“How much money do you get?”

The Dutch often ask me that. They want to know how high my benefit is, as a refugee. I can now answer that I no longer have a benefit because I am studying, but I still give an answer. If I then ask: “And how much do you earn?”, the Dutch look at the ground. They want to know how much money I have, but do not tell it myself. I think that is strange. I find it useful to know what the salary is for certain professions in the Netherlands, but I never get an answer to that. When I ask a friend what his father, a dentist, earns, it turns out that his friend does not know what his own father earns. In Syria it is a normal question. It is no secret. You know what your family and friends earn. That way every culture has those ‘secrets’. With us, for example, it is very strange to ask how someone’s mother or sister is called. The name of a woman, you do not ask.

Sex! Also something like that, you really should not ask questions about that. At least, the women among themselves, but not the men. Never would you ask a friend: how is sex with your wife? A ridiculous question, private, and a disgrace to tell what your wife is doing in bed. In the Netherlands, the conversation among young men often involves sex. Boys also ask each other: what kind of positions did you all do in bed? Everyone tells it freely. When I am in such a conversation, I only think: please do not let this circle come to me. Maybe I should consider discussing it in exchange for salary information.

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