You don’t have to travel to other countries to experience new worlds. Not everyone can afford to travel and sometimes it’s already enough to look around in your environment or be aware with what differences you are confronted in your environment, in your daily routine.
In the last couple of years I have lived in Canada and I was constantly confronted with cultural and language differences. Every day I experienced something new and I had to adjust, had to change my habits slightly and adapt to new situations.
I enjoyed asking questions,
being pushed to reflect and reconsider
my habits and way of thinking.
My lifestyle changed, my nutrition changed (oh yeah, I’m now one of those crazy kale chips fans now), my attitude changed – just because I lived abroad.
Back in Germany I was quickly frustrated, felt understimulated, everything was known, nothing new.
It didn’t help to move to a different, to me quite new, city. Supermarkets were the same, typical german habits and way of thinking was still the same.
I reached the point where I wanted to pack my bags and move to a different country to be challenged again. But that was (mostly for financial reasons) not possible at this point. So I started to look for international social contacts.
But that was also not enough because my environment was still the same. But was it really the same?
This thought got me out of my dissatisfaction and realized that I hadn’t considered the most obvious challenge:
I already had to face the other, the unknown on a daily base!
The refugee crisis had the effect that we are indispensably confronted with other cultures and traditions in Germany.
At work (a school), where most students have a migration background, I had the most interesting conversations. In my private life I met Wajdy (interview here), Dyana and Razan (interview here) – refugees from Syria who I interviewed for my blog and got to know more about their life and their escape from Syria.
I realized that I already WAS challenged – as human and as pedagogue. I just hadn’t understood because I was caught in the daily routine.
It was especially one conversation with one student that made me thinking. She complained that it is not allowed in Germany that teachers hit students (more later in this post). I remembered more and more conversations with my students who told me about their traditions and life in Syria or Iraq.
I also remembered all the articles in the newspaper that made me so angry in the last year. Reports about refugee camps that got burnt down; violence against refugees; people who don’t want refugees to be in Germany; people who don’t understand why Syrians and Iraqis seek asylum in Germany.
I remembered conversations in which I met moral beliefs that I couldn’t understand (e.g. the fewer rights of women in certain cultures).
There I had my challenge right in front of me and I had been blind the whole time!
I was able to focus my urge to learn something new in a certain direction: I decided to learn Arabic. Why? Firstly a lot of parents of my students don’t speak German fluently. Secondly, I think it’s respectful and integrative to at least understand the basics. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s essential that immigrants learn German. It’s part of integration and by speaking the language they’ll find a job.
But I also want to make a step towards them and at least being able to exchange polite phrases.
Furthermore, Germany is looking for a lot of professionals in the educational sector who speak Arabic, Turkish or Kurdish. By learning Arabic I also increase my chances on the job market – not only in Germany but also in other European countries where refugees seek asylum.
I’m one of those people who always want to learn, who always need new stimuli, always seeking for more information and I always want to give these informations to others. Believe me, it’s not always appreciated in my environment 😉
Refugees in Germany – a research report by the IAB
So I also started to do some research on the current situation of refugees and found a research report by the IAB (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung/Institute for labour market and profession research).
I found out the following information: Wajdy, Dyana and Razan where not individual cases. In the report the refugees talked about the same: Murder, persecution, rape, fear. Here are some examples:
- „I have seen a lot, how people got slaughtered.“ (QMR Flü_25_BE_Syrien_SCH_m_23) (p. 42)
- „The situation in Syria..well, I don’t like to talk about politics…but you have to be on one side and fight. I would have to go to the army, to the military, those are the rules. When you are 21…(…). And when you are there, you have to fight. If you don’t, you die. That’s why I chose to leave.“ (QMR Flü_01_SN_Syrien_AB_m_21) (p.42)
- „They took him. (…) They have let my husband make one phone call. He called his mom and told her that he will be questioned for one hour and then he would come back. Since then, until today, no information. 3 years and 3 months ago. It was very very difficult.“ (QMR Flü_76_NRW_Syrien_SCH_w_40) (p. 42)
- „If I would go back to Syria now then Bashar al Assad is going to kill me because I’m against him. And IS would kill me because they don’t respect me as true Muslim because I don’t wear a skirt, I wear pants. They would say: Oh god, she’s not a real Muslima, we have to kill her. Now it’s impossible for me to return to Syria.“ (QMR Flü_76_NRW_Syrien_SCH_w_40) (p. 43)
- „One of my brothers died. (…), he was in the city and died, caught a bullet. It was a very dangerous situation, especially in my homeland and it was very difficult for me to get out.“ (QMR Flü_12_SN_Irak_AS_m_19) (p. 44)
- „We have thought the situation in Afghanistan, the reason why we moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan, has improved after the end of the war. But we thought wrong, there were still Taliban. Anytime they could break the door and step in and i.e. rape women or they have said cook for us and stayed until the evening. As women we don’t have (the) right to i.e. go outside or watch TV. (…) The daughter, the young girl of our neighbors, got taken away. We haven’t heard anything what happened.“ (QMR Flü_13_SN_Afghanistan_AS_w_26) (p. 48)
- „In Afghanistan your life is always in danger, there is no difference if you are at home, on th street, you are threatened everywhere. Because everyone is doing what they want.“ (QMR Flü_28_BE_Afghanistan_AB_m-w_46-32) (p. 49)
In this research report there are also statements by professionals who share their experience of working with refugees. It’s worth it to read the whole report (unfortunately only in german available, http://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/DE/Publikationen/Studien/201609-iab-forschungsbericht.html)
And then I had to think of an interpreter who I have talked to a couple of months ago.
He sat in front of me and told me that his work is sometimes very challenging. He told me that he has to translate all these stories about murder, persecution, trauma and rape for refugees who have an appointment at the foreigner office.
I’ve only been told two of such stories (Wajdy and the couple Razan and Dyana) and I was moved by their stories. How do interpreters deal with it that they have to translate traumatic experiences every day? Do they get supervision, someone who is helping them to process all this information?
My respect for them increased immense!