My name is Mohammed Al-Sarray and I originally come from Iraq. The best experience here was to learn the German language and to know a new culture. In Iraq, we have different opinions about Germans and Germany in general. Most of these opinions stem from historical events, like the Second World War and Cold War. It was really interesting to discover the German culture myself. When I now visit Iraq and someone asks me: “I’ve heard Germans are tough workers, but they are racist, is it really true?” I can answer that there is a cultural difference rather than racism.
I work in the field of media content management in an international organisation in Bonn. I benefit greatly from this cross-cultural experience. We take this cultural difference into consideration when we distribute German media products to Arabic consumers. At the same time, we try to inform our German corporation what the Iraqi and other Arabic audiences expect.
What are the main differences between Iraq and Germany?
There are big cultural differences between Iraq and Germany. Some of these differences are even visible in the form of gestures and other facial expressions. In Iraq, if you look at someone in the eyes, this will be interpreted as disrespect; you are defiant. In Germany you can see the opposite. If you look at the ground while someone talks to you, this will be taken as disrespect; you are not interested in his/her speech.
Another main difference is directness. If someone invites me to an event, I find it difficult as an Iraqi to directly refuse the invitation when I am busy or do not want to attend. I have to come up with an excuse to apologize for not being able to participate. I would also like to mention an example of differences between Germans and Iraqis: I went one time to a restaurant with some German friends. In Iraq, everyone would compete to pay first for all friends seated at the table. Thus, I applied the same rules in Germany. The German friends did not do the same thing, they seemed to be first surprised, but then they were happy with my gesture.
What is it that you like/dislike in Germany ?
I like the infrastructure here, which is much more developed in comparison to what we have in Iraq. I like the German punctuality, especially in transportation, however the numerous strikes changed this a bit though…
I dislike the German weather, which means mostly dark and dull. I really miss the sun rays that provide me with vitality and liveliness. I miss also the Iraqi sense of humor. Germans, although mostly polite, tend to be firm. However, they sometimes laugh at the jokes I make and accept them…
Have you ever experienced cases of racism?
I experienced some cases of racism, the most shocking was in McDonalds. I was sitting in McDonalds in Bonn with two other Iraqi friends. All of a sudden, a man from the table behind started bombarding us with strange questions: “What are you doing here? Where are you from?” When I told him that he can’t ask me such questions as we do not know each other, he went further with another question: “Who smuggled you to Germany?” When I told him that no one smuggled us, and as he noticed that I started to get really angry at him, he said that we were speaking too loud and it bothered him! Although I remember we weren’t loud and there were children and other young people who were really making more noise…
Do you think Germany is a multicultural country?
If I see the radical movements, like Pediga, despite its resistance from some Germans, I think Germany has not yet entirely opened up to other cultures. On the other hand, when we see the foreign communities, like the Italian, Turkish, Arabs etc., we can say Germany is becoming a multicultural country!