German Suburbs: Look Familiar?

According to Kirk Rogers, European suburbs are not all that different from American ones--they indulge the need for space, good schools, and cars-- and they're there to stay.

"The most interesting factor is the diversity of these suburbs. They are still predominantly German, but then again so is the country. I live in an exurb of Nuremberg in northern Bavaria. It was the city of Dürer and Hans Sachs as well as the infamous Nazi rallies and post-war trials. It still has castles from the Medieval past, but the need for labor to rebuild destroyed cities – and eventually the resulting prosperity – in the post-war years saw new faces and cultures arrive with immigrants from countries like Turkey.

Just like in America, many of these newcomers worked until they retired and decided that they wanted to stay. Some of their children are having trouble but not all of them. The children that move out of their neighborhoods to the suburbs integrate better because their parents tend to be more prosperous and thus resent Germany less. The other reason is the fact they are more exposed to the language. Cem Ozdemir was just elected as leader of the Green Party here and he does not speak the pidgin common among a lot of Turkish immigrants. I moved to the suburbs for much the same reason. My wife and I are both non-native speakers but we know that if our children are going to succeed they will need to speak German well and act like Germans. Ideally they will become hyphenated Germans, as in American-Croat-Germans, which is roughly what they would be."

Full Story: Euroburbia: A Personal View



Michael Lewyn's picture

misleading- Germany far different from the US

This article implies that Germany is as car-dependent as the U.S.

But in fact, in Germany only 49 percent of all trips are by car, as opposed to 89 percent in the U.S.

And in Berlin and Munich, less than half of all commutes are by car, as opposed to 85-90 percent in most Sun Belt cities.

Finally, it is no longer true that European urban cores are declining; the central cities of Munich and Hamburg (though not Berlin) gained population between 1995 and 2005.

For more details download my article on this topic at

Tim Halbur's picture
Blogger / Alum

The Expectation of Wealth

This opinion piece begins with a valid argument that when we talk about suburbs, we should remember they are not a purely American phenomenon. They are also not 'evil', despite how some planners and activists paint them. They are a preference that many people, especially families, opt into for the additional space, greenery, and pride in ownership they afford.

The other 3/4s of the piece is a justification for a lifestyle choice that rejects foreigners and apartment living. What Kirk fails to recognize is that that way of life is quickly becoming very expensive and difficult to sustain. Planners are not taking away suburbia; the suburbs are pricing themselves out of the reach of the average American. The suburbs are killing themselves, while cities are tooling up to allow average people to live comfortably with less. As we move into a sustained economic crisis and an energy shortage, it will become clearer that the expectations of a suburban life that Kirk trumpets here will be a lifestyle Americans- AND Germans- can ill afford.

There Are Different Types Of Suburbs

When we talk about suburbs, we should distinguish between freeway-oriented sprawl suburbs, where you have to drive whenever you leave your house, and new urbanist suburbs, which are like the old streetcar suburbs and which give you the option of walking and using transit as well as driving.

The sprawl suburbs are destructive (if you don't want to use the word 'evil'), because of their large contribution to global energy shortages and global warming. These global environmental problems are apparently not a concern of Kirk Rogers, and as an affluent German he obviously will not be hurt by them as badly as poor people in Africa and Asia.

The new urbanist suburbs give you similar benefits of additional space, greenery, and pride of ownership, with less environmental destruction.

Kirk Rogers doesn't even tell us which type of suburb he lives in, because he obviously knows very little about urban design, so he just talks in the most conventional terms about suburb versus city.

Charles Siegel

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