Living among the locals

Integrating refugees while breaking bread

By: Worldpal*


Food is a universal language that knows no grammar or words, channeling its information over all our five senses. To me, it represents love, happiness and comfort. Food connects people the way that peanut butter and jelly bring two slices of toast together. This is exactly what the German city Potsdam is going for. At an event called Buntes Essen, which translates into Colorful Food, Berlin’s sister city attempts to bring Syrian refugees together with the locals. During the event, refugees prepared local dishes from their home country, creating a warm atmosphere to get us all together over the bread and salt we share.

The way to a person’s heart goes through the stomach, says an Arabic idiom. Consequently, if you want to win many hearts, you have to be a good cook.

My first Syrian experience was in the buzzing cafeteria of Potsdam. The smell of garlic and oil mixed with the sweetness of caramel filled the room with its scent. The kitchen counter transformed into a small bazaar with a variety of dishes presented in round bowls and silver trays. Near the entry, a woman was scooping a milk-like shake out of a pot as wide as the table it stood on into glasses.  In Syria, the amount of food represents the amount of joy felt towards the guests. To compare, it was probably enough food to get a family of four through a whole month.

Vine leaves

Four young Syrian men served the food. “Taboule? Kibbe? Waraq Enab? Hummus?” Long story short, a simple gesture toward the food got the job done without using a single word. “Thank you.”

I shared this culinary experience with my friends.

My gaze wondered beyond my assembly of golden, red and green colors. “May I try your… “, the fried dough crunched between my teeth, “…Mmm. This is delicious.” I don’t believe I finished the question.  It was a constant giving and taking. Even the one meatball on my plate was equally split.

I was simply amazed by the variety of dishes and the hospitality.

This article was initially published on


*The blogger is a twenty-some year old blogger from beautiful Potsdam, Germany who enjoys writing about lifestyle and travel. With her little spot on the Internet, she has created an inspired playground to give her spaghetti-like thoughts the room they deserve.

About Yasmin Helal

Having lived in the GCC, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran, Yasmin is a journalist who enjoys writing travel and culture features.

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