Ahmad Bakhdalia

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Stories of Belonging,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Germany
Production Team:
Available Collateral:

I was a senior student in high school in Syria when I had to leave the country because of the war. I took refuge in a European country to try to secure a stable life, a life I could not have in Syria, of course, because of the war.

I left Syria in mid 2015, and I was able to reach Germany - thank God - after about a month and a half. I had some problems and difficulties but this was something that most Syrians faced.

I have been living in Germany for four and a half years, and now I have completed my studies and, of course, I have been able to get the three-year German Baccalaureate. I got married - thank God - so I am residing here.

I would like to tell you the story of how I came to live here and how that affected my life, my thinking and the entire course of my life.

I would love to tell you the story. The story, in a nutshell, is this.

We know that when most Arabs or Syrians go to European countries, they usually head for the Arab community, or try to find Arab friends, or people with the same leanings who have the same customs and traditions. My approach was different.

I was in the camp a while back, and I have a little story about it. There was a young German girl and when I saw her for the first time, I liked her. My approach was to enter German society directly and communicate with them. I wanted to balance belonging to the Arab community with belonging to the country I wanted to live in. I tried to learn some German using my phone, some translations from here and there, so I could talk to that girl, understand her a little, and so that she would understand me in return. I could speak English a little so I was okay using English and German. We went out a little, talked to each other, and we got to know each other. I wanted to know the reason behind her coming to camps to help refugees in Germany who were strangers in the country.

Then I had a small accident, where I slightly injured my hand. I was assessed by a slightly older woman, a nurse who mainly worked for the Red Cross. She took care of my hand and gave me a lot of help. She kept checking on my condition to see if I was feeling pain. She came every day to check on me and changed my bandages in the morning. I loved her doing this. I felt like I was being looked after by a mother, and I told her actually, “I want to call you mum.” After that, all the camp started calling her mum, and this made me like her even more. I did not know that this nurse was the mother of the girl I wanted to talk to and liked. We kept in touch with each other.

After a while, I left the camp and I got the mother's and daughter's numbers and we kept in touch with each other. Our relationship improved further because when I left the camp we started visiting each other. I learned more and more about the girl  and I started to learn about their customs and traditions. They are a family committed to their own religion. We have our own stereotype of Europeans which is not that good. We presume that they have customs and traditions that do not suit us, and I wanted to know about that. I wanted to know what their traditions and their customs are. This is what made me love the German language and fueled my desire to master it.

The nurse became my mother-in-law. Her daughter was very young, 17 years old, which means that she was not mature. Here, at 16, they start to experience practical life and women meet together and talk. For the most part, me and the girl had the same thinking process. I am a man who is somewhat religious and eastern but I can balance my eastern thoughts with the country in which I live.

After a while, I discovered that they have many customs and traditions, just like ours. But we have a different picture of Europeans. The relationship between me and this girl was easy. As I said, she was young, and I was also young. I was her first love, and she was mine too. It was love at first sight and later we decided to marry. I wanted to marry her because the family was the right family for me. They stood by me and helped me, and I felt that they were my family. Even the mother always made sure that I stayed true to my customs and traditions. At the same time, she wanted me to integrate into German society and to become one of them and to know what Germans are like because they are not alike. Two or three months after the marriage, she said to me, “From the beginning of next year (and there were about two months left until the end of the year) I will only speak to you in German. Whether you understand it or not is your problem! But it will make you learn German.” I said to her, “I agree and I will prove to you that I love the language a lot and will learn it as soon as possible”. Indeed, five or six months later, without even having access to language courses, I had improved. I tried to go to the language courses but they told me I already had a good level so I should go to university to finish the education I started in Syria.

My mother-in-law encouraged me to finish my education and go back to university, to learn from my peers and make friends with new people with different educational levels and form relationships with both teachers and students. I wanted to integrate into German society and know how to live in general.

So, a few months later, I went to school to study for the Baccalaureate for three years and thank God, I managed to pass it. I am married to the same girl, and she even became a Muslim, thank God, and learned a lot of our customs and traditions. For example, the family has breakfast every day with Arabic bread and so. They even want to learn a second culture. thank God, we are in agreement with each other and I, of course, have a special relationship with my second mother because she always stood with me, especially when I was weak. When I needed anything, she was always there for me and made me feel that she was my second mother. She always tells me, “You are not my son-in-law, you are my son. Whatever happens, you will remain my son”.

So we live together and we are pleased about that and I am very good at German now, praise to God. I completed the Baccalaureate, as I told you, like any German, and soon I will go to university and see what God has in store for me.

This is my story. I hope that you enjoyed it and peace be upon you.