I first met Serkan at the train station upon returning from one of my trips with Champagne. He was in line at the taxi stand and was highly amused at the cat backpack and the cat herself. Little did I know then that he would become a regular and our paths would cross often. Next time I rode with Serkan I didn’t recognise him but he remembered me because of the cat, whom he immediately asked about.

IMG_2418The third time I ended up with Serkan as my driver I didn’t have the cat either but he was chatty and eager to tell me stories. The good mood was attributed not only to winter finally leaving Berlin but to his wife and children being on holiday in Turkey. He had peace and quiet in the house, could rest without anyone demanding anything from him, and could stay out late with his friends. “Don’t get me wrong, I do miss them and look forward to their return, but I want to enjoy my last three days of freedom!”

My daughter returned to Florence yesterday via Flixbus, a long 17-hour bus ride, but the morning turned out to be more chaotic than planned. To make a long story short, I ended up having to meet her at the central bus station with all her luggage and decided to bring Champagne along as well. Since I was pressed for time, I called for a taxi and Serkan turned up, delighted to see the cat again.

His is one of the most successful migrant stories that I have ever come across among all the taxi drivers so far. Born and raised in Istanbul, Serkan turned his back on a very lucrative family business and moved to Germany 20 years ago, decided to try his luck here. Beginning in a field that was familiar to him, construction, he quickly realised that he German equivalent was not quite what he expected. Like many of his colleagues, he turned to taxi driving and discovered that there was a lot of potential in this field, if you knew what you were doing and how to run a business properly. That is one thing Serkan definitely has, because now he is an entrepreneur with five taxis to his name and 10 employees to go with that.

While setting up the enterprise here in Germany, he was still helping his father with the business back in Istanbul, taking over for the elderly man during home leaves. His two children were born and raised in Berlin, although they spend almost all their holidays in Turkey. Time has come, however, for Serkan to make a decision. His father is ready to retire and he is obliged to take over the business. I asked where he would make more money, and I really wasn’t expecting the answer he gave me. “In Turkey of course. The business there is booming, we are in construction supplies and I would make at least three times more than what I currently make here. I have no idea what keeps me in Berlin, because it certainly isn’t the working hours.”

Taxi driving, Serkan confided, is not family friendly at all, regardless of whether you are employed or own your own taxi. At least two of his employees are now divorced because of the choice of work and many of the drivers will work additional hours to make ends meet. It can be dangerous as well, and you never know when your passenger is going to stick a knife through the drivers’ seat or hold it to your throat, not to mention all the customers who are rude, loud and condescending. Very few, he continued, take the time to start a conversation or even say thank you in the end. The rude passengers he can handle, but the drunk ones who throw up in the car are the ones that make Serkan regret his line of work.

It was a pity the ride to the central bus station was so short, but I did manage to squeeze in a word of advice to Serkan, cautioning him not to postpone the decision to move too long for the sake of the children. We exchanged ideas and experiences regarding relocating children at a certain age, and realised that we shared a similar opinion. The greater challenge, he claims, is convincing his wife. She doesn’t mind going to Turkey often on holidays, but living there permanently is a whole different ball game.

This is definitely not the last I have seen of Serkan, especially since he promised to tell me more stories and introduce me to some of his colleagues.