George Matar

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

My name is George, I’m 31 years old, from Syria. I graduated with a degree in oil, petroleum, and gas engineering and went to Germany in 2015 to study for a Master’s degree at Aachen University. Just arriving at the airport—most of the airports in Germany are huge and modern—makes you feel nervous. I was lucky that I had some relatives to meet me at the airport as well as a friend of a friend living in the same city who happened to be looking for a roommate. So, from the airport I went directly to my new room, and my lovely story began right away. My new roommate and I didn’t get on at all and so he asked me to leave the room in which I was staying. I felt like the world had shut all its doors in my face, and after a long search—housing is really a big problem in this country—I saw a flat, I saw a room, and right by the new place I noticed there was a church. Since I was a child in Syria I’ve been going to church pretty regularly, and it’s the same here in Germany. The first Sunday I went to mass at that church. No one talked to me there, no one even noticed me; most of the churchgoers were old people.

The next Sunday I was hesitant, wondering, should I go or not? I told myself, come on, let’s go. I really wanted to communicate with people, and I was just starting to learn the language here, so I wanted to mix with people in order to practice speaking. Mass ended and again, no one noticed me, no one spoke to me. As I left the church I noticed that after mass, Germans stay back to drink some coffee and have a little chat. There was this little voice inside me telling me, “Go back! Go back and talk to those people.” I went back and there was this man looking right and left, as though he was searching for me. And this man was a member of the family that has now become my German family. I stopped and he asked me something. Of course my language level was quite limited in German, so we spoke in English instead, and then he asked me for my phone number so we could continue chatting at a later date. I gave it to him and told myself maybe he’ll call, and sure enough, two weeks later, he called and said: “Would you like to go have a coffee together?” And I said yes, of course.

We went out together and from the first meeting there was a strong mutual chemistry of warmth and love. Sometime later, he invited me to his house and I met his wife and children. Little by little, our relationship grew stronger. I live alone, I don’t live with them, but they came over to visit me every day and to ask if I needed any kind of help. They accompanied me on the beginning of my journey step by step. After I finished German lessons, I started my courses at the university for my Master’s degree, and praise God I finished and graduated in 2019. Currently I’m working; I’m a productive member of this society. German society respects those who come here and learn the language and then enter the job market and become productive members of their society. I feel that I’ve gradually integrated well here and I’m very proud and happy about that.

I’m George from Germany, and this was my story.