“I am German-Turkish. My grandparents came to Germany in the 1960s as guest workers from Turkey to Germany. For me there was never a question: Am I German or Turkish? I’m both.
I like both countries. That does not mean that I’m happy with all developments within them.
Migration is perfectly normal in a globalised world. The world is entangled, for example through the markets. When I did a semester abroad in Hong Kong, I realised that, too. Many colleagues had two backgrounds. There are intercultural marriages, children with different backgrounds. This brings diversity, enriches us, economically, culturally and politically.
My mother always made a point of how we had to be good role models, and should not taint the reputation of the German-Turkish community. I think that’s right and understandable, but somehow it’s also sad that I had to behave differently due to my background.
The difficulty to see diversity as an enrichment, usually ceases with contacts. I think it would be important to have even more young people spending a part of their education abroad, and not only university students.
We as people of different backgrounds can build bridges. For example I am active in advancing German-Turkish dialogue. The relationships aren’t great on all levels, even though we’re closely linked: 3 Million people of Turkish descent live in Germany, many Germans spend their holidays in Turkey and we have very close economic ties, however, on the societal level, there is very little contact.
I was raised bilingually, and would do that with my children too. Language always created trust.
I am astonished when somebody asks us German-Turkish people to integrate ourselves - here, in our home country. I am under the impression that a lot of the debates surrounding integration are dramatized and do not consider the reality of life of the people. But in our democratic system we should speak with people, not about them.
I am convinced that my bi-cultural background is helping me understand other cultures and recognise differences more easily. After all, I grew up knowing that there is not only one way of doing things.
I hope for Germany that people will be encouraged to use their potentials. Particularly people with a migrational background who have a lot to give to society, the state and the economy. If you live between two societies, you are open-minded and ready to enhance innovation.”
This is a story by Christine Strotmann.