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Talking Germany

Blog with Peter Craven

Sezen Tatlici: typisch deutsch

Bringing a suitcase full of diversity to Germany

Sezen has brought her sister along. She introduces her as Selin: “It’s a Turkish version of Celine,” she explains. “That goes back to the French influence in our home town, which is Antakya in south-eastern Turkey.” The sisters weren’t, however, born there. These wonderful young people – warm, worldly and wise for their years – are Germans born and bred. Part of an emerging new generation whose unusual energy and rich cultural assets are, I’m sure, going to make them a powerful force in German society. Sezen Tatlici is my latest guest on Talking Germany.


Sezen insists that she’s ‘typically German’ – that is typisch deutsch in German. Unfortunately, everyday experience tells her that not everybody agrees. Which is why – in her spare time (Sezen has a daytime job working for a major German company) – she’s set up an organisation called precisely that: typisch deutsch. The aim: to push for a broader definition of German-ness. For a greater acceptance of diversity.

Sezen and Selin’s journey to Germanness began with a suitcase. The single suitcase that their mother had with her when she set off on her journey to Germany many years ago. When they tell me her story, there’s no mention of that demeaning word Gastarbeiter, because she certainly wasn’t downtrodden. “She was ambitious. She wanted to break out and see the world.” She wanted a new life. And in her suitcase she brought with her something of the old life: the life of her cosmopolitan hometown.

Antakya, says Sezen, is an amazing place: “There’s the French influence because it was until the 1930s a Syrian city and the Syrians have strong ties with France. There are also Jewish influences. It’s Turkish. It’s Arabic. There are those languages, plus Aramaic and Armenian.” She makes it sound very exciting. And sometime soon I think I’ll be packing my suitcase and taking a trip in the other direction from Sezen’s mother.


February 3, 2013