Turkish parenting in Germany is a bit different. Especially if your own parents are part of the first generation of guest workers and have brought their own cultural values and traditions with them to unknown “Almanya.” When their child ends up in a primary school that is full of German children, worlds collide.
Just like how it was in my childhood: Born and raised in Berlin-Schöneberg, almost all of my friends were German. While I was at primary school, the differences between a German and a Turkish family started to become apparent. My parents who knew nothing about German customs put up a good fight and were always interested in what the Germans were doing. In the end I can say that despite very long evenings in front of the television, I turned out all right.
My German friends had nicknames like “mein Mäuschen” or “Häschen” (engl. my little mouse or little rabbit – ed.) When I was a small child, I thought that sounded so sweet and longed to be called the same. But in Turkish it just sounds weird: “fareciğim” or “tavşancığım.” Aside from that, my mother couldn’t understand why she should compare me to those animals. She preferred “ceylan” (gazelle) or, if she was angry with me, “eşek” (donkey).
For my German friends in primary school, 7 p.m. was time for bed. There were no exceptions. That was always much too early for me and I thought it was strange. My parents always made sure that I didn’t go to bed too late, but they were never so strict. Plus, I never understood what being grounded was. When the other pupils brought bad grades home, they were punished. I luckily never experienced that.
Whenever I played at a friend’s house, my mother made sure that I ate something at home first. Because most of the time I ended up starving when I visited a German family. They either had stew or the food smelled strange. Plus, the children only had to eat until they were full. At our house the rule was: “Yemeğini bitir, arkandan ağalar yoksa.” In English, “Finish your food or you’ll be crying later.”
When I look at old photos of myself during primary school, I look like I was at a Turkish wedding every day. When I was a child, my mother constantly dressed me in colourful, shiny clothes. I always looked like a princess. My German friends’ clothes either came from Humana or from eco-friendly stores. Aside from them, I always had to wear white undershirts (“atlet”), and my German friends didn’t.
I am really thankful to my parents that I was allowed to go on all the school trips. Unfortunately, I also know people who weren’t so lucky. In some Turkish families, girls simply are not allowed to go on school trips. The German children always had smaller bags; mine were so full that it looked like I was about to travel to Turkey for six weeks.
I used to hate the days after coming back from holidays. When the teacher asked “Where did go you on holiday?” I always gave the same answer: “Turkey.” The Germans travelled to Spain, the US or wherever else. However, my parents found it very important that I knew their home city. In retrospect, I have to say they were right. I’ve got time to travel to other countries now, and I have to admit that I still end up in Turkey at least once a year.
I don’t remember anyone in my German group of friends wearing talismans. I always had a nazar boncuk (evil eye) on a chain round my neck or arm. When I look at old summer photos, I also discover a muska (triangular talisman with a prayer) which was pinned to my undershirt. Nowadays they hang in my car.
I am happy that my mother taught me early on that I had to take care of my own things. That also had to do with the fact that her German wasn’t sufficient enough and I had to translate a lot as a child. Sometimes it was too much for me because I had to battle with bureaucratic red tape, things I didn’t understand as a small girl. My German friends usually had no idea what I was talking about. Even as a child I knew how to fill out tax forms and how a forklift truck worked. At some point I had to translate an entire instructions manual.
Thank God I had a childhood without smartphones! I played outside. But my mother made sure that I didn’t get dirty. While my German friends went crazy in the mud, my mother was already shaking her head. Her obsession with cleanliness ruined so many games.
Television is allowed in Turkish families. I was always allowed to watch TV. I loved it and knew all the Westerns, which I was allowed to watch with my father, and every cartoon series that was on RTL 2. Of course, my parents also kept an eye on what I was watching. My German friends were jealous of me because of it. My parents believed that German series would help me improve my German. Either way, it didn’t have a bad effect.
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