Understanding the small print in contracts, the evaluation of financial products, or the bill off additional property expenses: these are competences that are taken for granted in the German consumers’ society. Still, the practice shows deficits. This especially applies to refugees, as their access to corresponding information is limited, for example, but not only, because of language barriers. At the same time, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan or Eritrea have their own ideas and experiences regarding consumption. This does not only concern the judicial-economic transaction level, but also questions about the enabling of an inter- or transcultural identity.
In this respect, the project “Consumer Protection and Consumer Socialization of Refugees” of the University of Siegen deals the following research questions: In which fields are refugees especially “vulnerable” consumers? Which forms of (self) help do refugees develop when it comes to problems for example with the lettings market? Which media do they use to inform themselves about products or services and how do they do so? Which consumer experiences and perceptions have been made or developed before or during their escape and how does the specific consumer socialization contribute to the current consumption behaviour of the refugees? Thus, societal integration is also understood as a successful economic integration. In addition, the actors involved in the consumer acculturation process are identified and their contribution is rated.
Methodologically applied as a focused ethnography, the project operates with an interconnection of different types of qualitative data. Observation protocols and conversation notes from participatory observation with refugees as well as expert interviews with staff members of refugee relief organizations and consumer advice centres are employed.