Health, wealth or family ties? Why Turkish work migrants return from Germany

Razum O., Sahin-Hodoglugil N., Polit K.

JOURNAL OF ETHNIC AND MIGRATION STUDIES, vol.31, no.4, pp.719-739, 2005 (SSCI) identifier identifier


In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Turkish workers migrated to Germany. Some settled there, others returned to Turkey after a few years. To explore how the experience of life between two cultures and in transnational families affected the decision to return, we conducted focus-group sessions with male returnees in Turkey who had spent varying lengths of time in Germany. Return was rarely based on purely economic or health-related motives; value-oriented and emotional themes almost always played a role. There were complex interactions between particular themes, e.g. perceived health status and economic success. We organised our findings into three 'ideal types': first, the I nostalgic' returned migrant who is facing socio-economic problems in Turkey and has a transfigured notion of life in Germany which he would like to but cannot resume; second, the 'cultural traditionalist' who considers Turkish culture superior and left Germany without remorse after having made some money; and third, the 'player of two systems' who thrives in both Turkey and Germany. This typology helps to structure and understand the complex themes underlying the decision to return-migrate.