20.4.2012 | Von:
Vera Hanewinkel


Emotional Reasons for Emigrating

Among the non-financial reasons for emigrating are varied aspects of personal "plans for self-actualization," which cannot be discussed here in detail. As a result, only a few points of emphasis can be indicated here, which are intended to show the range of these motives. The impulse behind the emigration of highly qualified people of Turkish descent is often provided by relationships with family and relatives (networks) in Turkey, which have been cultivated since childhood through family vacations in Turkey. In this way, the feeling also evolves that one is already familiar with life in Turkey. This is also strengthened in part through study visits to Turkey (semester abroad). With this, findings of more recent migration research are confirmed according to which networks, that is, social contacts in the target country as well as previous experiences abroad, for example in the form of study visits, further the decision to emigrate. [24]

The feeling of already being familiar with life in Turkey also evolves because of the fact that many emigrants do not consider Turkey to be a foreign country but instead feel as at home in Turkey as in Germany.. In contrast to the TASD study, which singles out the "lack of a sense of home in Germany" as one of the main reasons for emigrating, the studies of Aydın/Pusch, Hanewinkel, and Sievers et al. point to a double orientation of highly qualified emigrants of Turkish origin. According to them, the interviewees do not regard either Germany or Turkey as their home country but instead consider both countries to be such. Through social networks and the media but also through physical movement itself (vacations, study visits, etc.), relationships are cultivated in both countries. Their connection with Turkey is also reinforced through their parents, who in many cases came to Germany as "guest workers." The majority of the female emigrants of Turkish descent interviewed by Hanewinkel report being marked in their childhood and youth by the desire of their parents to return to Turkey. According to them, this desire became noticeable because the family symbolically always lived "on the go":
  • "At home we only watched Turkish television. We only read Turkish newspapers [...]. All my parents’ plans had to do with Turkey. In Germany we led a very spartan life. We never bought new furniture, for example. Always used furniture, because we wanted to leave. Things were that way for 30 years. For 30 years we wanted to leave and didn’t buy any furniture." [25]
For one interviewee the purchase of one’s own home symbolizes the admission that the "dream of returning" has "collapsed." As the eldest daughter, she sees herself as bearing special responsibility for transforming her parents’ dream into reality, a dream which over time has also become her own.

Whether and to what extent the remigration of former "guest workers," which often takes place in retirement age, has an impact on the emigration of their descendants to Turkey and to what extent the emigration of the second generation of immigrants may also contribute to the return of their parents to the home country, remains unclear. Hanewinkel’s studies suggest that an impact in both directions is conceivable. One of her interviewees relocated the center of of her life to Turkey, since her parents had returned there after a stay of many years in Germany. Another interviewee described how her own emigration to Turkey prompted her parents to carry out their long-held plans to return to Turkey. Since their children live in Germany and in Turkey, they now commute back and forth between these two countries.

Alongside family ties in Turkey, a partnership or marriage with a person living in Turkey can also lead to emigration from Germany, provided that the relationship because of the employment of the partner in Turkey, for example, appears to be more easily achieved there than in Germany. [26]

The appeal of Istanbul with its varied lifestyles is a further emotional reason for the emigration of highly qualified people of Turkish origin to Turkey. Many-faceted cultural and entertainment offerings, the "cultural" diversity of the population, but also the mood of new economic beginnings in the Bosporus metropolis, exert an attraction. [27] The primary focus among emigrants is not necessarily on the desire for a life in their parents’ home country Turkey, but expressly on the own desire to live in Istanbul:
  • "Istanbul has always been a dream city for me. [...] So it was more the city, that is, Turkey not now necessarily the focus, it was first Istanbul and THEN Turkey maybe, in other words, Turkey in brackets." [28]
This text is part of the policy brief on "The Emigration of Highly Qualified German Citizens of Turkish Descent to Turkey".


For example, in 2007 two special surveys for the longitudinal study Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) on Germans’ willingness to emigrate vs. their actual emigration demonstrated that approximately two-thirds of the interviewees with serious thoughts of emigrating/plans to emigrate regularly cultivate contacts in the potential target country for their emigration. Previous experiences with foreign stays, for example during one’s studies, increase the willingness to emigrate and contribute to the development of social networks outside Germany (Diehl et al. 2008).
Interview extract, Hanewinkel (2010).
Sievers et al.(2010), Hanewinkel (2010).
Aydın/Pusch (2011), Hanewinkel (2010), Sievers et al. (2010).
Interview extract, Hanewinkel (2010).
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