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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 17:45 GMT
Germany welcomes immigrants with book
By Ray Furlong
BBC correspondent in Berlin

The German government has produced a new guide book aiming to make the country more comprehensible to immigrants.

garden gnomes
The book introduces immigrants to gnomes
The book, which lists garden gnomes and cuckoo clocks as typically German, tells new arrivals that Germany will soon seem less complicated than at first sight.

It also tells them not to give up on the German lessons.

So what is typically German?

According to the government, it is the doner kebab - this country's most popular fast food.

Other items in the new 220-page guide book are more traditional: Cuckoo clocks, the Oktoberfest, Goethe.

There is even a large colour picture of a garden gnome, although given there is no explanation of it in the text, this might merely serve to confuse rather than enlighten new arrivals here.

Sensitive timing

But joking aside, the guide comes amid a highly sensitive debate on immigration.

The government is currently trying to push through this country's first ever immigration law, arguing that Germany's low birth rate and lack of qualified labour make it urgently needed.

The opposition Conservatives have blocked the bill in the upper house of parliament.

The new guide is probably partly aimed at addressing criticism about a lack of integration by immigrants.

So now they learn, for example, that they have a legal responsibility to clear snow from outside their front door in winter and cannot expect to haggle in the supermarket.

They are also urged not to give up on German lessons, reflecting widespread concern about the poor language abilities of many immigrants in Germany.


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