CNBC Business Magazine, Sept 1, 2011
Half a century after the first ‘guest workers’ arrived, entrepreneurs in the Turkish community are playing a vital role in Germany’s economic success
When Mehmet Aygün arrived in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district in the 1970s he worked in a fast-food restaurant and dreamed of setting up his own business. Now he’s in charge of an empire, running both the Hasir restaurant chain in Berlin and Titanic Resorts and Hotels, which has properties in Turkey and Germany.
With the 50th anniversary of Germany’s guest worker agreement with Turkey approaching, most headlines focus on the challenges of integration. Yet there are also numerous success stories, such as Aygün’s, that point to a thriving Turkish-German entrepreneurial culture.
Some 650,000 Turks came to West Germany in the decade or more that followed the labour recruitment agreement signed in October 1961. And while the influx of low-skilled workers required for the country’s booming post-war industry was halted in 1973 by the recession that followed the oil crisis, the so-called ‘guest workers’ had already started bringing family members over.
While most had initially planned to stay for just a few years, the majority eventually began to settle down and put down roots. The community is now thought to be around 3.5 million strong, the largest ethnic minority in the country.
According to Andreas Goldberg, director of the Centre for Turkish Studies (ZfT) at the University of Duisburg-Essen, those with Turkish roots are more likely than ethnic Germans to be self-employed. Indeed, the ZfT estimates there are more than 80,000 Turkish-German businesses, employing at least 300,000 people, and with an average annual turnover of around €450,000. Continue reading
Most German films about immigration take a grittily realistic approach, focusing on urban tension and social problems. But one filmmaking duo of Turkish-German sisters decided to use humor to tell the story of a guest-worker family. SPIEGEL ONLINE talked to Yasemin and Nesrin Samdereli about their comedy “Almanya.”
When the Samdereli sisters started working on their script for their movie “Almanya” eight years ago, they had little inkling that its premiere at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival would come hot on the heels of a heated debate about integration in Germany. They simply wanted to tell a story about a Turkish-German family that differed from the usual gritty dramas about immigration.
“It is not that we wanted to make this movie because of the political situation,” director Yasemin Samdereli told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Instead, she says, they just wanted to tell a story about an immigrant family, one that bears some autobiographical similarities with their own lives. The result is a funny, at times sentimental, tearjerker that focuses on the comical misunderstandings between cultures rather than the fraught challenges of a multi-ethnic society.
Her younger sister Nesrin, the film’s screenwriter, explains how they wanted to show the reality of Turkish guest workers coming to Germany in the 1960s from a new perspective. “The story we wanted to tell hasn’t been told so far, so we thought we should try it another way.”
“We want people to see each other as human beings and just to see the family in the movie as a normal family that could be anywhere in the world,” Yasemin says, pointing out that the image of Turkish-Germans is currently quite negative. For example, they wanted to show that “not every Turkish father loses it because his daughter or granddaughter does things that he might not agree with.” Continue reading