Do you feel more like a Turk or like a German?

Pınar Karabulut* was born in Germany, Mönchengladbach as a child of so called guestworkers. She gave a lecture about acccidental racism, neccessary education and other city stories at the Munich City Lab carried out by SpielART within the framework of the artistic programme GLOBAL CITY - LOCAL CITY. The text and the fotos below were part of her lectureperformance. 


Why don’t you wear a Hijab? (Muslim headscarf)
Oh, you speak German very well!
Are you planning to return to Turkey for good?
Do you feel more like a Turk or like a German?
You are drinking alcohol?
In the winter, Germany must be too cold for you.
Your skin is so dark; you never get sunburn, right?!
You don’t have a German passport?! How is that possible?
Are you espoused to somebody?
Seriously, are you thinking to go back one day?

These are just a few of many, many questions which people keep asking me. Especially the question about the return seems to be an all-time favourite. As a child of a migrant worker, this question appears senseless to me. That’s why I always answer it with: “Return? I don’t want to return to Mönchengladbach. Maybe to North Rhine Westphalia someday, but definitely not to Mönchengladbach.” Of course this was not the answer they wanted to hear. They expect you to say something nostalgic about Turkey, maybe with a nice story about a Turkish village. In fact, the only migration I did was six years ago from my birthplace Mönchengladbach, in North Rhine Westphalia, to Munich, in Bavaria; and this was enough of a cultural shock for me.

Pınar's father at his farewellparty in Turkey, 1968.
Actually, the real migration story of my family started in February 1968, when my father immigrated to Germany as a so-called guest worker. When they hear ‘guest worker’, people tend to think of Turkish men who came to Germany with their wives and ten children at least and that none of them wants to learn the language because the children are going to work as hairdressers or owners of a doner kebab restaurant anyway. Maybe somewhere in Germany somebody has this biography. I don’t know. The only thing I know is that every migration story is an individual story – as my father’s story is.

Contract of Employment.
Like the most guest workers, my father came by train from Istanbul to Munich. After a short lunch break in the shelter in the basement of Munich central station, his journey continued via Cologne to Mönchengladbach. His first working place was the spinning company Kühn Vierhaus. His contract of employment lasted for 18 months. In Turkey, my father had worked as an accountant, so for him this was the first time he had to work with machinery. After the end of his contract, he started working for another 18 months in a factory for cable production, because of the better wages. When my father needed a new job, friends suggested finding him a job at their workplace for German lessons in return. Unfortunately, his friends were construction workers. So his employment only lasted for one month.

Pınar's father with his roommates in the residential home of the factory, 1969.
As my father heard that the machinery factory Scharmann was looking for a crane operator, he applied there immediately. My father had always been very enthusiastic about cranes, but he had never sat in one before and as the boss asked him which cranes he ever operated, my father just said 15 tons. Thereupon he worked for 8 years as a crane operator. 

Pınar's Mother, 1973
Additionally to this job, my father had side jobs, where he worked as a salesman for flight tickets and for a bank in Mönchengladbach he did the acquisition of new customers. In his leisure time he visited courses to learn the German language. He was very ambitious. And when the Turkish community in Mönchengladbach heard that there was a man who could speak German and had a clue about finances, they started to contact him with their problems. In 1980 a bank gave him a permanent job offer, my father accepted and worked there till 2004. In the 80ies and 90ies almost every Turk in Mönchengladbach was a customer of this bank.
The Karabulut's
My mother came to Germany with the family reunification program in 1970. She was a housewife and raised the children. After the children had finished primary school, my parents decided to stay in Germany for good.

My father was very fond of the Turkish community, but my sister, my brothers and I always tried to distance ourselves from it. I can’t tell why, but we just didn’t care about being part of it.
About myself I can say that in some issues I am very German and in other issues I am very Turkish. Though I do forget the benefits of both cultures sometimes, because society forces me to decide - to decide whether I am German or Turkish. What if I don’t want to decide? What if I see it as a privilege to have two cultures in me? Most of the people cannot understand this point of view. And these people are those who make you feel like a foreigner in your own country.
The Karabulut-Family

When for example a theatre in Munich boasts with political projects about anti-Semitism, refugees and migration and at the same time turns down my job application with the reason for refusal that I rather fit to the theatre Ballhaus Naunynstraße in Berlin, Kreuzberg (which is famous for its post-migrant-theatre), I do feel discriminated against. 

The theatre system in Germany is a masculine domain. Despite of that, you won’t find a single Turk in an aesthetic department of a theatre, even though the third generation of migrant children live in Germany.

No wonder, I was very pleased to hear that Shermin Langhoff will be the new artistic director of the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin and hence the first Turkish woman at a German theatre. In an interview, Langhoff said she believes that her German last name helped her to become famous; with her maiden name Özel it would have probably been harder, she said.  

Those who don’t have a German last name, have the possibility to get ‘deutsch-türkisch’, which is a German term for being highly integrated and means German-Turkish. When a Turk is not just a Turk but rather a ‘Deutsch-Türke’ then he or she made it. It is like the Champions league of foreigners, only that no foreigner wants to play there! Fatih Akin for example is a famous director from Germany, whose movies won awards amongst others in Cannes. He has this term ‘Deutsch-Türke’ because he makes good movies and something good can only be German, right?! But if there is a crime where, for example, a young man attacks somebody in the tube, the offender is a Turk. Whether the young man was born and raised in Germany or he has a German passport these things don’t count.

"Oh, you speak German very well! Wow, you even have a Master degree!"
These differentiations show how much more enlightenment is needed. Every politician is talking about integration but in their debates they always forget that an immigrant or their offspring can’t integrate themselves – they need an open minded opposite who accepts the changes in society and culture.

The fear of the strange is very present. Last month during a house viewing a woman asked me if there were lots of foreigners living in my house. I know she didn’t ask to provoke me, she just asked to get the information. Anyway wasn’t this an appropriate question; it was accidental racism.

My favourite accidental racism is, when people complain about Turks to me and finish their speech with the sentence: “But you are different.” When I ask them afterwards how many Turks they know, it is always the same answer they give me: “I only know you!”

* Pınar Karabulut was born in Mönchengladbach, Germany in 1987, graduated 2012 in theatre studies, medieval and modern art history and modern German literary studies (M.A.) at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich. For several theatre projects at the Münchner Kammerspiele she worked as assistant director, such as HAUPTSCHULE DER FREIHEIT (2009) and GLEIS 11 (2010), both projects directed by Christine Umpfenbach. Recently she worked as assistant director for Laura Körfer’s production of MISS SARA SAMPSON (2012) at Theatre Neumarkt in Zurich, Switzerland.

2 Kommentare:

  1. i agree with your experience and it is also the exprience of me almost day in and day out. i am foreigner, black and have lived since 1989 in Berlin. i forget to mention, i am german on paper. i'm fighting the whole time against wall of prejudice. I try to overcome but not to resignate. life is hard

  2. Thoughtless (brainless) cruelties such as these make me ashamed to call myself German -- and make me laugh bitterly at those of my so-called countrymen who suggest we should be more patriotic. Screw patriotism. I wish we all started realizing that ethnic background and skin colour mean nothing. We are all human beings, regardless of where we were born or what our skin colour is.