This would be the perfect tagline for “Turkish for Beginners“, a German sitcom too politically incorrect to be shown in a neighbor country of Turkey (according to the opinions of various people here), yet a hit in Germany among critics and audiences alike.
“Türkisch für Anfänger” (the original German title) ran from 2006 till 2009, 52 episodes were produced, as well as a feature film which made it into the cinema in 2012. The show focused on the German Schneider family: a hippy German mom with her neurotic daughter and pointless young son. Mom’s new boyfriend is Turkish German softy police offer Metin Öztürk with his dumb macho son and perfect Muslim daughter. All the kids (besides the Schneider son who disappears early in season 2) are in their late teens and so once the parents decide to move in together neurotic daughter gets it on with macho son and Muslim daughter ultimately becomes an item with macho brother’s best friend who happens to be Greek. Chaos ensues.
Season 1 of “Turkish for Beginners” relies heavily on that cultural chaos. The idea of having to reconsider ones cultural identity in a foreign country are explored in depth but through the use of comedy. The show is not afraid to address the idea that multiculturalism is dead or at the very least unattainable. It features Muslim stereotypes and Neo-Nazis and admits that life does not always offer happy endings. At the same time it manages to keep the honesty and wittiness that great writing should offer in our modern society. The main character, as well as narrator of the show is Lena the neurotic teenage daughter. I must say i loved her in the first season because she was stubborn and irrational, strong but flawed. She realized her mistakes but had to make them anyway, that helped make her seem the most fleshed out character on the show. Unfortunately, season 2 and 3 went on to feature a watered down will they won’t they plot with neurotic girl and macho guy which killed a lot of the bite of their characters and the charm of the show. Plus they all started looking as old as the “teenagers” on Glee.
Anyone who has relocated to another country (and not just for a few months) or who has close friends or a relationship with a foreigner has to some degree experienced misunderstandings. These little everyday situations when something is said or done that you wouldn’t think about twice but you realize that your behavior completely clashes with the way the other person would react to them. It rarely concerns the main issues such as money, politics or religion but rather the small things that everyone deep inside considers as “normal” and can’t explain why that is. These differences are not negative or positive, they are exciting or nerve-wracking or even both. Therefore, i would definitely recommend at least the first season of “Turkish for Beginners” to experience these differences through clever storytelling in a 21st century European context.