Refugees in Germany – Breaking the Ice With Comedy | Abdul Abbasi and Allaa Faham | TEDxMünster

Translator: Nadine Hennig
Reviewer: Robert Tucker Allaa Faham: Ladies and gentlemen, we are GLS. I’m Abdul, he is Allaa. Abdul Abbasi: The other way
around. I’m Abdul. AF: Sorry. I’m Allaa, he is Abdul. We come from Syria. I’ve been in Germany for about
two years, Abdul for three years. We started our project about one year ago. Basically, it is about – AF: our –
– AA: Allaa! AF: overcoming the –
– AA: Allaa! AF: prejudices between the –
– AA: Allaa, Allaa! – AF: What? AA: Do you actually have Nutella
in Syria? That choco – Do you actually eat chocolate in Syria?
It’s nothing you know about. AF: We do. AA: You have four wives in Syria, right? Every man needs four wives.
One is not enough, right? Of course, I understand.
I am multicultural – no problem. AF: But it’s not true. (Laughter) AA: But they all work at home. AF: No, my mother works outside it. AA: Outside in the garden? (Laughter) AF: No, at a company, actually. AA: But they are all veiled. How can you tell your wives apart? Must be difficult. But I have an idea. Every wife has a number
like the people at the Olympics. (Laughter) AF: Stop it. That’s not true at all. That’s not true. AA: Of course, it’s true.
You are from Syria. AF: Nope. AA: But I have this question,
I’m 100% certain about it. AF: OK, shoot. AA: Do you have free elections in Syria? AF: Yes, of course, we have – elections? AA: Yes? AF: No. AA: See. It’s true. It’s really bombastic
where you live, right? AF: Bombastic? AA: Yes, I mean, Syrians, bombs.
Do you have a bomb with you? AF: Abdul, do you want to see
a real bomb right now? Do you want to see a real bomb right now? AA: Let’s continue.
We make cool videos, people. AF: I am talking to you. AA: Nope. AF: Do you want to see
a real bomb right now? AA: 400 [people]. Allaa, no. AF: One, two, three. Yes, that’s my bomb right here. (Applause) Many people associate my identity,
my Syrian passport, where I come from, with bombs, with death,
with violence, with war, with blood, but to these bombs
that we always show, no matter where, United States, France, Germany,
Austria, Hungary, anywhere, they pay little attention, unlike to the real bombs, of course. This, ladies and gentleman,
is the step to take to be a real stereotype. We get the kind of jokes
we just showed you from a lot of people, AA: Ha. AF: Abdul, get up. AA: Are we in paradise? AF: No, we’re still in Münster. AA: God! (Laughter) (Applause) AF: When you hear these ideas,
these questions, this information, you get the impression
that we look like this in Syria. AA: On YouTube,
we sometimes get hate comments, they write: ‘Go back to your camel!’ That would be really cool. (Laughter) I would love to have a camel in Aleppo,
but unfortunately we don’t have camels. I’d love to, but it would be difficult. What’s the real problem
when faced with something we don’t know? We become somehow insecure, and this insecurity
is really a sign of weakness. And this weakness
demonstrates vulnerability. That’s why we try to make it go away
as well as we possibly can. And if we ask a question about a certain community
that we don’t know, we try to answer the question
by making generalizations. We use our own selective
individual experiences. Maybe I once got to know
someone from Mexico, and then I have this picture in my head
of how Mexicans maybe are. That’s wrong. For example, on holidays. You are simply everywhere. No matter where you go,
there are always Germans. In Syria, there is war, but maybe there’s
a few Germans there on holiday. Holidays are important. (Laughter) (Applause) Once, I saw this man
at six in the morning, and he reserved a beach chair with
– What is the word? – a towel – at six in the morning. And now, when I think of or about Germans, there’s only this one image in my head, and I use it to be able to say
that I know what Germans are like. Yes, all of them at six in the morning – Actually what I am doing here
is I am building stereotypes. AF: The thing with stereotypes is,
although we try to do without them – Abdul doesn’t really try. The thing is that it is
a general characteristic of us all. It is in our nature. People make mistakes. I, for example, knew
only three things about Germany: Oktoberfest, Mannschaft
and the sentence ‘I love you’. At the beginning,
I only knew this sentence. So I said to anyone, ‘I love you.’ (Laughter) What? Why? AA: Yes, I understand. AF: You probably know that Germans
are often stereotyped as angry, serious – and not having a sense of humour. Which isn’t really true, is it? AA: Well, my girlfriend
is sitting here. Of course, it’s true. AF: Even if the Germans are incomparable in their tolerance
towards other cultures, at least in my experience, there are still those stereotypes
about Syrians in Germany. The reason for that, of course,
is that we, Germans and Syrians, have little contact with one another. This is where we need to build bridges. It is important that we communicate
with each other more, that we talk to each other more. It is important that we remind ourselves that we are not all peas
from the same pod. Germans aren’t clones, nor are Syrians. AA: The word ‘social’,
or in German ‘sozial’, comes from the Latin word – Habibi? Can I look at my text? – ‘socialis’. This word was used in Latin
to describe communities that are nice, polite, cool to each other. We can actually use this original meaning and apply it to today’s situation. We can describe humanity
as a ‘social community’ that has both good eggs and bad eggs. And for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, we founded GLS, German LifeStyle. (Laughter) (Applause) AF: Nice.
– AA: Cool, right? AF: We started our project a year ago. Basically, it is
about us Germans and Syrians talking more to each other, together overcoming prejudices
towards Germans as well as those towards us, Syrians, understanding our differences. We now have approx. 90,000
[supporters] on Facebook. AA: Yeah, approximately 90,000. AF: And 20,000 [subscribers] on YouTube. This is one of our videos. It’s actually a little old but – AA: Wait. That’s what we do. (Laughter) Try again. We’ve done that too. (Laughter) (Applause) No problem. We just do it live. Yes? (Video) [The Germans] AF: Do you want some chocolate? AA: No, thanks. Not for me. I’m OK. AF: OK. [The Syrians] (Arabic) AF: Very nice. (Arabic) We were completely contented
with our lives. Before the war, scarcely any of us
actually thought about leaving Syria, but it has sort of come to us
as our destiny, and it all really hurts. We want to integrate ourselves
into your society, we want to respect
the German constitution. We want to live together
with you peacefully, and for us to uphold each other, because together we are stronger. But we can’t do it on our own,
and neither can you. Therefore, it would be good
if we supported each other, because we’d like
[something to become of us]. We have lost a lot, but we still hold onto our dreams and we want to make them come true, to become full participants
in German society. (End of video) (Applause) AF: Thank you. After thinking about it a lot,
we came to this thought: We have two different societies
with a bridge between them, and we need to cross that bridge. So we asked ourselves: How can we cross that bridge? How can we break the ice? It is so easy. It’s actually like
getting to know a woman. AA: Yes.
– AF: Abdul? AA: No.
– AF: Might you explain to us – AA: Exactly. Thank you. AF: – how you get to know women? AA: No. AF: Why? AA: It’s all in the past.
I don’t want to talk about it. AF: Please! AA: I am a completely
different person now. I am not a horse anymore. AF: 400 people are waiting. AA: (Arabic) AF: Please! Come here. The stage is yours. And after that? (Laughter) What did you do next? Please! (Laughter) (Applause) Careful, careful! (Sings: ‘My Heart Will Go On’) (Laughter) (Applause) AA: Humour. You see, with humour,
you can actually break the ice. For us, humour is actually
a universal language, and no one is afraid
to speak or understand it. You are, for example,
in a foreign culture. You are afraid to do something wrong. Your counterparts are also afraid
of doing something wrong. But suddenly, you all laugh. Now, it’s not more important
what you have done. Maybe you did something wrong
in the other culture. But that is not important,
no worry – you all laugh – no drawing apart, no judging each other;
you share the moment. You feel a connection with each other. AF: Wow. Nice.
– AA: Good, right? AF: But still, there are people who don’t want to open up
to other cultures and countries. They don’t want to make the effort. And it does take an effort, discussion is always difficult, it’s difficult to change ideas
you have had for so long. But the question is now: What do these people miss? AA: Many people shy differences. For us, there is nothing wrong
with being different. Being different isn’t always
a negative thing. Our experience has shown us that multicultural people
are more open, more tolerant, than people in isolated, closed societies. We can learn a lot from
each other and share things. You – me, for example, we – I can show you how to cook, can’t I? And you, for example, can give me
your German passport. (Laughter) German passport. AF: Religious bigotry, racism
and nationalism build boundaries. We can only overcome this boundary by getting to know each other; by realizing what we all have in common: we are all humans. AA: That is actually
the goal of our project, the goal of GLS. Now, back to my first point. I don’t want to have
just one image of Germany. AF: I don’t want to have
just one image of Syria. AA: And it’s irrelevant whether it’s a good picture
or a bad picture. We firmly believe
that no society in this world should be reduced
to one single stereotype. That’s wrong. That’s bad. (Applause) We, I, Allaa, the horse and many refugees, many new refugees,
many new members of society, just want to tell you that the war must not be allowed
to be stronger than us. Our fate must not be allowed
to get the better of us. AF: We are stronger than our reality. White is actually the colour of peace, and we now have four flowers. AA: This one here – is for my destroyed country, for my city. AF: This one is for Germany. AA: This one is for all the people
in the world who suffer as a result of war. AF: And this one is for everyone
who stands for humanity. AA: Thank you.
– AF: Thanks. (Applause)

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