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From the Philippines to Germany was only the start

1972, with Germany beset by a serious shortage of nurses, Florence de Peralta reported to what is now HELIOS Hospital Hünfeld.

Hospital Director Sandra Henek (left) and Deputy Ward Manager Regina Ascher say thanks and farewell to Nurse Florence de Peralta (center).

Her first look at Germany on that long-ago morning was not very encouraging. “Everything here looks so gray and dismal,” Florence de Peralta remembers thinking as she landed in Frankfurt back in February 1972. The young nurse was used to the warm temperatures of her native Philippines, not the cold winters of western Europe. But she had taken a decision to pursue a new life, so she got off the plane and started building it.

(Published: August 2015)

Forty-four years later, de Peralta, now 67 and recently retired from HELIOS Hospital Hünfeld, can look back on a successful career at the hospital and the founding and raising of a family in Germany. She’s glad she came, and that she stayed, even if it wasn’t always easy.

When Florence de Peralta arrived along with five other young Philippine nurses assigned to the hospital in Hünfeld, a town of 16,000 people some 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Frankfurt, Germany was far less multicultural than it is today. The six nurses only came because of an intergovernmental agreement that nurses from the Philippines would work in Germany to help overcome a serious nursing shortage. In total, some 3,000 Philippine nurses came between 1969 and 1973. Thousands of nurses from India and Korea were also recruited during those years.

The HELIOS clinic in Hünfeld

Today, advance preparation – especially language training – is customary for newcomers to Germany, but in Florence de Peralta’s day it wasn’t thought necessary. She arrived not knowing a word of German but was still expected to start right away at the hospital, “where we communicated with hand signals,” and take language lessons later.

She soon got used to her new country, though, with the help of colleagues and many friendly local people, including some families who helped her settle in and find her way around. “I was given a very warm welcome everywhere, both from the people in Hünfeld and from the colleagues and patients in the hospital,” Florence de Peralta recalls.

Still, Hünfeld is a small town, de Peralta was away from family and friends and living in a country with a very different culture. At times, homesickness was hard to shake. Then, at a gathering of the German-Philippine Association in Mainz, just west of Frankfurt, she bumped into Arsenio, whom she had known before taking her training back home. “He wouldn’t let me go,” she jokes of the man who would become her husband and with whom she has two children, Florian and Jennifer. She and Arsenio even worked together for a time in the Hünfeld hospital.


Florence de Peralta enters retirement with mixed feelings – sorry to say goodbye to work that has given her so much satisfaction, but grateful for the memories, the friends and colleagues, not to mention the many happy years of family life. “Nursing has brought me a lot of pleasure and joy,” Florence de Peralta says. “Having some understanding and sympathy for ill people and looking after them – that has always been my passion.” And for Florence and Arsenio de Peralta, there is still a lot to look forward to – including a long trip back to the country they left behind all those years ago for their new home in Germany.