BERLIN: They flee Berlin for sunny California, dream of opening a restaurant in Cambodia, or attempt to set up as horse-breeders in Tuscany – never in the past 50 years have so many Germans been so eager to start a new life abroad.

The trend has even sparked its own television reality show “Goodbye Deutschland!” (Goodbye Germany), watched by millions, a programme that follows the daily travails of Germans taking their first steps abroad, an adventure which at least 155,000 Germans embarked on last year, up 32 per cent compared to five years ago.

Many settle in neighbouring European Union countries, for which they need neither visas nor work permits.

But a large number also set up in Switzerland, a German-speaking country where two per cent of the population now carries a German passport, or in the United States which is home to over one million Germans.

One recent episode of “Goodbye Deutschland” followed the adventures of Winnie and Michael Schuetz, a young couple from Berlin moving to San Francisco.

Michael, who had always dreamt of living in the States, had found a job there as a computer technician.

Also featured were Fabio and Joerg Klein, from Wissen, near the western city of Bonn, who moved to the Canary Islands to set up a hairdressing salon, along with a young couple, without a word of Italian, trying their luck in Tuscany.

The programme, which shows both the ups and downs of resettling in a foreign country, fascinates Germans, 20 per cent of whom have considered emigrating, according to a survey carried out in June by the Allensbach Institute.

That number even reaches 33 per cent for Germans aged under 30.

The Internet is also host to a number of websites or blogs dealing with emigration issues.

One site, “Nixwiewegaus.de” (Let’s go), even suggests writing a goodbye letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and buying T-shirts or coffee mugs labelled “I’m emigrating!”.

“This isn’t a fad,” says Gabriele Mertens, head of Raphael, a Catholic organisation based in the northern port city of Hamburg, which for over a century has sought to help people emigrating. The port area is now home to the BallinStadt Museum dedicated to the history of emigration.

“In 80 per cent of cases, people want to leave because they don’t find work in Germany, or at least not under the terms they would prefer,” she says.

The “oddballs” who give up everything to “start breeding horses in Paraguay” are rare, she says, “which is just as well as emigration, if it is going to work, has to be prepared in advance”. “On TV things always end well, but that’s not always the case in real life,” she adds.

Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries saw large numbers of people emigrating, a trend which picked up again after the country’s defeat in World War II. Surprisingly, numbers are now up again, despite Germany’s top billing as Europe’s economic powerhouse.—AFP

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