Saira, Pakistan



Saira turns out to be a young Pakistani woman who speaks English with a strong German accent. "Where does the accent come from?" I ask her. She laughs and begins her story. “I'm really 100% Pakistani!”


“In search of a better life, my grandfather left his small village in our homeland in the early 1980s. He made many stops on the way. He stayed in Lebanon for several years. But that wasn't what he was looking for. Then he tried to live in Turkey, but it wasn't his place either. Then Greece. Again, not the place to be. Finally, he arrived in Goch in Germany, just below Nijmegen. There he finally stayed.”


“A little later his teenage son, who had stayed behind in Pakistan, also travelled to Goch. Only my grandmother could not go. She couldn't get the right visa. A few years later, when his son went back to Pakistan for a summer holiday, he visited an old childhood friend and proposed to her. These two are my parents. Me and my three younger sisters were all born in Germany.”


“My life is a direct reflection of the many stops my grandfather made, and the place where he decided to settle. Germany is in many ways the opposite of Pakistan. Sometimes that is a lot of fun and sometimes it is a challenge. The interesting thing is that we were one of the first migrants in the region. When I was born, the whole village wanted to see a child with such black hair and dark eyes. We were definitely different.”


“It was less fun when I was around twenty years old. When we were back in Pakistan that summer, I got a lot of marriage proposals. I had a hard time with it and didn't want anything to do with it. Finally, I talked to my parents and after that it became a lot easier for me and my sisters. It's a complicated topic, because everyone puts pressure on my parents. And the honor of the family also plays a part. But my parents chose to honor my wishes. I am grateful to them for that.”


“I am independent now. I'm finishing a master's degree and after that I will start a PhD. What is typically German about me? I very much like to follow the rules. It calms me down. On the other hand, my Pakistani side makes me very hospitable. Family and personal relationships are very important to me. So, you see, anyone can embody a diverse cultural mix themselves.”