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The Hero

    5 mins

The Hero

I knew, even though I was maybe around 16, that it might lead to a “bigger thing” than what is on the surface.

Reaching Integration

    5 mins

    1

Reaching Integration

While some concepts are not even in one's mind, the day comes and they become central to your life. Integration is such a concept for me. I was born in Turkey as a Sunni Turk. I went to private schools with people like me. I spoke the language I spoke home, also at school. Of course, there were differences, of course we were not all the same, but there was common identity, there was a Turkish society, a “Gulenist movement” circle around me and ultimately I was a part of this society. It can also be said that I am a easy going person. Therefore, I have never found myself struggling to 'integrate', to adapt, to the environment that I was in. I've always been part of the majority, and I always felt belonged. This situation first changed when I became “the other” in Turkey as part of the Gulenist movement. I suddenly became a social minority. Finally when I migrated to the Netherlands, I was a minority socially, ethnicly and religiously. From the moment I came here, I started living in a country where I don't belong either socially, ethnically, religiously or the language I speak, and where I have to make an effort to adapt. As a part of the majority, I have always looked down on integration, but this changed and I have been the side that needed to be integrated. As a refugee, I found myself trying to adapt to the people who belong to this society. They belonged to this socity without any effort, but it wasn’t as easy for me. I would like to point out that migrating to another country and being a refugee is different from born being a minority. The difference is that I learned and constructed the concept of integration when I was part of the majority, and now the day has come; my judgments, expectations and observations, good or bad, weighed on me. To put it simply, my language, which I used to speak effortlessly and fluently, has been replaced by a language that I can only express myself to a certain extent with effort. Some who know me may praise my current language level and embarrass me, but I believe in my head that I am not part of this society in the eyes of a Dutchman, with the Dutch level I speak now. Of course, the Dutch are very kind people, and even with the Dutch I speak, they compliment me and congratulate me on my progress. But the strange thing is that I see those compliments and comments as condescending words for the efforts of someone who is not expected to be integrated, because deep down, I am not satisfied with with level of integration myself. I find myself in an 'inferior' position because of my own expectations. I want a level of integration that makes me part of the majority, not a level of integration that makes me socially tolerable as a refugee. Because I grew up in a society where I fully belonged. I think, it is not just me either. Which one of us pleased with the works given to us by the municipalities? For example, how does packaging or sweeping the street appeal to our ego? I don't think it's just a matter of money, it's also a matter of status. We can’t process easily that others deem us worthy of these kind of jobs. Maybe I expressed it a little harshly, but from my point of view this is how it looks. I know from my camping experiences that, Turkish refugees like me I met, like to keep them separate from all remaining refugees. We are the more educated ones, we are cleaner, we are more adaptable, and the others are foreigners who need to be integrated even more. A Turkish idiom says that guests do not like other guests. We like to be treated differently, who doesn't? It caught my attention once, in a speech by a friend, that she then thought that the famous Dublin Regulation did not apply to 'Turks' coming from Greece. However, since Greece is a transit country for most refugees, Dublin cannot be applied to any refugee coming from there, regardless of their nationality, if Greece does not accept them back. Of course, there is no bad intention, but I was surprised how my friend developed a idea that this practice is only applied to Turkish people and not “the others”. What was it that made us so special anyways? However, reality hits hard. Ultimately, we make such an effort to learn a language that did not speak for 20-40 years of our lives, and we compete in the same job market with people who are perhaps not more qualified than ourselves, but are part of this society. On top of that, our names, faces and accents reveal that we are outsiders. And what happens in the end? I said in the beggining that there is a concept of integration that I constructed in my head when I was a part of the majority. That initial concept burdens me now. No matter how much they compliment my language development, even if I get somewhere, even if I get good grades, we ultimately try to achieve the integration in our minds. Maybe we want to feel like once we did, and sometimes some of us are willing to compromise even the features that make us different to reaching that level of integration. Belonging, identity, being integrated, these are very powerful concepts. But ultimately, concepts derive their power from the meanings we ascribe to them. For some, integration means getting A2 Dutch, for others reaching B2, for some, having more Dutch friends than Turkish friends, for others, being indistinguishable from Dutch people. Some will take 3 years to integrate, while others will struggle for a lifetime. I am also trying to integrate, I got my NT2 diploma, I have been living in the Netherlands for more than 3 years, but I cannot say that I have completed my integration. Where does this integration end, where will I be satisfied? I suppose only time will tell.

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