Movie Review: Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland

a family sitting in the back of a track

There is a category on Netflix that I almost never check, Germany films. There hides the adorable movie “Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland”. The movie tells the story of Hüseyin Yilmaz, a guest-worker from Anatolia and his family. At the beginning of the movie the family is introduced to us, the viewers; Hüseyin, the head of the family who’s looking for better opportunities for his family in West-Germany; Fatma, his wife; their children Veli, Layla, Muhamed, and Ali; as well as Layla’s daughter Canan and Cenk, Ali’s and Gabi’s (Ali’s German wife) son. The story unfolds when the family sharing a meal – Fatma announces to the family about her newly acquired German citizenship. Hüseyin struggles to come to terms with his own German citizenship and reveals that he has bought a house in Turkey that he wants to renovate. In order to do so, he wants to travel to Turkey with the whole family. The up-coming trip provokes Cenk’s curiosity and leads him to ask how the family ended up in Germany in the first place. Canan tells Cenk the story of how their Grandfather came to Germany in the 1960s as the 1,000,001st guest worker to help deal with the worker shortage in Germany. She then explains how Hüseyin brought his family to Germany.

assembly line workers building Germany

This comedy shows us a romantic version of reality, the struggles that the family goes through along the way presented in a few funny anecdotes, some cultural differences and smart use of stereotypes. In the movie identity problems are simplified to questions such as “which soccer team I should play with at the school break?”. Even though the movie presents a pink and funny version of reality, it shows us part of German’s history. It shows us how West-Germany needed manpower in order to support the growing economy (Wirtschaftswunder), and how West-Germany invited workers from Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia and Yugoslavia for that purpose. Although the movie skips big parts of the history of the guest-worked, it succeeds in creating a level of sympathy and understanding towards the immigrant. When the movie came out on screens in 2011 it was a huge success. The director Yasemin Samdereli managed to provoke the interest of the average German and with that perhaps even encouraged respect toward immigrants.

Adi G. is a graphic designer and illustrator, she moved to Berlin 7 years ago from Israel. The thing she missed the most about Israel is her family.

Rachel K. is an illustrator. She moved to Berlin 12 years ago with her husband. She is still confused when people say igel and refer to a hedgehog and not an eagle.

Meet the Kohl Family

Not long after I moved here, I discovered that there are many more types of cabbage in Germany than in Israel. For me, cabbage is the most german vegetable, not only because of its rich history but also because cabbage is an important ingredient in German cuisine. In the German language, there are two words for cabbage das Kraut and der Kohl (because one word is not enough).

Historians assume that the cabbage came to Germany around the middle ages, but the first documentation was from the time of Karl the Great (Charlemagne) when he requested to plant 73 cabbage plants in imperial grounds at the end of the 8th century.   

The cabbage found perfect growing conditions in Germany. In the north you can find the famous “Deutsche Kohlstraße”, 130km of cabbage farms on all sides. In the area next to Stuttgart grows a special type of cabbage (Spitzkohl or the Fliderkraut named after the region name) and every year since 1979 there is the “Fliderkrautfest”, a cabbage festival, where you can eat all kinds of cabbage dishes including traditional cabbage cake. 

Since the Second World War Kraut was used by British and American soldiers to describe the Germans. Although meant as a derogatory term, the Germans do love their cabbage and we must not forget the Sauerkraut that was part of the German cuisine since the 16th century. It was a healthy and cheap vegetable that was used to feed common people and sailors, it is full of fibers, minerals, lactic acid, and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. 

Adi G. is a graphic designer and illustrator, she moved to Berlin 7 years ago from Israel. The thing she missed the most about Israel is her family.