Just like any stranger, who tries to ease the pain of seclusion, Syrians, wherever they go, try to build a world, which resembles, if only a little, the world they were forced to leave; they use substances and available resources. They use one substance in the place of another, in which they discovered similar properties to that of the original. On social media platforms and on Syrians’ groups, you can find different solutions found due to need, which families began exchanging upon discovering their usefulness.
On these groups, you might find a recipe for making ‘Kunafa’ with pasta or the recipe for making ‘Eggplant’ jam without lime. All the proposed solutions represent the huge efforts, which the people do to overcome barriers in the new communities and the cultural differences they tend to face there, even if they seem secondary or slight to some.
“When I immigrated to Turkey, in the beginning, I attributed my inability to find the substances which I needed to the linguistic barrier. However, when I learned the language, I came to know that Turkish people do not use the substances I looked for,” says Mrs. Mona, 29, based in the Turkish city of Trabzon.
How did Children Grow up?
NIDO milk or milk powder was the first commodity that Mona discovered as lacking from the Turkish supermarkets. She said, “In my kitchen, I heavily depend on milk powder. I usually keep a few bags in the fridge for urgent recipes that require milk for milk powder can be stored for a long time. So when we lived in Trabzon, I expected to find the famous NIDO cans on a prominent shelf in the supermarket (according to the ads we used to see), but I could not find them. I looked in different supermarkets, but I did not find NIDO cans. I only found milk cans for babies and pasteurized milk.”
For Mona, the absence of a basic commodity, such as pasteurized milk was a weird thing, expressed as a joke among her friends “We are used to the slogan of NIDO’s commercial which says ‘With NIDO Children Grew up’. My question is how did children in Turkey grow up without it?”
Mona was assured that milk powder is not sold in the Turkish shops by a number of Syrian groups and the Turkish Language Teacher. She shared the same experience with a number of her friends in Germany, saying “I am not sure of that, but I read on a Syrian group that NESTLÉ is forbidden in Turkey for reasons relating to competition and the promotion of national products. Later on, I was surprised that my friend in Germany was having the same experience: In Germany, there is no powder milk for grown-ups, which is a suspicious thing. Are these goods only for the Middle East?”
What for Do you Use Small Eggplants?
On her turn, Mrs. Um Walid, 48, is thankful to God for living in the Turkish province of Hatay. There, hundreds of thousands of Syrians share their lives, the thing which makes it easy to find Syrian products without the need to search for alternatives and bypass solutions. “Here, in İskenderun, everything is available; Syrian products are original, not imitated, which is shared by all the cities of Turkey that accommodate large numbers of Syrians, such as Istanbul, Urfa, Mersin and Gaziantep. However, I still get surprising questions from my Turkish neighbors or the women I meet in the bazaar. For example, I was picking small eggplants for Makdous (Pickled stuffed eggplant in olive oil), when a Turkish woman huddled and asked me: What are you going to do with eggplants that small? because they often tend to buy really big eggplants.”
Um Walid adds that there are other differences which are not related to food, “For example, the Turkish people do not install sieves for windows to prevent insects, and there are no exterior window shades. In their homes, they do not have cesspools except in the kitchen, which means that they do not do seasonal clean (Syrians, on certain occasions, tend to clean the entire house and not only parts of it). This is shared with Egypt; they also do not have cesspools or the concept of seasonal cleaning.”
A number of German websites and media outlets have published articles warning refugees against the risk of illegally downloading protected materials, trying to present the laws concerning the issue. One of these outlets is the Deutsche Welle, which simplified the matter as follows: “Everything that is supposed to be bought from the store cannot be obtained from the internet for free.” It also warned refugees that if an IPR-protected material is downloaded from a wireless local area network (LAN), both the uploader and the owner of the LAN will be accounted as responsible.
Intellectual Property Rights
When he first came to Germany, Mousa did not have the slightest idea about intellectual property rights or the corresponding legal implications upon violating them, which placed him in a difficult situation that forced him to pay dearly. “In Syria, we are accustomed to using cracked programmes and selling them legally in the shops. I kept doing this, [here in Germany], to forget about my seclusion. However, I was surprised by the fact that I had to pay a fine of 800 euros for violating the intellectual property laws by downloading a movie from the Torrent site. In reality, the fine was for my ignorance of the laws of the country where I lived,” he said.However, intellectual differences are the most difficult barriers facing Syrian refugees in host communities, including Mousa, 39, a Syrian refugee based in Germany. “In Europe, despite the geographical distance separating it from the Arab world, you can find different types of [Syrian]food and goods in the Syrian supermarkets, which are located in the places where there are Syrian groups, or from Turkish supermarkets, but still the cultural difference between people remains the hardest,” he said.
Farah, 26, a dentistry student based in Germany, did not know what she was guilty of when her German friend huddled, upon watching her change the remote control’s batteries, and shouted at Farah saying, “I did not expect you to do that.”
“After seeing the confusion on my face and how unable I was to understand what I have done, [the German friend] explained that I was using a battery type that was not environmentally friendly, which usually has a special code. She also gave me a long lecture about it and about the differences between products and the harm they might cause to earth. Actually, I could not find a justification for her reaction, but I do respect it because it is the culture of the country hosting me,” explained Farah.
Farah says that she faced many similar situations with other German friends, “For example, animals and insects here are really valuable; they have rights, and our duty is to respect these rights no matter how annoying they might be. We must not kill insects; rather, we are supposed to lovingly send them out of the home back to nature. This is definitely different from what we were accustomed to do in Syria and the practices we used to do against insects.”
According to Farah, batteries, insects and animals were the easiest part if compared with differences, which are much deeper and sensitive for Arab and Muslim refugees. She explains that with examples, “Many Muslims have a difficulty in understanding that beer is German’s first drink and has to be on every table they gather around. There are also the unreserved discussion of sexual topics, free sexual relations, declared homosexuality and the sex culture taught to children in schools and the sensitivities it raises. These are simple examples of issues that face us daily as refugees; issues we are not capable of adapting to yet.”