how difference in background can bind extra

When you think of intercultural friendship, you might think of exchanging language, ideas, or ideas. But what does it really mean to be part of an intercultural friendship and in what ways does it enrich the friendship?

Shara Gaffaf (22, Kurdish-Dutch) and Daria Scharnhorst (22, German-Dutch): ‘We understand where the other comes from’

The spark did not fly right away when they met. But after Daria invited Shara to her birthday in 8th grade, a special friendship blossomed up that night, in pajamas and all. Shara said she moved to Iraqi Kurdistan, where her parents came from. Her parents thought it was better for them there and their family lived there.

Daria: ‘It was an intense moment, especially because you wanted to move to another continent. I think our friendship started at that moment. I remember that a year later we went to a youth camp, and by then we were already close. ‘

Shara: ‘My mother immediately approached you: if you would keep an eye on things. My parents fled Iraqi Kurdistan in 1997 and had to raise a child here, but they did not immediately understand the system – they had no idea what a first-class camp was. ‘

At the beginning of the last decade, Shara and her parents moved to Iraqi Kurdistan. Their stay there was shorter than her parents had imagined. IS began to appear and part of the family returned to the Netherlands for security reasons.

Shara: ‘When we returned from Iraqi Kurdistan, I lived with my grandmother because we were not immediately assigned a house. So we slept there, in a small apartment. I often had to pick up my sister in the nursery because my mother worked and my father did not live in the Netherlands. Sometimes you picked her up and took care of her. My home situation was not ideal at the time. My mother ended up in a burnout. As a big sister, you take over a lot of care at such a time. That you were always there for me made our friendship so strong. ‘

Daria: ‘Even now your house is my house and vice versa. We are literally the first to open the fridge together. Our relationship is just very familiar. From the beginning, there was also a deep basic trust between us, a sense of security. We really feel like we understand where the other is coming from. ‘

Where does it come from?

Shara: ‘Maybe there is not always understanding. I seem to have asked my mother when I was ten if Daria is going to hell as a non-Muslim. We do not always agree on love issues, but I know she is a good person. I grew up in Islam from childhood and I had to pray five times a day, which I often did not understand. I went to a white school; then the cultures collide and one begins to wonder if, for example, alcohol is bad. Now I think: do you hurt each other if he drinks alcohol? New. Is he hurting himself? Maybe, but that’s not automatically my problem. ‘

Daria: ‘I think that any difference between us can also be there, that there is respect and space. I learned a lot from how Shaar thinks. I think if I had not been much in Shaar’s house, I would not have known the diversity of Islam. I am active as a feminist and saw eg hijab as a woman oppression. I see it differently now. We had many conversations together about the meaning of a hijab and being a woman. And as a non-Muslim without a hijab, I may not automatically have an opinion on something that does not concern me. ‘

Shara: ‘I also found this conversation difficult because I had a hard time seeing women wearing hijab as human beings instead of just as Muslims. My mother used to wear the hijab and said it was oppression of women. I did not learn that until I became friends with hijabs, who also just study and do volunteer work. I also had to learn to break through my own stereotypes. ‘

Shara: ‘What I also learned from you: that it’s okay to choose for yourself too. I come from a culture where family comes first. With you, I sometimes saw that no matter what your parents thought, you did what you wanted. In that sense, I reaped the benefits of individualism. But cultural identity is not something fixed; in different contexts, I feel more connected to one culture than to another. ‘

Daria: ‘I recognize that. My parents are from the GDR. In Germany I really feel like a Dutch girl, but in Holland I often feel German – especially East German. When I was studying in Berlin, many people recognized my East German background. They see it in the words you use or in the way you talk about the GDR. Or how you feel about the fall of the Wall. I also knew Russian comics† But yes, that culture no longer exists «.

How is it, Daria, to feel a connection with a culture that exists only in the head?

Daria: ‘Crazy and sometimes complicated: it’s also about a struggle between capitalism and socialism. In the Netherlands, I also notice that my parents are quite socialist, I was confronted with that during the history lesson in the Netherlands. Socialism and the GDR were often seen negatively. But in the end, I have primarily a European background, and people like it, I speak several languages. It’s different for Shara anyway. ‘

Shara: ‘That’s right, it’s more likely to be a problem. Also quite tiring: If I join a white group that expresses itself negatively about Islam, I feel obligated to stand up for Middle Eastern culture. That’s why it’s so nice to have you. You and Angela (another boyfriend, ed.) Were always there. I do not have to defend anything, I can just be myself ‘.

Daria: ‘It doesn’t matter what cultural aspects are involved in our friendship, it’s just there and it’s okay. One is never asked in an annoying way how something is going on. Do you know what it is primarily? I can be naughty in our friendship. ‘

Melle Rigter (left) and Ānanda Hegeman (right)

Ānanda Hegeman (26, Surinamese-Dutch) and Melle Rigter (22, Dutch): ‘Our biggest common denominator: our political ideals’

Besides being friends, Ānanda and Melle are also sister-in-law and brother. The connecting factor between the two is the friend and brother Jesse, but the two find each other mainly in their political ideals.

Melle: ‘andananda and I almost always agree, also because I think we understand each other better on topics like racism and sexism, even though I think Ānanda’s position as a colored woman in our current society is different from me. Of course, being gay is less visible. “

Ānanda: ‘At the same time, I can just go hand in hand with Jesse, and you might have to think about it three times before you do. So in that sense, it is also a limiting factor. But it is of course true that in the past I was approached in an unpleasant way, for example because I was bullied at school for my full lips.

Melle: ‘Such things also show how dangerous latent racism can be. It can be just as dangerous as visible racism based on skin color. Themes that we talk a lot about and that we find each other in ».

Ānanda: ‘When we are three, Jesse has more of a perspective on the white straight man, while we both have different experiences. It binds us. During the corona, we have become even closer. It was a pretty difficult period for me, also because I then went into a depressive period. Then Melle and I went for a long walk together ‘.

Melle: ‘Because my father was also burnt out at the time, he rented a house on the beach in Schoorl and we all went there. During that period, we got even closer to each other, also by going out and going outside together. ‘

How does interculturality enrich your friendship?

Melle: ‘I think I have learned a lot about superstition. I only have a Dutch background and I was raised quite sober, so I was never really preoccupied with spirituality or superstition. But through andananda I am introduced to superstition and I learn more and more how they work. ‘

Ānanda: ‘I must say that I myself was brought up in a very Dutch way, also because I come from Badhoevedorp, a real shit place. My father is Dutch, but my mother is Surinamese and was born in Paramaribo. She came to Holland when she was sixteen, to study, and after her studies she met him. But of course I also got to know the Surinamese culture through her. Despite being very rational, she is very superstitious. I took it over. If salt falls on the table, I have to take that salt and throw it over my shoulder, otherwise it will bring misfortune.

Melle: ‘If I miss the bus and I just drove under a lift, it sometimes comes to mind for a while.’

Ānanda: ‘In general, my mother is quite critical of Suriname. She has more or less escaped from poverty there. Of course, we only see the beautiful things, such as the jungle. When I was there with Jesse and Melle, I also saw a lot of things that could be done better politically. At the same time, as a highly educated Surinamese woman living in the Netherlands, I thought: why am I not doing something? I’ve now got the idea that I can turn this guilt into something positive because I work at a number of major museums and write a lot. Art and literature are the ways to tell such stories. ‘

Melle: ‘Through Ānanda I learned a lot more about the history of Suriname. But I think our biggest common denominator is our political ideals. ‘

Ānanda: ‘Melle studies political science and is often involved in such themes. So I also think that his ideals and thoughts can later be used so that he, as a journalist or politician, can tell stories from all over the world – maybe even about Suriname. ‘

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