My name is Gurhan and this is my story.
In 1971 my grandfather and father emigrated from Turkey to Belgium as a migrant worker.
They moved to Mariekerke, a small village in the province Antwerp. Five years later, when I was three months old, my mother, my sister and I moved together to Belgium.
My father has worked at Nutricia until the end of his retirement. My mother stayed home and took care of us.
I have spent my childhood in Mariekerke, where I became friends with some children from our neighborhood. At that time, my family was the only one who was foreign-born. That is why the Flemish culture is not ‘odd’ to me.
At the age of thirteen, my family and I moved to Sint-Niklaas. I obtained my primary education at the Broederschool. After that I quit school, I started looking for a job because I wanted to help my father financially. Because of this, I missed my chance of going to high school.
In my early teenage years, I first came in contact with a couple of children who where, just like me, from Turkish origin. It’s because of them I have learned to know the Turkish culture.
The fact that these two cultures are not unfamiliar to me is a big advantage in my social life as well as my professional career.
Fifteen years ago, on June 19th, the Belgian Red Devils played against Turkey for the EURO 2000 cup. Turkey won the game, beating Belgium 2–0 in the finals.
Everyone was celebrating this victory on the Grand Place in Sint-Niklaas. What had to be a big party, turned into a conflict between some Turkish and Belgian supporters.
Soon I felt the tension rise, when even the mayor had to come to the Grand Place. The mayor and the police commissioner were desperate and didn’t know what to do.
When two different cultures quarrel, it’s important that there is an intermediary that understands both sides.
When everyone started fighting, I felt just like the person they needed. I told the police commissioner that I had an idea. We would let the partygoers leave the city center in a police convoy. This way, we could control the partygoers and make sure there weren’t any incidents. The supporters were escorted to a place far enough from he Grand Place where they could continue celebrating.
I stayed the whole time at the Grand Place with the police commissioner and a few hours later he received a text that everything worked out just fine. The commissioner thanked me for the cooperation and suggested me to become a police commissioner as well. So one thing led to another. His vision became reality when I passed the Police Officer Selection Test. So a few years ago I became a police-inspector.
The story behind EURO 2000 is a good example of intercultural problem solving. This is a quality that I developed due to growing up in these two different cultures with their own way of feeling, thinking and doing.