Of all the taxi drivers in Berlin that I have had the privilege of driving around town with, Nurhan was the first female taxi driver. Don’t get me wrong, there are several hundred female taxi drivers in Berlin, I just never had the opportunity to be sent one.
Her friendliness and lovely sense of humour was to my immediate. liking and she had a way of carrying on a conversation that did not feel forced, strained, superficial or dull. On the contrary, it seemed as though we were long lost cousins trying to catch up on the latest family gossip. I guess it is a woman thing to slip into that mode, with far less formality and power-tripping, and quite a few topics in common. Both being mothers, we wailed about the highs and lows of parenting, and the challenges of being an Asian mother in Germany. This struck a chord in me, because Nurhan struggles to pass on her Asian values to her children growing up in a German environment, attending Berliner schools, and experiencing the isolation and discrimination that many Muslim children are facing at the moment.
How was it to be a woman in a man’s world? Tough, no doubt about it. As a female taxi driver she has had to work twice as hard to prove herself to the employers, male colleagues, and worst of all, to the city administration. She took almost three times as long to file for all her papers and permits as compared to the male taxi drivers because she kept getting the runaround, both for being a female with a foreign name – regardless of the fact that she has a German passport and has spent most of her life in Berlin and completed all her studies here.
It is quite shocking to hear that in this day and age in Europe, women still have to prove themselves to be qualified, respectable and capable in the general workforce. Many are under the misconception that emancipation is in full force in Germany, but ask the corporate management of the large conglomerates around the country and you will find little to no females in the top management. Go the opposite side of the spectrum, and you will also find very few women in the traditionally male-dominated jobs as well.
Nurhan regretted very much having to deliver me to my destination because we were just getting started. But she did leave me with this nugget of wisdom: our female intuition and stubbornness that gets us through the most difficult of times. Our unwillingness to be defeated and suppressed encourages us to rise above the suffering and pain, and enables us to endure the darkest of days. Women, mothers in particular, she said, are strong and resilient women. Yes, she would have loved a better paying job, but being an independent taxi driver allows her to have a very flexible schedule and be home for her children when they need her the most.