offers highly competitive and lucrative insurance policies. This topic exquisitely deals with a general overview of the insurance coverage in Deutschland. One piece of advice to all the new arrivals is, do not lay hands on any insurance policy in haste, always search around various media, websites or consult consumer guides to insurance so as to avail the best possible deals. A lot of insurance claims are nothing more than a mere gimmick to rob you off your money in return for nothing so 'worthwhile.' So, always keep your eyes and senses open, when choosing an insurance policy. After all, when it comes to the safety of your loved ones and yourself; no compromises and no chances!

 

The most sought after, and highly recommended insurances in Germany are:

 

1) Compulsory employment related insurance policies -

When you take up any employment in Germany, a variety of mandatory insurance plans come along as well. Contribution to social security is a must, and hence, gets automatically deducted from your salary. Social security provides coverage to major perils in life and involves-

  • health insurance

  • unemployment insurance

  • disability insurance

Out of these, health insurance takes up most of your gross salary. At present, the total health insurance is fixed at 15.5% of gross salary, out of which the employee pays 8.2% and the employer pays 7.3%. Employees earning more than 52,000 Euros/year can choose private health insurance over public health insurance, but it is generally said that moving back to public health insurance from private health insurance is quite difficult.

 

Accidents at work are covered separately by work-related accident insurance, which is the the employer's full responsibility. The employer is obliged to pay out the full salary for up to six weeks, after which the health insurance provider pays about 70% of the salary till 18 months.

 

Those who are self employed or freiberuflich have to arrange for their own health insurance.

 

2) Personal liability insurance or Haftplichtversicherung -

When little Tim was playing baseball, his parents had little idea that it would crash through the glass pane of the neighbour's window. Well! mishaps just happen without giving a prior indication. So, little Tim's parents are liable in such a case in Germany. But they are not worried. Why? Because they are shielded by the liability cover. In brief, private liability insurance covers-

  • all damages caused carelessly

  • injury and damage to others and their property

In such circumstances, you and your family get covered by personal liability, irrespective, whether the accident was due to your negligence, or that of any of your family members or for that matter, your pet. It even covers liability for damages caused by riding a bicycle, but certainly not by your car.

 

It excludes everything for which there is a separate insurance plan, meaning, it doesn't cover any damage to yourself, your family member or to your property. They are insured by other plans.

 

3) Legal insurance or Rechtsschutzversicherung -

Legal insurances are only focussed to their specific field of coverage, be it your work, traffic, housing or day-to-day issues. If you feel you are too prone to getting into disputes, then it is a safe bet to secure yourself by a legal cover. Legal insurance covers-

  • all costs of a trial, except fines

  • fees for expert witnesses

  • legal expenses

  • other party's costs, in case, you lose the case

  • a bail

  • issues related to renting a property

In fact, there are several variants of legal insurance available in the market.

 

In Germany, we often talk excitedly about 'no speed limits' on German autobahns ( well most of the times) but then the accidents that happen on roads lead to severe lawsuits concerning who was acting more like the F1 driver i.e. whose fault it actually was. Situations like these which are very common; owning a Verkehrsrechtsschutz policy lends an easy escape.

 

4) Household contents insurance -

Though, this type of insurance is not compulsory, but can be found as one of the clauses in some rental contracts. This insurance is frequently misunderstood as insurance that covers the house or apartment itself against fire or damage. However, that is an altogether different insurance. Household 'contents' insurance covers the items in your home. It depends on the size of your home, and the original price of its contents. It is very useful for the safety and security of your prized possessions against-

  • fire

  • burglary

  • water damage

  • vandalism

  • natural calamities

Last year a glass jar fell from my hands, and to my dismay, it landed straight on my electric hob with a thud. As a result, the ceramic top developed a big crack but thanks to the household contents insurance, it got so quickly replaced by a new one. All we were asked to submit was- a picture of the damaged ceramic top, and the new price quotation. I was so glad that we had taken out a scheme like this, which saved so much of our money.

 

5) Vehicle insurance -

Verily, it is the most common type. The basic insurance coverage i.e. kfz-Haftpflichtversicherung is compulsory for all car owners. The vehicle insurance pays for-

  • personal injury

  • material damage and property loss, if you cause an accident or injure another person while driving.

The insurance premium depends on factors like, the type of vehicle e.g. a car or a motorcycle, its age, and the number of years you have driven it without any reported accident . You may also get a comprehensive insurance plan that extends a cover to your own vehicle as well. There are two types of comprehensive insurance plans, namely:

  • Teilkasko - it pays for the following damages to your dear vehicle-

  • theft/robbery

  • fire/explosion

  • natural calamities like- floods etc.

  • collision with certain animals while driving e.g. an antelope

  • broken glass

  • short-circuit

  • Vollkasko - it covers:

  • damage caused by an accident, which was your own fault.

  • damage caused by vandalism.

This kind of comprehensive insurance must be bought if your vehicle is new, since the cost of repair would be relatively higher.

 

6) Life insurance -

The aim of buying life insurance is primarily to safeguard one's family in case of an untimely death. It can also serve as a kind of investment for retirement or as an addition to your pension. When purchasing a life insurance policy, it is advisable to first consult an expert, who would help you to zero in on the most appropriate life insurance plan best suiting your requirements. If you have any financial dependent to support then life insurance proves very meaningful.

 

Sometimes this type of policy may also be provided by employers as additional perks.

 

7) Housing-related insurance plans -

A lot of money goes into getting an insurance cover for housing and accommodation. Property-owners leasing out their property should get a special type of liability insurance i.e. the house and landowner liability, or Haus-und Grundbesitzerhaftpflicht.

 

Bottom Line

At the end, whichever insurance plan you decide to choose, one thing is for sure, it definitely relieves you of a lot of worries. The good old English saying- 'better safe than sorry' must be applied to our every day life which is engulfed by happenings, many of which are totally uncalled for.

Blue Card - Disadvantage

The Blue Card came into effect in August 2012, now, after one and a half year, I had to realize that there is a big disadvantage compared with the 'old' immigration law.

In the past it was possible to get a work permit if one has a degree OR 5 years or more of professional experiences. This rule is suspended and soemthing comparable was planned, but did not came into effect!

This means if one obtained a degree from an Institution or University which is not recognized by the German authorities, he/she will not get a Blue Card or a work permit under a different paragraph! Even if the employment contract shows a very high income, it will not help.

To be sure about your own degree you can check the status of your University here:

http://anabin.kmk.org/anabin-datenbank.html 

Unfortunately this is only in German language.

Good luck

Detlef

Fun reloaded!

Rise up, and shake your booty to the tune....it's carnival time, Hallelujah!!

 

Whatever may be the definition of fun for you; to it just add a few more ingredients like-booze, unlimited partying, flirting, colourful dresses, music and tonnes of chocolates....Rheinland carnival makes the season all the more memorable. Rich and lively, you have to see it, to believe it!

 

In one line, the Rheinland carnival can best be described as 'the time of complete frivolity'.

 

Imagine, Germans going berserk, laughing their hearts out, singing, dancing on the streets....no matter, how much the scene may look dubious, but this is what actually happens. As for the rest of the world, we are left totally flabbergasted with a big question mark which asks, 'Can even Germans have fun'? Well, fortunately or unfortunately, they have been stereotyped as the most well mannered, and disciplined of the nations, so when they come out of their usual shells...we are taken by utter surprise. And this madness which unfolds during the carnival season grows by leaps and bounds with every passing minute.

 

Two of my ever favourite carnivals are- the St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, Ireland, and the Fifth Season Carnival in the Rheinland, Germany. Apart from all the exhilaration of the festivities, what truly amazes me about this NRW( North Rhine Westphalia) carnival is the way chocolates are hurled at the spectators from various floats....it is indeed, the rain of chocolates from everywhere. Rheinland carnival is an absolute delight to the chocolate lovers. No doubt, people from all walks of life equally participate in the season's crazy celebrations.

 

So when does the carnival kick off? In many parts of Germany, at 11:11 am on 11th November, commences the Carnival which is followed by unbridled drinking and partying, and finally it reaches the climax during the days preceding Ash Wednesday. In Rheineland, the carnival is being celebrated since the 19th century with much enthusiasm and merriment The digits 11 were picked up because the number '11' is called magical 'fool's number'. Since middle ages, the number 11 has been seen as the number of sin, and associated with court jesters and fools.

 

Surprisingly, you would not find a single public place unoccupied during the carnival time. Buses, trams, trains- all public transports are packed with people dressed in fancy costumes who portray comical characters with beer bottles in hand. Giggling, joking, singing, dancing, and the caravan moves on....


The modern concept of Rheinland carnival is to 'unwind and be foolish'. It is said “ Anyone who is not a fool at Carnival is foolish for the rest of the year”. The high season, in which everyone- old or young, equally participates by wearing colourful costumes and attending the procession, unveils on 'Weiberfassnacht' ( Women's Thursday). This street Carnival which is a week-long street festival, also referred to as ' the crazy days' ends on Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday). However, the main highlight of the entire jollification is, the Rosen Montag (Rose Monday),i.e, two days before Ash Wednesday. All through the festivities people go around masqueraded, and chanting their respective city's greetings eg- Kolle Alaaf!; a Kolsch phrase meaning-' Cologne alive!' or shouting Helau; the local carnival greeting in Düsseldorf.

The best of the festival is reserved for the last, which comes on Rosen Montag ,the day is marked by grand parades and processions, along with countless walking groups,and the shower of chocolates. The thrill, the joy, the clatter of the crowds, the sparkle in the eyes of people...the feeling is indefinable. There is the smell, and colour of celebration in the air, and the undying spirit of the carnival... well! the spectacle is worth capturing in the lens.

In Mainz, the carnival theme highlights the political and literary humour plus the commentary. Carnival gathers momentum from Weiberfassnacht or the women's Thursday. It shows the power of pink, a day dedicated to women. The day reminds us of the history of women's rights movement. On this day, men all around Rhineland can expect to have their ties cut off as the fairer sex roams around carrying scissors in hand. It is a perfect occasion for women to find their matches.

What amuses me the most about Germans is, how rapidly they get over the festivities and madness. They just won't let the hangover disturb their routine, and most importantly their punctuality. A day before they were insanely drunk and complete junkies, and today without carrying a single trace of yesterday's madness...they are back to being sober, and as always reaching the office on the dot.

After all, 'Ordnung ist das halbe Leben' ( Organisation is half of one's life).


 


 


 

Culture or Venture?

Dreams and aspirations, take us places but somewhere, the feeling of missing on our culture and our traditions, keeps on perplexing us, time and again. What draws a person to another land or what makes one leave behind their homelands? A handsome salary, a better work environ, and riddance from the dastardly office politics; (I am sure all Indians must be well aware of) are some among the many factors, which entice people, particularly, from Asia to venture into the West.

 

Though, the move happens but, the detachment from the roots....well! it never happens. The odyssey not only brings with it many hopes of a brighter future, but simultaneously, also triggers an unexplainable anxiety among young parents, who are concerned about the future of their children. Would our children forget all about their own culture, and the particular way of life which is a benchmark in honesty and morality?. What if our children adopt the western ways of living and get spoiled? What if they get inspired by western thinking, and the scariest of all (in case of Indian parents), what if they start openly dating, and advocating love marriages...whoa! That's an open challenge to the authority of Indian arranged marriages, an unpardonable crime! And the verdict says- 'Send your children back to India.'

 

My only question to such people, who first migrate to foreign lands, and then raise a huge hue and cry, about culture is, why did you leave behind your country and your culture, in the first place, if you were so genuinely connected? If you are unwilling to accept another's culture, then probably you should have stayed back home to teach the real culture to your children. However, if you have stepped out of your country, then think logically, as to how you could still teach the right moral values, and acquaint your child to your own culture and traditions. Try inventing ways through which you can familiarize your children with your culture and your roots, in an appealing manner. Don't force your practices on your them, lest, they develop a repulsion; make learning a fun and interesting process. As an Indian, I can very well relate to the concern of Indian parents. Culture is indeed, an integral part of us, but it should not become a hindrance to our progress nor a limiting factor in the lives of our children. We should be able to sincerely ask ourselves- is the east to west shift absolutely necessary? Is it going to be a short term move or a long term planning? If you have come here for a few years, and you are certain about your return after a stipulated period, then off course ,you could send back your children to your respective home countries, else the vast curriculum difference would confuse them. For eg, in India the style of teaching is very class room focused and extremely theoretical, whereas, in Germany, the teaching is more practical, which aims at identifying, and developing a child's talents fully.

 

On the contrary, if you plan to stay out of India for a long duration, I strictly feel, in such a scenario do not pack your children off from here. Let them be exposed to Western Education....it is still, by far, better than ours. In countries like India, there is so much of competition even at the kindergarten level. Besides, don't deprive your children of parental guidance and most importantly, don't distance yourselves from them. What is the guarantee that they would not be spoiled in their home countries? Granny and Grand Pa, are too old to keep a vigil on them 24 hours....not possible! Keep your children with you, get them German education, and talk to them in your mother tongue at home. They would, any ways, learn German in school, and pick up English gradually. Teach them your traditions and culture, and imbibe in them the great values of your land by practising them in your day-to-day life. After all, the children imitate their parents first, and the society later.

 

The move from one place to another, is a global phenomenon but, don't make your adherence to your culture, an excuse to distance your child away from you. In fact, treat this foreign land, where you live, and where you earn your livelihood, as your own true home. I read it somewhere- 'Home is not only where your heart is, but also, where you get your daily bread from.' And who says you can't bring your culture along? We are all global citizens who are not restricted by boundaries. It's any day, a multi-cultural and multi-lingual world....truly cosmopolitan! And we are proud of it.

 

 

 

 

 

One's brain drain is other's brain gain.

Well, it's an age old phenomenon, and there is no stopping to it. Time and again, the best brains have left behind their own homelands in a bid to serve, and to be served in other enticing lands. This lucrative movement is termed as' brain drain'. It has been a concern for all those countries that fail to retain their intelligentsia, and hence, suffer exceedingly in their prospective growths.

 

The bright minds, which could actually be a boon to the development of their own country, hit out hardest through their migration. Keep aside the developing world, today countries like Germany, are struggling hard to hold back their best minds. Since the 1990's, there has been a constant debate across Germany over the emigration of the highly skilled professionals in multitude. This rapid outflow is posing dire consequences to the already ailing EU financial head, Germany.

 

The determinants that lead to the movement of brightest minds from Germany, thereby bringing about a potential loss to the country are-

  1. little economic growth,

  2. unemployment hovering around 11%,

  3. wage and social security tax amounting upto 47%.

 

They act as deterrents to the best brains, and force them to leave the country, in the hope of finding better compensation, in return for their meritorious work, elsewhere. The European Economic Advisory Group took focus of the question ' Should we worry about the brain drain?' in its annual report. The subject has become a matter of big concern for the German government, and is being given extra coverage in the media. Recently, the opposition demanded an answer from the government about what measures has it taken to impede the worrisome process?

 

The need of the hour is, to somehow hinder 'brain drain', and instead, secure the process of 'brain gain'. Today, Germany finds it hard to compete in the global race for talent, as it is unable to retain its own talent.

 

Der Spiegel magazine reports that the government Commission for Research and Innovation, found out that the best German trained researchers , academics and scientists, are preferring other destinations. Although, Germany does attract a plethora of big brains from other countries, specifically Asia (after US and UK have restricted employment visas to many Asians,including India) but the void left behind by its own professionals can't be filled in terms of quality.

 

According to the latest research, nearly 4000 more scientists left Germany between 1996-2011, which definitely sets alarm bells ringing in Merkel's office. It's been said, nearly half of the German scientists have found a new abode in Switzerland and the U.S. Talk about countries like- Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland or Australia, they have actually gained from the influx of brains, rather than, suffering any losses. But what remains a substantial concern about the future,why is Germany in such a dilapidated state of affairs that it can't support it's own bred brains? The answer has to be sought,so as to retain the best of the lot, and win a big round of applause (for devising a cure for brain drain.)

 

The price for being a messenger of truth and the related killings.

You can kill a journalist but you can't kill the spirit of journalism...it's immortal!

 

News has become a mandatory part of our everyday morning routine. A steaming mug of coffee in one hand, and a newspaper in the other, is exactly how our usual mornings take off. Then off course, we turn on the TV news channels or tune in to the radio news. What remains the binding element is the 'news' that has been readily made available to us by the journalists all around the world. Today, we don't talk of separate countries, and their individual happenings, rather, we speak of a world as a global village.

 

Be it the crises in Ukraine or the resignation of the Delhi Chief Minister who wanted to end corruption over night or for that matter, the Germany's latest counter espionage call against US spying notoriety, the 24 hours news supply goes to the credit of journalists. Present day journalism has become so advanced that no realm of earth is left untouched and uncovered by our prospective reporters. However, the truth doesn't come easy, and with it come droves of challenges which the journalists have to bear round the clock, just to keep the flow uninterrupted.

 

The London based International News Safety Institute (INSI) in its latest study 'Killing the Messenger' has revealed that the year 2013 witnessed the killings of134 journalists worldwide, plus, the unreported ones. India ranks fourth in the list with the most number of journalist deaths. Of the total, 65 died covering armed conflicts in war torn regions like Syria, where 20 deaths were reported, and Iraq with 16 journalist deaths. Moreover, 51 reporters were killed during peacetime while covering issues like crime and corruption, whereas, 18 died in accidents.

 

Reacting to last years' journalist casualty figure, Der Deutsche Journalisten- Verband (DJV) chairman, Michael Konken has called the numbers “atrocious”. In his words “ Every dead journalist is a dead man too much.” He further continues, “The killers of journalists are also perpetrators of press freedom.” It's not about a journalist getting killed, it is about the whole string of truthful facts related to a mystery, getting buried and lost forever. The kind of work and pressure, the journalists go through everyday to keep the supply chain open is beyond a normal person's comprehension. For us, it is as simple as tuning in to the radio or browsing through different news stories on the internet or reading the headlines in newspapers, but in reality, those involved in the task of bringing news to our table, go through a hell lot more, so that, in the morning when we wake up we could enjoy our cuppa caffeine with some hot and crispy news stories.

 

We all advocate truth, but believe me, it's the truth which we want suppressed anyhow. And the best way to avoid truth being published or talked about openly, is to silently silence the ones speaking about it, i.e. journalists, they are a bone of contention to so many. At the end of my journalistic training, we were told by our principal "today you have earned not just a licence to practice truth, but also a myriad of enemies, who at every stage, would want the truth to be silenced forever; so watch out!"

 

Not just the killings, there has been a rapid rise in assaults, threats, kidnappings, and rapes of female correspondents. Last year, a female photojournalist of a leading newspaper was gang raped in Mumbai. Besides, journalists are targeted through shootings. The report compiled for INSI by the Cardiff School of Journalism in Wales discloses that 85 of the victims were shot dead which included mass shooting of reporters along with individual assassinations. An equal number also dies in explosions, stabbings and beatings, by physical torture like strangulation or by planned accidents.

 

So next time when you pick up a newspaper or watch a correspondent reporting LIVE, acknowledge the courage of the person who is brave enough to pass on the credible news to you by putting behind all the dangers that possibly lie in wait for him/her.

 

After all, it's not just any news story, in covering it, someone, somewhere, might have just lost his/her life or is perhaps battling between life and death. 

A farewell to arms....but the reality speaks for itself!

And who would have thought that Hitler with all his powers would be defeated while Mahatma Gandhi with only the notion of non violence would win. Clearly, victory doesn't always go to the mightiest rather it belongs to the strong will that things will change one day.

 

By farewell to arms, I am not discussing Ernest Hemingway's classic rather, I would like to expose what is the myth related to it, and what reality speaks out?

 

Second world war is the episode in the history of the world which has left a deep scar which no time could ever heal. It was not just the war to show who is superior, I call it the era of hatred wherein all powers were so blinded by their extreme arrogance that they completely overlooked the human sufferings and the challenges that lay ahead. The period witnessed the worst crises ever which no words can describe. But post war period saw the restructuring phase where people realised that war is after all, no solution!

 

Germany bore the brunt of the Nazi dictator, and we all are familiar with the humiliation it had to suffer from all fronts. So over and out with history. Let bygones be bygones. But where do we stand today is the question we have to answer honestly. Have we learned from our past mistakes? If yes, then why doesn't it show? Why are the big powers sucking the blood of lesser countries like a leech. Where is peace? Or has it become an extinct phenomenon only to be talked about, and not to be acted upon? Baffling questions, but it's human mind which seeks answers.

 

The Rise and Fall of Germany will always be remembered in the modern history of the world. Post war period led to a paradigm shift in the mentalities of Germans at large, and which led to the big declaration that henceforth, Germany will never compete in the arms race. It bade adieu to weaponry. This conveyed a strong message across the world that Germany will become an epitome of world harmony and peace. The announcement was applauded and met with cheers especially from those countries which had suffered massively at the hands of axis powers.

 

Hold on, but wasn't it a beautiful gesture to show to the world that one could still make it big without arms? Then why is this sudden debate, and why all the criticism? So it turned out that yes! Indeed Germany withdrew from arms but then it started exporting arms and ammunition to the regimes where they were only misused. Basically, Germany could never liberate itself from the destructive tendency, though not actively participating in the killings but indirectly carrying the blood stains of those killed by its sale of weapons.

 

A sin is not only indulgence, selling and promoting a hazardous item or an idea is equally culpable. Germany is partner in crime by its export of arms. The country is well ahead in export of weaponry as compared to Britain and France, and for that matter any other country besides U.S and Russia. Some German makers of military gear are part of civilian industrial giants like Airbus group, and ThyssenKrupp, a steel maker. Rheinmetall is the biggest German company known mainly for the manufacture of weapons and occupies 26th rank in the league of arms exporting firms. Then comes, Krauss Maffer Wegmann (KMW) which credits on the production of the Leopard 2 tank.

 

It seems, Germans are quite proud of their exports, be it their auto mobiles or their arms. But has anyone really given a thought as to where these arms land up? Or in whose hands they eventually fall? Terrorists?.... well!. Afterall, do we really care about concepts like peace and all those God damn! high moral words, so long our pockets remain full.

 

Recently Germany has signed an arms deal with black gold giant Saudi Arabia to sell Leopard 2s. The agreement has been widely criticised. It violates the treaty which clearly states that sale of arms to anywhere other than NATO and NATO-equivalent countries is completely forbidden. But then the Federal Security Council presided over by Merkel can create its own exceptions provided they don't pose a threat to human rights, the latter part is only subordinate. We all know what purpose do these arms fulfil. Germany being the EU boss creates its own unique laws rather than following laws.

 

The peace campaigners voice against such a practice. They fear, the exceptions are turning less exceptional. With the budget of NATO countries getting shrunk, German arms exporters are trying to widen their horizon. Asia is the new big market where the high demands of German weaponry have given a new ray of hope to the German businesses.

 

Rheinmall aims to target 50% of exports outside Europe by 2015. Singapore has lately signed a 1.6 billion contract for ThyssenKrupp submarines. In fact, small German arms example Hecklar & Koch's G3 rifle comes next only to Russian Kalashnikov or AK-47.

 

Strangely, Germany on one hand convinced the UN to restrict the supply of small arms to war torn countries but on the other hand, it is itself exporting such deadly items to countries at very high prices. Besides, can Germany guarantee that its weapons will not be smuggled across borders to support dangerous regimes suppressing democracy or extremist terrorist organizations? In short, Germany has blatantly violated the law that governs the sale of arms.

 

Someone very wisely said- “Gun deaths are like slow motion Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

 

Selling weapons that are used to wage wars leading to civilian causalities, instead Germany from it's horrible past should have made serious amends by becoming a paragon of peace to the world by completely abstaining from ammunition. Truly, very few learn from the past mistakes. Interestingly, the arms account for only 1% of the total of Germany's exports but it is this 1% that the government is not willing to give up.

 

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists” Ernest Hemingway.

 

Now we understand Germany's arms deal with the rest of the world.

Named and Shamed !!

                                What happens when a law maker is caught violating the law?

 

Man you are a clearly frustrated soul, look how your one misdeed has overshadowed all the good work you have done in the past. One scandal and your political innings have been tossed off, with all the media running after you like a hungry wolf hunting down its prey. Sebastian Edathy...really?? how could you? The untoward incident could have been still handled had he only been charged. It's learned that many German Social Democrats were aware of Edathy's heinous act of possessing inappropriate images of children, hence they too are in the grip of the whole mess or maybe referred to as partners in crime( by remaining silent).Ministers like Frank-Watter Steinmeier (Germany's Foreign Minister), Thomas Oppermann (SPD parliamentary leader), and Sigmar Gabriel (economics and energy minister) are being dragged in the whole child porn controversy for concealing the truth about Edathy and thus eluding inquiry.

 

The politician in question has strictly denied all charges framed against him as untrue. The public was stunned at the news which stated that a case of child pornography has been filed against SPD minister following which his apartment in Rehburg am Steinhuder Meer near Hanover, and offices in nearby Nienburg and Stadthagen were raided by Polizei.

 

SPD finds itself in what is called a very 'embarrassing and awkward position', off course, it is a big blow to the party's image. SPD's parliamentary caucus manager Christine Lambrecht said the party was “ deeply shaken” by such allegations and has demanded a rapid inquiry to probe into the whole affair.

 

Infact, the ongoing case reminds me of a similar happening in India, some two years back, where three Indian politicians from a morally conservative party were caught watching porn on cellphones and guess where? It's heights of shamelessness, nowhere else, but during the state parliament session. All three later resigned from their respective ministries. Mr Sebastian don't tell, you got a little inspired by our Indian politicians, after all, you too share an Indian ( Kerela) connection.

 

The public allegation that I was in the possession of child pornographic magazines, or had bought them, is untrue”. Edathy argues that he has been wrongly targeted and is innocent...but then Sir, don't all culprits say so about themselves? Let the investigators do their job, and if you're truely innocent, you'll be given a clean chit. It is said, 'One is either exposed or deposed!!' In case, you are guilt free, for defamation you can any day sue the local daily for running such a deceitful disclosure. But, where there is smoke, there is fire.' Mr Edathy, we can clearly see sweat on your forehead; after all not everyone is blind.

 

Surrounded by media and investigators from all sides, Edathy has resigned from his federal Bundestag parliamentary seat, citing health issues. He hit headlines by his startling revelation about the failure of the authorities probing the series of Neo Nazi instigated murders, which went undetected for many years at the behest of German security services which wrongly convicted a Turkish gang for those killings. For this discovery, he was highly lauded by both the public and the parliamentarians.

 

On whichever side the coin falls, it is indeed trying times not just for the minister but also for SPD at large. But one thing is for sure, laws are for all...and if found guilty everyone including those occupying high ranks should be punished severely as a mark of respect to the legislation. The German law extends protection from exploitation in pornography to all children under the age of 18, with the introduction of offences of 'distribution, acquisition and possession' of juvenile pornography. Oopss! Mr Edathy, it seems you forgot the clause or did you not buy the law book? Law is law, and everyone is equal before the law. Learn it this time.

 

The fuss around dual citizenship!

It's a tough year for Germany, and hoards of challenges ahead. Starting from the big financial hurdles coming in the way of promoting clean energy drive from renewables to US spying menace, Merkel's anger on the leaked call of a US official insulting the EU's role in mediating in the Ukraine's crises. As though the current muddle was not enough that a fresh political debate on 'dual citizenship' has ignited.

 

Was it just a propaganda, something called 'vote bank politics' issued at the time of election campaign last year or was it a genuine promise which unfortunately met troubled waters in the sea of coalition?? Different questions, many opinions yet no concrete solution.

 

Amid the course of the would be law, there is rising frustration among the immigrants mingled up with the increased workload, their extra effort for integration and no sure shot guarantee that their sweat be met with any additional benefit by the government..... seems not only unfair but too bureaucratic as well. This comes with the decision taken by Merkel's new government regarding the introduction of 'dual citizenship' for children born to immigrants in Germany. Instead of meeting with cheers the announcement seems to have created quite a furore in different quarters. It has led to unprecedented debate on the topic of integration between SPD and the conservatives.

 

The Interior Ministry led by Thomas de Maiziere' ( member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union) has come up with the first draft of the law. According to it, “ to be eligible for dual citizenship, children of immigrants must have lived in Germany for a minimum of 12 years and should have spent a sizeable portion of their teenage in Germany. Young Adults holding a diploma from a German High School would also qualify for the same.” However, in the coalition agreement, it filters down the youth to strictly those 'born and brought' up in Germany. Now that is really amusing. How could a draft have two versions? I hope those in power know the meaning of the term 'transparency'.

 

Turkish community being the biggest migrant group has serious doubts on the credibility of such a bizarre mandate which reads different at different levels should the govt begin examining the education history of their children before giving a nod to dual citizenship. Not just the dilemma it carries for the immigrants, it also hits back hard on SPD's call for integration. During last year's election campaign SPD had voiced hard in letting immigrants retain their old citizenships even when they acquired a German pass. Was it a false promise to temporarily appease the immigrants and secure their votes?

 

The difference of opinion between SPD and the conservatives have split the two in arguments, and created further confusion. The coalition negotiations with the conservatives have resulted in limiting the law to only those children of immigrants born in Germany. Off course, the SPD too has its hands tied up due to the coalition nature of governance. The conservatives have propounded the criteria for granting dual citizenship. “Schooling” in the words of CDU domestic affairs expert Wolfgang Bosbach, “is a way of showing successful integration into German life” He continues, “ Proof of regular school attendance is also easy to present through certificates, for example.” In short, the government's stance is clear and straightforward, dual citizenship without regular checks is impossible despite the SPD's repeated attempts that citizenship should not come with conditions too hard to be met.

 

Whatever the outcome, the present mess has only created a sense of anxiety and uncertainty among those who are about to turn 23, and may miss out on the advantage of dual citizenship if at all such a law gets approved in near future.

 

Sometimes, delayed is as good as denied, ironically!

 

Born in Germany - 1949!

The second world war, started by Germany, with millions of dead and injured people, endless harm for all nations, where my English is not good enough to describe the blame of my country, was finished 1945.

I was born 4 years later, 1949, and nobody can seriously say, that I am guilty of this or any other crime the Nazis did to the jews and other people in this darkest chapter of German history. Nevertheless I grew up with this blame and I took responsibility for it all this past years and I still do.

At school our teachers told us how bad we have been and what Germany did to the rest of the world and this was good, absolutely necessary in order to prevent such bad things for the future. The knowledge of what Germany did in the past was so deeply impressive for me, that I felt ashamed to be a German.

When I started to travel during my student time (lots of free time) I visited many different countries and I met many people and of course they asked me where I am coming from. When I told them that I am a German I always expected them to turn around and go away, because they do not want to become friend with the son of this guilty nation. Fortunately they did not and I found many new friends and I realized that the world was ready to forgive and to see Germany as it is and not only as it was.

This is something I really appreciated and I also took it as a duty to do my part that Germany will be a good country, open and friendly to foreigners and help others, people and nations to pay back a part of his guilty!

Now we have the year 2014, 69 years have gone and I think it is time not to forget, but to act more self-assured and take more responsibility in the world.

Fortunately our president Mr. Gauck hold a speech at the 50th Munich Security Conference in which he spoke the words I can not find because I am not an author, and these words mirror exactly my opinion, my feelings and therefor I hope that many of you will read what he said:

http://www.bundespraesident.de/SharedDocs/Reden/EN/JoachimGauck/Reden/2014/140131-Munich-Security-Conference.html

Thanks!

Detlef

Indeed a fighter!

A million frenzied fans waving, many more glued to their television sets, the excited to hysterical maidens literally  jumping off their seats, the Formula1 race track, and there stands the man cracking open the bottle of champagne and kissing the trophy…this is what it takes to be Schumacher; the one and only!

It’s said when thirst for speed meets the undefying spirit to succeed, that’s when a wonder is born, truly defining a real star…Michael Schumacher, my first teenage crush.

Things were all smooth till the news broke about his nearly fatal skiing accident which left Michael battling for life and since then there is only one prayer on everyone’s tongue ‘Schumi come back hale and hearty’. With every passing day as the hope for recovery looked murky, the piece of news stating that he has begun responding comes as a big relief to all his fans around the world. Doctors treating him at Grenoble Hospital in France are reducing his sedation in order to bring him out of the medically induced coma as reported by his manager.

The seven times F1 world champion who enjoyed 91 Grand Prix victories was kept artificially sedated and his body temperature was lowered to between 34-35 degrees Celsius to remove blood clots from his brain and to reduce swelling. On the fateful day of 29th Dec 2013, the 45-year-old Schumacher who is said to be a great skier suffered serious head injuries as he probably lost balance and hit the right side of his helmet on a rock in the French resort of Meribel. The effect of the collision was so enormous that it split his helmet into two pieces.

It’s been suggested by the medical team attending to the ace champion that the decision to reduce his sedation is to check whether the swelling in his brain has started subsiding or not, and also to examine the extent of brain functioning. Schumacher responded to some instructions and blinked an eye. He is reportedly in the reawakening process, which medical experts say doesn’t occur overnight. If all things fall in the right order, a patient could remain in the state of lethargy for minimum two months. However, the complete recovery could take several years.

No matter what the doctors say, his well wishers believe firmly that he is a fighter and will fight back through this ordeal as well. The German Formula one legend known to be aggressive on the track and intense in driving has tasted victory like no one else…he will be back with a bang!

No matter how draped and dripping in emotion this write up seems to be, this is an ode to a hero by one of his ardent fans. Get well soon Michael Schumacher...we all are waiting for your return.

Snowden’s revelation has thrown allies into a tizzy.

The man who changed the course of tide with his shocking facts about US secret spying mission has been nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Many say his release of classified documents have indeed cautioned nations to tighten their privacy in terms of internet safety.  Last year Russia offered temporary asylum to Edward Snowden after he disclosed the US govt's secrets on surveillance programmes and other activities, he faces criminal charges in the US.

However, the discovery has led to a storm which is about to unleash. Your freedom ends where the privacy of others begin, make sure you don’t trespass into someone’s private zone. Or as it goes –‘trespassers will be prosecuted’, it seems the US has forgotten the basic etiquettes regarding respect for someone’s privacy. This callous and uncanny behavior has not got down well with the world’s leaders. The scandal comes amid a series of concerns regarding the internet safety in different countries. What has been criticized heavily is the alleged US eavesdropping on foreign leaders that has caused a lot of anxiety among the allies.

Violation of the right to privacy on the internet has caused an immense uproar in all quarters, safety and security of a country under no circumstances can be compromised. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor too fell victim to US surveillance with her mobile phone getting tapped and monitored by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Merkel has admonished US for conducting surveillance and spying activities reported by fugitive IT contractor Edward Snowden.  She plans a visit to Washington to hold a firm dialogue on the spying issue with President Barrack Obama.

Merkel stressed that “ Germany could not wish for a better partner than the US” but also agreed that the allies remain “far apart” on the “ethical question” of freedom versus security in state surveillance. She further goes on asking “is it right if in the end this is not about averting terrorist threats but for example, gaining an advantage over  allies in negotiations,  at  G20 summit or UN sessions?”  She replies back saying “Our answer can only be: No, this can’t be right. Because it touches the very core of what cooperation between friendly and allied countries is about: trust”

If Merkel fails to deliver her promise which she had made at the time of her election campaign last year, she will lose not just credibility in the eyes of the public but will also show how little influence she has in White House. It’s a do or die situation for the Chancellor. She had sent a strong message to the voters last year that she and her conservatives were doing all they could to safeguard the data of German people.

Merkel has greatly emphasized on the no spy treaty. She has mentioned that Berlin is ensuring that the European no spy agreement becomes a reality as soon as possible to protect the data privacy. Despite, the big claims, things are slowly falling apart and it seems the surveillance deal between Washington and Berlin might never come up on papers. Suddeutsche Zeitung, a German daily reported that the US is refusing to promise that it won’t monitor members of the German govt. and other politicians in the future.

German government is confronting US on the spying issue and proclaims to have informed Washington that it considers the spying role orchestrated by US to be a complete violation of Vienna convention on diplomatic relations that calls for strict condemnation and legal actions.

How soon the two NATO allies reach an agreement in this regard will reflect the true nature of trans Atlantic relations. In such a scenario, all eyes are set on the Chancellor, Merkel must deliver!

As for the US, stop sowing the seeds of distrust else remember the adage ‘as you sow, so shall you reap”….high time!

A tale of two countries and the rising concern.

It’s the scene of mass exodus from Romania and Bulgaria which has raised many eyebrows in Germany. The influx of immigrants mostly from these two countries has stirred quite a debate in the political arena. Are these ‘poverty immigrants’ or ‘benefits tourists’, and how their arrival has divided German opinion, let’s take a deeper look.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the league of EU countries in 2007, becoming the poorest members of the bloc. However, several prominent EU nations restricted their entry in the job market by imposing sanctions. The last of these restrictions expired on Jan, this year. Now that the restrictions have been lifted, Germany in particular is jostling against the vast in flow of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria in search of better future prospects in Europe’s top shelf economy. Some fear it is more than just migration and call it ‘mass invasion’ instead.

Germany possesses a generous welfare scheme which allows state benefits to any family with children legally residing in the country. However, many migrants take undue advantage of the liberal social welfare system. Hence, Chancellor Merkel is leaving no stone unturned to examine the measures to avoid the abuse of the welfare policy.

CSU (the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats) is said to have fuelled the political debate regarding the weighty consequences of free movement of unskilled immigrants from the two poor states. They suggest that the easy availability of the German social welfare system should revised and toughened, so as to reduce the chances of its misuse.

Britain sensed the danger weeks before the expiry of restrictions and adopted a rather firm stand on benefit tourism by having new EU migrants wait for nearly three months before applying for out-of-work payments and other benefits. Germany realized it a little later but is all set to work in similar manner so as to put a lid on the free movement of these immigrants. “ We don’t need all-out discrimination of the Bulgarians and Romanians, but nor should we ignore the problems some big German cities face with the immigration of poor people” says Sigmar Gabriel, Vice Chancellor of Germany. Basically, it’s the advent of migrants who have fled discrimination, and poor living conditions in Romania and Bulgaria in the hope of brighter future in Germany and other Western European countries. Had it been just the above cause, it would have still gone down well with the chief EU executives but the problem lies deep, hence, a reason enough to frown. The big question mark is, how far can such immigrants contribute to the labour market? It’s mostly challenged that such migrants are poorly skilled thus more likely to become a burden on the welfare program.

The giant migration has led to contrasting opinions, while some view it with a sense of suspicion, many others feel it’s nothing but a media and political hype. “ We are not dealing with national challenge,” Ulrich Maly, the association of German cities president and mayor of Nuremnerg said “ The problems are concentrated in around 12 major cities”. Maly also warned the on going furore is creating “ disastrous impression that all Bulgarians and Romanians who come to us are poverty immigrants and that many of them are here to cheat the social system.”

However, it is true the minimum wage of a 19-year old is equivalent  of 834,98 euros per month as compared with 169.93 euros in Romania and 152.35 euros in Bulgaria according to World Bank’s 2014 economic profiles of the countries. This is primarily the driving factor for the young enthusiasts to turn to Germany. Though, on average the working immigrants actually pay money into the state exchequer through taxes and other duties. Also, it can’t be denied in cities like Duisburg, Dortmund and Berlin, for instance, the percentage of jobless and unemployment benefit recipients among Romanians and Bulgarians is relatively higher.

Whether ‘ poverty immigrants’ or ‘ benefits tourists’ the phenomenon is surely worrisome, especially when EU is struggling with the giant Tsunami of financial catastrophe.

To make or to break…where does EU stand?

 ‘Wait, young man. You can’t escape unemployment by running away.’ reads graffiti in Spain.     

The dream of a closer and united Europe, has it already been knocked off or is there still some hope for its revival? Indented by the current wave of unresolved Euro zone crises, the horizon seems too far away. Once part of the great Roman Empire, Greece no longer holds the reins of Europe, on the contrary, its own future today hangs by a loose thread. Since 2010, the country has had to cope up with not only rocket high interest rates, severe recession, structural reform but also, the indignity at the hands of real Euro Masters, and you know very well in whose hand is the monopoly of Europe.

Can the EU leaders relax the strict austerity measures in the wake of a fresh financial threat looming around Europe? Has Berlin turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the consequences of such stern bail out plans? If indeed, then this unrelenting attitude might further jeopardize the unification process. The need of the hour is-

1) A sound and favourable new economic strategy to be implemented across EU.

2) The harsh regulations are to be done away with and

3) A more uniform and accommodating list of regulations to brought about.

These three points should be urgently attended to boost investments in  southern periphery which is in the big economical hole before the disease spreads further North. German exporters like Daimler- the giant maker of Mercedes Benz autos and Trucks, have been bulwarks of stability in a region gripped by crippling banks, weakened governments, myriad of unemployed, and not to forget, the worst auto industry slump in two decades. Today, Germany along with other relatively safer countries like Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, France, too risk falling into deep recession. It’s like the Black Death, the pandemic which once haunted Europe in the 14 th century and swept away millions.

The slowdown in Germany was foreshadowed by months of declining industrial output, said Carl B. Weinberg, chief economist of High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, N.Y. “The E.U. has made Europe a much more cohesive economy, which is good when things are going up,” he said. “But when things are going down the multiplier is very strong. An outgoing tide lowers all ships.”

The increasing number of German economists are now studying the Great Financial Plague from a newer and deeper perspective. The German Social Democrats are apprehensive that without a policy change the renewed Euro zone upheaval could very likely have serious implications on political stability in the continent.

The Greek debate has to be resolved at the earliest. Initially the Greeks, who viewed the membership of the European Union as a factor of socioeconomic progress, now hold elements of Europe for much of their grievances. The rising popularity of Syriza in Greece which has capitalized on this discontent provides ample proof what the populace actually wants. Syriza’s demand for a renewed EU policy will pose severe challenges before the dominating facet of the EU leadership. In fact, the future revolt garnered is already giving sleepless nights to many in Brussels and Berlin and could very well make way for some liberal concessions.

It’s a struggle of power and ideologies between the right wing and the left. In case of former’s win, the future only blocks and fragments EU, and would mark the spread of blind nationalism which in the past led Europe to nothing but disaster, and now it would hinder the process of bringing Europe closer. On the other hand, the leftists campaign for a fundamental change in EU policies so as to determine the future of a collective Europe. Wake up Europe from mindless hate, fear and bigotry and join hands to work for one-united dream. It’s said, ‘History repeats itself’ but let’s not let it happen this time. Let’s rise up to the slogan of French Revolution- Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.  No French, no German…only Europeans this time and one goal!

Social Networks!

Dear trust7 members,

all of us know about the big importance of the social network pages. They are good to stay connected, to find people, friends and to share things, good and bad, funny and serious things. They are good to spent some spare time on it (or is it in it?) my English is far away from perfect. wink

Our trust7 pages are more informative than an exchange of personal things, but I hope that we will become more 'social' in this personal meaning too!

Of course we have some pages in the 'big' networks, I will share the links here and hope that we will meet and become 'Friends/Likers' there.

https://www.facebook.com/trustseven

If you are interested in my private page...

https://www.facebook.com/detlef.vonhellfeld

And I just started this one and would be happy about more connections...

https://plus.google.com/u/1/112398564536107639248/

Thanks for using trust7!

Detlef

Meine Heimat!

Wo ist das? Meine Heimat  ist wo mein Herz wohnt.

That certainly defines a homeland. Different people have different perceptions regarding their homeland. But for me where ever comes a sense of belonging comes your homeland. A place where one prospers, where most of your memories dwell and which keeps pulling you towards itself, is your true Heimat. I beg to differ, a birthplace might not necessarily be a Homeland if you don’t feel connected to it.

Spare me the political events and power struggles, as the whole earth is my homeland and all men are my fellow countrymen.” Kahlil Gibran

Let’s not get boggled by the philosophical quotes and their even heavier meanings. I come from India; my native land, though it gives me delight to pen down my feelings regarding my country but at the same time there is a sense of anguish that comes along primarily from the negligence of our society and the pitfalls in our system. And off course I won’t employ misplaced adulation just to show how great my country is. Geographically we are big but even bigger are our problems, socio-economic and political. Though, I must say that despite my bitter-sweet relationship with my country, at the end of the day my heart still sings the Indian melody.

I feel fortunate that I have travelled extensively across Europe and got the opportunity of witnessing different lifestyles and cultures however, I would say, Germany has been the best experience so far, with all the language barrier and the adjustment impediments borne out of the former, once the settling process is over, you feel yes! this is where I truly belong. Opinions may vary, I am only sharing my thoughts. I can draw a comparison chart highlighting the pros and cons of life in Germany and India, but frankly as a writer of Indian origin I don’t think I would be fair and just to the topic. Secretly, I would try to hold back some of the vital conflicts and drawbacks in my land just to feel good that life is not so bad after all. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics only found in India that are fascinating and should be talked about.

In India, on one hand, I feel joyous as I am close to my roots and my family but on the other, the grim reality of life and its daily struggle for survival makes me question the credibility of the system called Governance. Are we actually governed? is there any law and order or more so, is the world’s biggest democracy actually democratic or is it just a farce? Each day dawns with a series of new challenges, previous frustrations, the burden of fulfilling the familial and societal expectations and then the hope, things would just be fine someday!

Let’s take a deeper insight into our society and its customs. One rather amusing trait which is very typically Indian is the great, great joint family system, all thanks to it you can never get your own space. Sometimes, I even wonder whether Indian dictionary really carries a word called ‘ space’ in it. Our family system is indeed remarkable it makes you strong, it makes you vulnerable, it makes you feel like pulling out your hair in frustration, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry….it’s totally baffling. But, we feel proud of it. Joint family system comes with its own positives and negatives. In brief, I can say the Indian family system is a great melodrama thoroughly entertaining. We don’t send our parents to old age homes, that shows the beauty of our culture and the deep respect we have for our elders, this is what makes the joint families all the more popular, after all parents are the building blocks of any family. At the same time, I also personally feel, one deserves certain level of privacy which is unfortunately alien to our Indian family system. Literally, you have to beg for privacy. ‘Hello! For heaven’s sake I am not interested in meeting my distant uncle’s distant relatives’….can you imagine, it gets that bad at times. C’mon who cares about such distant relations? Alas! You have neither an escape nor a choice, you have to meet them politely with all hospitality.

Another interesting trait about us Indians is our hospitality. The guest is treated as a shadow of God and you have to please him somehow, anyhow. Believe me sometimes it is a nightmare to be a guest. The host would make all desperate attempts to please and make you comfortable which goes overboard and contrarily you become very uncomfortable and highly displeased. Indians love food and more than eating we love serving it to our guests to the extent, we often indulge in forcing our guests to eat more and praise even more in return. The guest is bombarded with words like “Have some more; why don’t you try this?; Oh! there is hardly anything in your plate, let me serve you some more; I cooked all these dishes with so much of love, now you have to finish them all”….poor, poor guest!! Everytime I become more of a  victim than a guest , I mutter to myself ‘Have mercy on my tummy please’ and to such maniacs of family and friends, I feel like shouting ‘Dude I am a human, I am no giant’ and how in situations like these you wish to turn into Hulk and thrash your hosts.

My story about India would be incomplete if I don’t mention the big fat Indian weddings. Ahh!! They are so exorbitant that once the celebrations are over, you are left nearly bankrupt. Bottomline however is, nay!!we don’t believe in simplicity. When it comes to tying our children to one another as per our wishes, we want to make the surrender day…ahm! I mean the wedding day talk of the town, our parents would go to any heights of expenditure to make D Day forcefully memorable. And again the celebrations last for so long that not only the bride’s and groom’s families are nearly left penniless but the guests too get exhausted both physically and financially (who says, gifts come free of cost, and excessive dancing comes without bodily aches)

The food- India is known for its rich aromatic flavours. High calorie, deep-fried, oily, spicy, rich and fattening cuisine is our specialty.  I am sure we can even turn anorexics into foodaholics and in a month’s time the poor person would be running to a dietician to get a cure for obesity. I have never seen such an elaborate spread on the table anywhere in the world. Indian food though highly unhealthy tastes heavenly. Indians don’t easily compromise on food, it has to taste really good to win our compliment. Unlike Germans we have vast variety of snacks, after all, we can’t be satisfied by curry wurst, Indian heart wants more!

Watch out if it’s really yoga or something else- Despite its global demand and popularity, yoga gurus in India are constantly being put behind bars for their involvement in sex scandals and rapes.

So this was the funny side of India. On a serious note, there is one India that is truly progressive and shining but there is also one India reigned by tyranny of political honchos, the misery and suffering of downtrodden, the profound class struggle between the haves and have-nots, the corruption, the forced patriarchal dominance, the suppression of weaker sex, minority inequality, hunger, feticide, dowry harassment and most jeopardizing of all, the bygone ancestral mentality which we are still holding onto very firmly and, the indifference towards the grievances of common man. I question myself, weather I really belong to this India. No!! Not until we pledge to resolve the afore issues, not until we dare to step forward in defiance of the wrong practices, not until we raise our voice against inequality, not until we stop accepting and handing over bribe, not until there is a sincere call for change. I would rather wait till then…. for a brighter, shinier and newer India, where there are no two faces.So meine Heimat lebt in meiner Vorstellung (My homeland lives in my imagination) but yes! The heart is very much made in India.

P.S- Wishing the Trust7 family, a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. Keep reading our blogs, keep posting your queries on our site, we resolve to keep you updated and informed and strive to meet your expectations in an even better manner. Laugh loud, reach for the stars, live happy, live strong! Heartiest wishes from T7.

 

 

 

 

 

Make your visit at the alien office a success!

Every foreigner has to visit public authorities from time to time and nobody likes it. Especially a visit at the aliens department is always a bit thrilling, because you never know if the outcome is good or bad! If it is about a visa/work permit extension, a change of the employer or an application for permanent residence or citizenship or just a check for the status of your family reunion, here are some tips to make your visit a success: 

 

Get as many information as possible about your concern. You can ckeck our forums for similar cases and you can visit the FAQ section of The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees website 

 

Try to get an appointement ahead of your visit. Send an email to your local office or call them. If you do not speak German ask a friend or colleague to call them. When you enter the office say 'Guten Tag', even if this is the only sentence you can speak in German ;-  

 

Be confident but not arrogant! What I mean is that you should be aware of your high qualification, your degree, your professional succes which is probably higher than the one of the officer you have to deal with, but do not let him feel this! Be polite and show him respect, because you know that he has an important job. 

 

If you do not speak German try to find somebody who does and ask him to accompany you.

 

One of the good things in Germany is, that it is a constitutional state, so if you think that they do not treat you as they should (because you did what I said at the beginning and your are very well informed) you do not have to accept this. Ask for the chief officer! Be polite but insistent if necessary.

 

When you got what you wanted, do not forget to say 'Dankeschön' and 'Aufwiedersehen'!

 

Good luck, viel Erfolg

 

Detlef

Rise n Rise of Merkel

 

No bragging, no bashing; stick to the agenda; Angie's new success mantra!

We will do everything to ensure that the next four years will be successful ones for Germany” the ecstatic Chancellor Angela Merkel on her hat-trick victory.

Truly spectacular; yes! that's how the poll results can be summarized. Sunday; the 22nd, marked the day which ended with a bundle of extraordinary surprises, so also a handful of unexpected exists of many political aspirations from the political arena. The much anticipated results of the general elections are out in the open, Angela Merkel has proved yet again, she is definitely here to stay! As she comes out stronger and more popular than ever, a new chapter is all set to be written in golden words in German politics. What an exceptional wit and strategy, CDU and (it's sister party) Bavarian CSU have not just triumphed on the political front, but has held the German populace spellbound. No pun, no blame game, no mudslinging, no false promises but a straight and clear message 'No experiments' which kept the ball rolling in Merkel's court. Everyone lauded the slogan because Germany is indeed the undisputed financial leader of EU zone and doesn't need any further experimentation with its policies which are already going at a sturdy pace.

An intelligent planner as she is, Angela Merkel has all the traits of a far sighted and a shrewd politician. Her clear understanding of German electorate's mentality safeguarded her an easy win. On the whole, CDU kept its election campaign bland and subtle, just the flavour Germans relish the most. The litmus paper test to identify a German is simple, just check whether he maintains his straight face in all situations (no matter how acidic or how basic), if he does then Voila! he is a German and congratulations! your analysis is successful. This is exactly what Merkel and her party did, kept a straight and calm face throughout the election campaign and hushed all the critics by saying “Silence...Ruhe da! Our electorate also wants some peace and quiet.” They hit the nail just on the right spot as they could cleverly read the minds of the voters. This absolute or majority victory is a tribute to German's addiction to silence. Interestingly, the election manifesto for Merkel's party included the clause “One in two Germans feels troubled by noise” and suggested that the party would try to improve the situation to ensure the needed calm.

It was not the magical wand she held in her hand, it was her dexterous manipulation and political craftsmanship, which worked so exceedingly well in her favour. Let's have a sneak peek at the exotic skills and secrets of this wonder woman.

  • Her fair deliverance of promises of continuity.

  • Steadiness

  • The calm she and her cadre exhibited

  • To deter from petty politics of smashing opponents and personal attacks, channelising energies in highlighting party's achievements and future strategies.

The party posters simply read 'Merkel: Chancellor for Germany' or 'Successful Together' or the slogan once pioneered by Germany's first postwar Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, 'No experiments'.The low key campaigning style seems to have struck an instant chord with the public, it lent a air of authenticity and transparency, more of a truth factor which the people could easily identify.

The German public has chosen this chancellor for the third term as someone who prefers to wait before taking decisions and calls, who has proved to be a leader; who has risen against all odds, and is difficult to nail down. The transition of Germany from nuclear to natural resources owes the successful implementation to Merkel. Following the tsunami and tragedy which struck Fukushima, Japan in 2011, it was a conscious and unanimous decision taken by the Chancellor and her cabinet. It turned out to be a move which allowed her to take control of the primary motive of the Green Party. Likewise, by significantly increasing the social benefits to German families, pursuing minimum wage deals, controlling rent rises and improving gender equality, she took over Social Democrats.

Amid the Euro zone crises, the chancellor managed to keep Germany financially sound and stable. I am sure, somewhere Germans are grateful to her, even though she proved to be a nightmare for crises hit Southern Europe, back home the economy remained robust. Germany remained immune to the recession symptoms which plagued the European continent.

The Sunday's election results on one hand have put CDU in a commanding position, while on the other, they threw its pro business partner, the Free Democrats (FDP) out of parliament for the first time since 1949 as they could not garner the minimum 5% of votes required to secure seats in Bundestag.

Did you know?

1) Merkel's stunning score of 41.5%; the greatest victory ever for the conservatives since national reunification in 1990.

2) If she serves until 2017, she will become Europe's longest serving female leader, surpassing Margaret Thatcher who was Britain's prime minister for 11 years.

Even though her stand against the recession suffering countries is too harsh, the German voters granted her a landslide victory in the elections in a way fully endorsing her strategy of biting financial reforms in return for funding bailouts. “The stabilization of the Euro is not just a good thing for Europe but it's also in Germany's fundamental interest” she maintained and that's exactly what she is making sure. Though this phenomenal win has not gone down too well with her critics. Political scientist Mils Diederich says Merkel had a tendency to bleed her coalition partners dry. “You can relate Ms. Merkel to a spider that feeds on the flies it captures. That is what she did to the Social Democrats in 2009 and that is what she is doing now with the FDP.”

Whatever her policies be and whatever the critics say, what we all know is, she is Forbes most powerful woman in the world and today's verdict puts a seal on this testimony. This Sunday brought to the forefront the German electorate who shouted in unison “Ruhe da! Merkel, you are very much going to be this time too.”

Who says Politics is a dirty game, it can even be upright, sensible, simple and intelligent.

Angie you have won not just the elections, you have won hearts! Way to go....

G-reat; G-allant; G-enuine; G-ermany!!

Love it or hate it but you can't ignore it!

No other introduction could be so apt in defining Germany and I have no other reason not to feel so. Once you land here, you realise you have suddenly ventured into an unrealistically real adventure which gives you a glimpse of German history, culture, German passions, their achievements and most importantly, the answer to the question of 'Who Germans really are'? And the response you get is clearly admirable. Let's see, what it makes to be Germany; a number of factors which have re written its future or changed the course of history? A nation afflicted with fatal injuries inflicted by the wrong doings of one dictator followed by the exploitation of the world at large, but what remains the underlying feature of this great nation was despite being torn apart, it never succumbed to the blows it suffered from all sides. Rising up from the ashes, overcoming the great humiliation, gathering its lost and shattered pieces, coming up together to be knitted into one powerful system and the rest is what we all know, 'Determination to excel' which has made Germany what it is today; a power to be reckoned with.

The catastrophe it suffered post world wars, when the world looked mockingly at its sealed fate as though laughing at it, saying- 'All right! Listen and listen well. You are almost wiped off from the map of the world, mark these words! Your game is over, the ill wind has blown away all your pride and smiles! And here the world is watching you in all its glory, watching, watching as you come crumbling down!' Just when an ordinary country would have bowed down to the mounting pressures, Germany silently rose up from the debacle to take on the world by utter surprise, never to fall back again, never to be ignored again and here it stands Unstoppable!! and amongst the most powerful countries of the world today. This is the tale of Germany, we can't stop falling in awe with. It came back, and it came out stronger than ever...that was Germany's response to the world. Clearly, Germany got the game changed. It refused to be a silent sufferer and it refused to let be silenced by the jibes and the taunts of the enemy.

Shake me, distort me; I won't fall apart!
The more cuts I suffer, the brighter I sparkle.
I shall take the world in my stride, today, tomorrow and forever!
For I have lived through hell and fought against time,
to be what I am today, tomorrow and forever!
My game is not over, my game has just begun.

Describing the uniqueness of this exemplary land takes more than mere words, but let's channelize this fascination into 10 unique aspects about Germany which make you fall in love with it instantly. Get set and go-

  1. Makers of their own destiny- An epitome of intelligence and careful planning along with hard work without which the current global stature would not have been accomplished. Germany offers a perfect example to the developing world to show how to transform the greatest weakness into the greatest asset. Germans are known to be excellent in strategy building, policy making and implementation. In fact, many travel guides about Germany, written by foreign authors openly show their appreciation of how they are enamoured of the country. Germany is praised for being a colourful, lively, spectacular country, the powerhouse of Europe, a miracle wonder of both culture and technology, inventive and with an entrepreneurial spirit, "definitely…a very 21st-century country."

  2. Professionalism- Another remarkable trait about them is their thorough professionalism. They clearly balance out their work and personal lives, which is worth valuing. When they work, they work 100% without distractions and when they are home, they are fully at home, then office doesn't exist. German principle regarding professionalism is simple and straight- 'Work better to avail better perks.' I agree to this formula completely, reason being: more than hard work, quality of work matters. After all, donkeys work hard and intelligent people work smart.

  3. Freedom and safety of women in particular- It's said, if something bad is meant to happen, it will. Even paradise can't assure you 100% protection. Well! We are talking of real world and not cliché’s. I find Germany a safe abode for women and we are enthralled by the sense of safety and security it provides. The whole social frame work has empowered women and not subjugated them, else Angela Merkel wouldn't have been governing the country as Kanzlerin/ Chancellor.

  4. Broad mindedness of society- It forms the most integral part of German society at large. An open minded approach liberates a society from the labyrinth of rigid dogmas and hypocritical practices which decay societies and weaken women. Germany offers a role model country when it comes to emancipation of women who are not left at the mercy of patriarchal society. They enjoy freedom and are respected in all walks of life unlike countries like India where women are treated as commodities and an item of lust (in the wake of all the recent rape incidences). Hypocrisy breeds in closed and narrow societies where men are enchained by the supreme commands of their parents and they admit, they lack courage to stand against their families in support of the women they love. In brief, here in this part of the world, families are open enough to not interfere in the personal choices of their children, hence such societies are a lot more happier and prosperous. Unfortunately, in my home country women are made weak because no one has the courage to stand up for them. We are dominated by stale, outdated and corrupt mentality along with a thousand taboos, at least in Germany you can breathe free.

  5. The plethora of social benefits- The German social security system is designed to cover areas like- Unemployment, health, pension, sickness, carer's insurance along with maternity benefits and child allowance which is funded by contributions from the employed, employers and self employed as well as the State in a total of four insurance schemes-
    a) Health insurance ( Krankenversicherung)
    b) Unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung)
    c) Nursing care insurance (Pflegeversicherung) and
    d) Pension insurance ( Renten versicherung)

    Those covered by the schemes are:
    a) Employed persons (including apprentices).
    b) M
    ost of the self employed persons.
    c) C
    arers for children below the age of three.
    d) Recipients of social benefits e.g unemployment benefits.
    e) Conscripted soldiers or the ones in community service instead of military service.

    The social benefits aim to combat disparity among citizens and residents, thereby, improving the standard of living of its people in totality.

  1. An Engineer's paradise- Germany has always been synonymous with engineering. It sustains and thrives on engineering like an obsessed lover...I am so envious, no other profession is held in so much esteem as engineers. Known for its top notch technical universities and internships that are practical and immersive in nature and most importantly, a culture and an economy that rewards engineering skills with both prestige and career growth. German engineering seems to remain in the champion division of the entire industry. As a result Germany maintains its great reputation as the topmost exporter of machinery and industrial equipment. I won't be doing justice, if I don't speak about their excellent automobile engineering. Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Porsche are the undisputed kings of the road. Nothing beats German cars in style, luxury, comfort, elegance and sex appeal....oops!! I find them really sexy. And off course, Germans take pride in flaunting their cars and consider them as a matter of prestige.

  2. Trademark of quality- Made in Germany brand is taken for granted to be nothing but superb in quality, their skill is great and along with their prodigious craftsmanship they deliver widely acclaimed and high performance products. Reliability and durability are the characteristic features of German quality and better still is their quality control.

  3. Time Management- One thing you surely learn during your stay in Germany is Time Management. Right from catching trains, to grabbing your coffee, to meeting dead lines, you realise you are operated by time and not the other way round. Punctuality is the key to success in Germany and a must have trait, if you don't have it, cultivate it now!

  4. A gateway to your heart- I used to believe Switzerland was the ultimate tourist destination till I visited Germany's Schwarzwald. All I would say is, Black Forest is Germay's reply to Switzerland. After being here, I feel Switzerland is an over hyped tourist destination. You get a glimpse of heaven in Black Forest, serene, pure, peaceful and extremely clean. It is a colourful and vibrant piece of Germany that you can't afford to miss out. It won't be wrong to call it the valley of flowers, I have never seen so many flowers blossoming in a region like Black Forest. The main treat to the taste buds is the famous Black forest gateau/cake, its taste lingers in your mouth for a long, long time!!( I don't drink alcohol so couldn't relish it and kept gazing at it in all the cafés like a greedy child). Schwarzwald is an absolutely delightful region with yummy treats and all at such moderate prices. And one really surprising fact is, no matter how small the village or town in Schwarzwald is people speak English. No doubt it's such a popular tourist destination. The vineyards, the river valleys, sunny peaks, wide panoramic view, calm forests, revitalising spas and the most elaborate cuisine, it is dream holiday package. So what are you waiting for, plan your trip now. Freunde, gibt es einen Ort in Deutschland, wo ich den Schwarzwald Kuchen ohne Alkohol( Kirschwasser) bekommen kann?

  5. Eco drive- It is the initiative of the German govt. for energy transformation from nuclear to renewable energy. This energy transformation or Energiewende refers to the gradual shift towards the use of renewables and energy efficiency. Following the disastrous tragedy at Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan, the German govt. re evaluated the risk of nuclear power and has decided to chalk out the use of nuclear power as soon as possible. The whole transformation of energy is more than just a challenge. The decision was taken unanimously to show to the world how sustainable development in a leading industrial nation can be achieved through a firm and aggressive eco drive to save the environment.

Where the thinking of the rest of the world stops, begins the thinking of Germans. Call them straightforward, arrogant, reserved or narcissists, Germans are a bundle of surprise and surely have a bright future ahead of them. Now tell me aren't you enchanted by Germany? Writing for Trust7 has really enlightened me so much about Germany, I think I better open a 24 hour help line to provide guidance tips to the new arrivals or better still be an ambassador to promote Germany globally. Jokes apart, captivating or riveting, life in Germany is utterly sublime.

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