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'Turks are a part of German culture'

The Local · 28 Oct 2011, 07:43

Published: 28 Oct 2011 07:43 GMT+02:00

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They came as so-called "guest workers," invited to come make some money and contribute to Germany’s economic boom - and leave. But 50 years later there are up to four generations of Turkish people living in Germany. So how has the second biggest ethnic community helped shape modern Germany?

Paderborn-based cultural researcher and head of the research project “Turkish German Relations and Cultural Transfer,” Michael Hofmann, spoke with German news agency DPA.

How does the Turkish community contribute to German life, aside from the döner kebab?

It’s not a case of contributing; they are a part of German culture itself. Of course, the döner shop is part of Turkish roots in Germany, but for my 16-year-old son, the döner is a part of German culture.

What kind of people were the first Turks who came to Germany 50 years ago?

When the first Turkish people came to Germany, admittedly people were more interested in their labour than what they were bringing culturally, as it was German companies who would employ workers with a low level of qualifications. The applicants had medical and dental check-ups in Istanbul, but it was not important whether they could read or write.

What went wrong in the integration process?

We thought that after two years, they would go back home. No-one really thought about the education of their children because the public attitude remained that Germany wasn’t a country for refugees. Later, Turkish people were accused of not wanting to be integrated themselves, nor wanting to learn German. But it was a problem that we, as Germans, created ourselves. Max Frisch summarised this in the famous quote: “We wanted a workforce and got people.”

In hindsight, how would you judge this cultural change?

On the whole I would say it has been a positive development. For example, here in Paderborn we have more and more students with a Turkish background studying at the university. Now, the first Turkish teachers who were born in Germany are teaching in schools. Despite there still being a way to go, the social gap between of people with an immigrant background and those without is closing.

What has changed since their arrival?

Coming from Turkey means something rather different than it did 40 or 50 years ago. For me, this change began to become apparent when Turkish film maker Fatih Akin won the Berlinale award for "Gegen die Wand" (Head-On) and even the Bild newspaper hailed it as a German success. Additionally, Turkish pop culture, discos and German-Turkish comedians with names such as Django Asül or Bülent Ceylan all maintain a certain credibility and scope today. Or even actors like Mehmet Kurtulus und Sibel Kekilli who’ve managed to crack the ultimate in German TV – Tatort. I suppose they represent a whole new cultural identity limbering up.

What about in the sporting world?

In previous years, it wouldn’t have been so easy for the German nation to accept that someone like Mezut Özil would be a star footballer on their national team. But these days, the German mind-set is starting, at least partially, to accept that we’re becoming a multicultural society.

How are things on the whole at the moment?

Story continues below…

Migration has had a positive effect on German society: we’ve just all got to come to terms with the unfamiliar. But on the other hand the success of the anti-immigration Thilo Sarrazin book indicates to me that a level of rejection does still exist.

What do nationality and citizenship mean to people today?

The debate over dual citizenship is somewhat out-dated now. There are people living here with dual citizenship and we are expecting even more to relinquish their purely Turkish roots. Regarding dual identity there’s one anecdote that I like to recall: When the first student with Turkish heritage from Paderborn went to study in Istanbul, I visited her and it was December. One afternoon she said to me: “Everything’s going really well, but I’m missing the Christmas markets.”

DPA/The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

07:29 October 28, 2011 by nolibs
There seems to be a lot of Pro-Turk stories on this site now, which I find odd. Is TheLocal attempting to push this propaganda as news? Lot's of why this is good for Germany, but not too much of the negatives, such as how Mezut ízil didn't want to play for Germany against the Turkish team.

Integration and acceptance will only happen when Turks stop referring to themselves as Turks. They need to pick a country and stick with it.
08:45 October 28, 2011 by coyote3000
What a stupid thing to say, yes, why don't we have more stories about hating people and the justification of xenophobia here on the local? I mean it is not like it is a NEWS SITE DIRECTED PRIMARILY AT AN AUDIENCE OF FOREIGNERS LIVING ABROAD or anything. Did you know that deutsche welle does stories about this too (granted a little bit better quality)? Get out of your ignorant little bubble for five seconds. I get so sick of these f-ing 'Turks go home' commentators on the local.

I personally enjoy the experience gained by living abroad and meeting people from other cultures. I also believe that when a nation seeks immigrants, it is a bit of a give and take situation. Of course 50 years on all of the problems of two cultures being thrown together won't be solved, but it is nice to see that things are starting to change for the better.
09:52 October 28, 2011 by freechoice
why can't you guys leave the Turks alone, if they don't want to eat pork sausages, please don't force it upon them! And let me enjoy my kebap in peace! Thank you!
12:03 October 28, 2011 by storymann
There is no question that Turks are part of German culture. Most immigrants from any country try to keep a foot in both.There are vast religious and cultural differences between Germans and Turkish people. It requires patience and an open mind on both fronts.

If your of the mind set that the Turkish people should have returned to Turkey, not all did and many are now German citizens, accept this and move on you have very little to no choice to do otherwise.

Personally I enjoy the multi cultures of Berlin.
12:53 October 28, 2011 by Betty L
no. if turks cant go to another country and follow the rules of that country they need to stay in Turkey nuff said. USA
13:25 October 28, 2011 by freechoice
if you ask any Germans in the States, after eating a Kebab, they are reminded of home!!
14:02 October 28, 2011 by arbeitsbiene3
Pro-Turk stories, and pick a country and stick with one?

Last time I checked, there was no Turkish or other foreign immigrants revolution in Germany and now the freedom fighters are in control of der Deutsche Bundestag?

Germany is a democracy and the laws and policies are created and enforced by the men and women elected by German citizens to represent the best interests of all citizens and residents.

Instead of scapegoating and fear mongering, some Individuals should first look themselves in the mirror before they vote and then hold their elected parties and their appointed politicians responsible for their obligations to represent the mandates of the voters.
14:54 October 28, 2011 by petenick
All of our ancestors came at one time or another from elsewhere. As my late uncle used to say, "everyone has to eat". It is just nature that we all want a better life for ourselves and our children. It's all about tolerance.
16:02 October 28, 2011 by 1david
It is apparent from the article that the Turkish community is living as second class citizens in Germany. It is also apparent that this community has isolated itself by its strongly held belief in a very different religion from the traditional Christian history of the entire core of Europe. By all common sense reasoning, there is a clash of civilizations coming. All one has to do is dump the garbage reasoning coming from the universities and just look at the facts on the ground: what has and is going on in America and elsewhere. As an example, after 200 years, the Africans still have not become first class citizens and they are angry. I seriously doubt that the Turkish population, unwilling to give up its Islamic identity, will assimilate; and I would venture a guess that the ancient German character will much longer stay bridled.
17:04 October 28, 2011 by ckokler
I really get tired to see Sarazzin minded comments in the Local but just be happy: In 2010 30.000 new Turkish immigrants moved to Germany and 40.000 of Turkish-German moved back to Turkey. So there is negative emigration for Turkish background people. The problem for Germany is that 10.000 gap is all well educated people who think that they can be more successful in Turkey.
17:04 October 28, 2011 by Deutschlandnazi
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:17 October 28, 2011 by EdeWolf
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:44 October 28, 2011 by trevzns
@ nolibs

Integration and acceptance will only happen when Turks stop referring to themselves as Turks. They need to pick a country and stick with it.

Ask the same question to the many Germans citizens that have immigrated to U.S.A and have U.S. passports and still refer to themselves as Germans.

Perhaps for many Turks, its national pride for their Turkish heritage?
21:40 October 28, 2011 by SchwabHallRocks
The issue is interesting but ultimately irrelevant. "White" german's are not reproducing at no-growth replacement levels.

The non-Germans will inherit Germany (and Italy, France, Spain, Britain, USA, etc. who have low birth rates.)

Black peoples in the USA have done far better than Turks in Germany or Algerians in France. There are no German or French comparables to Obama, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Herman Cain, the many black CEOs of large corporations, etc.

Sustained low rates of unemployement would help Turks since they would become "more needed" and they would increasingly integrate into the work force, universities, politics, as they become wealthier, etc.
22:35 October 28, 2011 by Englishted

What about the guest workers who retired and have returned to Turkey to enjoy the fruits of their labour( fair play to them) ,would that not account for at least some of the difference?
13:06 October 29, 2011 by StoutViking
@freechoice - Neither do Jews, but they don't seem to shove their culture down everyone's throat and demanding changes be made for them and regulations altered. You never hear of a Jewish community leader starting a riot over pork being served at the public school caffeteria. It's always someone else.

@ckokler - I highly doubt it but why not? If they're so well educated and successful, perhaps they'll manage to pull their country out of the mud puddle so their main export won't have to be Gastarbeitern.
14:46 October 30, 2011 by bella 74
Well , I'm Turk, but grew up in Turkey... And when I look the Turkish immigrants in Germany - what I see - is definitely not positive.

I can not understand why they are all the same prototype? It's quite annoying for me to meet always the same prototype. I do speak perfect Turkish, but they don't even understand me! They mix languages (some of them don t even speak German!!). They have invented strange traditions which don't exist in Turkey. That must be a great evolution on traditional behaviors. I can see that most of them are coming from South or rural areas. And still have identity problems. When these people come to Turkey it is so obvious that they are German immigrants! They remained at the same point as their grandfathers. You can distinguish them easily...

While in US or in Australia or France or Italy or in UK I have met lots of Turkish immigrants who were able to speak about everything in many different languages without mixing them all. They were absolutely more colorful, as in Turkey...
07:17 October 31, 2011 by rohff18
With over 5 millions Turks, its difficult to say that Turks are not a part of the current German culture.

Within 3 or 4 generation, that number will increase, and you will have a german population with Turkish blood. The mixing will start when the government will officialy accept Turks and Turkey. It will have an impact on the population.

Now - The german government needs more than ever to be friend with Turkey.

Later - Germany will be forced to have close ties with Turkey.

Which is good for both country's.

Turkey is not only in the german culture, it has a part in the european culture, and it has historical and geographic ties..

If some european country continue this attitude against Turkey and continue to disrespect Turks, more and more Turks will go back in Turkey with a good amount of money and expertise, Turkey will take back its request of joining the european union and find better friends and maybe create a central union if everything continue to increase, you dont want that. (creating a union will start as soon as Syria or Iraq become's totaly democratic, 10-15 years+)

Turkey is one of best placed country to attack the current european union, and the best country to stop attacks or threats to the european union. But Turkey is not a threat to Europe because Europe is a big part in its plan of economical ties. Money = Power

Turkey have 2 feet on europe "constantinople + black sea+ agean sea+ east europe country's", Turkey have a feet on africa "mediteranean sea + agean sea", Turkey have 2 feet in middle east, Turkey have 2 feet in asia "Turkey territory + 4 independant Turkish countrys", Turkey have 2 feet in Caucasus "Turkey territory + Azerbaijan Turk independent country". A pure geographic power. Turkey have the army and the economy and the treaties and the credibility to claim to have the power stated.
13:29 October 31, 2011 by hardly
There is no clash of civilizations coming. Your comparison of Africans in America with Turks in Germany is not sound. Black people were kidnapped from Africa and made slaves for several centuries. They were told they were not full human beings and were not allowed to keep their African customs. Many were terrorized by the institution of slavery and most were kept illiterate. After the Emancipation Proclamation these black people were still exploited, not granted access to the political system, and were terrorized. There have been many institutional and cultural changes in the U.S. which have improved the lives of minorities, but it is far from resolved... racism still exists.

I repeat, there is no clash of civilizations. First, Germany is not a homogeneous identity, even while there is an old history and culture. Turkish people as well are not homogeneous. Internally, Turkey has a diverse population with many customs, cultures and religions. In Turkey, Muslims and Christians live relatively peacefully alongside each other and there is no reason why it should not be able to occur in Germany. Remember, they are both Abrahamic religions sharing history and many values. Historically, Constantinople was the center of the Eastern Roman Empire linking it more directly to the Roman history and values than the Holy Roman Empire. Politically, Attaturk admired Enlightenment values as well as the founding fathers of the U.S.; Attaturk set out to modernize the politics and culture of Turkey.

In Germany, Turkish people were invited as guest workers when it was mutually beneficial to initiate the immigration. Now that there are side-effects to this policy, the Turkish people have become the scapegoat. The Turkish population in Germany is facing many hurdles that immigrant communities (and subsequent generations) face the world over. The best case scenario is that the Turkish people will continue to adapt to German customs and Germany will alter to accept the immigrant population's values too. There will be episodes of unrest and discomfort amongst diverse populations, but it seems unreasonable to expect the Turkish population to return to Turkey. It is also unrealistic to expect the Turkish community to be the only ones to adapt.

Alterations to the German identity from immigration communities might come with some issues, but more importantly come with enlivened enrichment.
13:47 October 31, 2011 by LecteurX
Wow, so now we have a commenter called "deutschlandnazi" here? Fantastic.

@ hardly: thanks for your thoughtful post; I fully agree with you.

@ StoutViking - any reason why you "highly doubt" anything that doesn't fit your highly biased world view? Anyway, I don't think much of someone calling themselves a "stout Viking" in the 21st century.

@ 1david #9 - Well maybe you could remember that up until 1967, a mere 44 years ago, there were still many laws discriminating agains "negroes" in a dozen US states... Indeed, at least you seem to take your own piece of advice and disregard most sense coming out of the universities.
17:06 October 31, 2011 by rohff18
@hardly - Turks and Germans are 2 totaly different ethnics and even if both nations are not homogenous. Its impossible to not consider that both race have different dna structure and different culture. And its impossible to not consider the partial mixing in the near future (with 5 millions turks and we consider that there will be a mixing because Turks wont leave germany and germans will one day in majority love and accept and see Turks as Germans). How can German;s today accept Turks of Germany, when Germany government dont accept for some reason Turkey to enter europe. How the most developed of muslim country's and one of most influencial countries of the world cant join the european union? How can europeans/americans totaly respect muslims? Will europe accept Turkey after the new constitution? or will europe continue to block by giving absurd reasons. I really hope Turkey joins the european union, it will be a source of global peace. Turkey joining the european union is more than just what it looks to be. It will put a end to religion racism. Its gonna be a gigantic historical event. But its not going to happen. I hope im wrong.

I will give few examples and i think everyone will agree :

Greece < Turkey (Turkey is supperior in all ways possible)

Romania < Turkey (Turkey is supperior in all ways possible)

Bulgaria < Turkey (Turkey is supperior in all ways possible)

Why Turkey cant enter eu.
23:12 November 2, 2011 by Raydoggy
Kebabs. That's it, kebabs, the sum total of what Turks have brought to Berlin, kebabs that use the worst and cheapest meat you can possibly buy from the animal concentration camps.

But to be fair they have also brought with them wonderous things like: spitting in the street, burkas, weird hair cuts, being loud on trains and trams, bicycle theft and another religion that wants to tell people how to think and act, and let's not forget the sleazy clubs where men play cards all day. Wow, Germany is so lucky to have Turks here.

What happened to the old saying: "when in Rome, do as the Romans do".
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