“New Istanbul” in Berlin
Turkish brain drainers versus guest workers

Ever since the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, an increasing number of well-educated people are leaving the country and settling in Berlin. However, they do not want to have anything to do with the so-called "guest worker Turks". Ceyda Nurtsch on a relationship informed by prejudice, aversion and ignorance

"A cappuccino and a ginger tea, please." Fatih has finished work for the day. Along with puppy Lola, the latest addition to the family, the 35-year-old man with the shorn head seeks shelter from the Berlin winter drizzle in a cafe. An electrical engineer, he has been enjoying life in the capital for more than four years. Before that, he lived in Ankara. Until he and his wife made the decision to emigrate.

Fatih is part of the "brain-drain movement" that has gripped Turkey since the failed coup attempt in July 2016. A generation of well-educated graduates and entrepreneurs, for whom the world is more attractive than Turkey and who leave because they can. Destined for England, France, Spain and Germany.

His work back home had been good, "white collar", he is keen to stress. He didn’t experience any direct restrictions by the authorities. But the subliminal pressure of the current political situation made many people anxious, he says.

Cut off from the rest of society

"What used to get me down in Ankara – and this isn’t only because of the political leadership, we as people also bear some of the responsibility – is that we were so cut off from the rest of society. The places I went to as a student have changed. So we, the "white collars", thronged the same cafes, bars, streets. Places where you’ll always find the same people, the same drinks. At some point I’d just had enough," he says. What he likes about Berlin is the freedom, the different types of people, the parks.

In Berlin, Fatih is one of the "new wave Turks" dispersed across the capitals of Europe; a group that has a good grasp of English and that claims to have nothing in common with the "first wave", otherwise known as guest workers.

Turkish voters wait in front of the Turkish consulate in Berlin to vote in the Turkish presidential elections on 07.06. 2018 (photo: DW/M. Strauss)
"Almanci" as Erdogan's fifth column? Statistically speaking, the idea that Turks living in Germany are an AKP vote repository is quite simply wrong, he continues. Of the 3.5 million Turks living in Germany, just 350,000 voted for the AKP, meaning that this could not have influenced the election result in any way

Fatih has cousins in Berlin. "Almanci", or "Deutschlander", as German-Turks are referred to in Turkey, sometimes disparagingly. There were regular discussions between the family members. "They’re always saying how great Turkey is and that they want to move there. I try and explain to them that it all looks very different if you’re working there and able to get under the skin of society."

"They like the fact that because of Erdogan, the Germans are taking the Turks seriously for the first time. But they aren’t affected, the real impact is felt by people in Turkey," Fatih continues.For Fatih, the gulf between the two groups is just a symptom. "Turkish society is extremely divided. Neither group understands the other and has no respect for the lifestyle of the other," he says. Politics has polarised society. How the problem can be solved, he doesn’t know.

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