Germany has received more than one million newcomers over the last years. People on the move will become part of the receiving society. In daily life, however, we experience, that newcomers and locals hardly meet which leads to parallel societies, misunderstandings and prejudices.
Über den Tellerrand creates open spaces where people of various backgrounds can meet on eye-level to foster mutual understanding. With the low threshold and very connecting medium of cooking we bring together people at the kitchen table. The personal encounters lower the barrier to talking to each other and give the nudge for intercultural friendships and networks. Food is a perfect way to attract people of various backgrounds. It is one of the most inclusive means of interacting: Cooking and sharing food allows a way of communicating without language, speaking with senses instead of words, being accessible to people of different age, culture and educational background.
Since everyone can contribute in the same way, co-creation is easy and happens on eye-level. In the kitchen, a newcomer can become a host, locals are his*her guest. By exchanging roles, we change perspectives. By smelling, tasting and enjoying food from other cultures, we open hearts and minds. Familiar smells become messengers of emotions; family recipes become “door-openers” to other cultures that suddenly feel less different.
Thus, our solution is an intercultural café shaped as a culinary lab in Munich. This place will be an open space, where people from various backgrounds exchange ideas and perspective while enjoying food from various cultures.
The concept of the café (including e.g. the interior design, a programme of special events, or the monthly changing menu) will be developed in a co-creative process, integrating various stakeholders and guests (users) from the very beginning. The café is more than just a place to consume food and drinks. It is a laboratory, where we prototype easy concepts that foster integration in our everyday life.
The café is located in the heart of Munich and hosted by the Volkshochschule (public adult education center), a place where people from various backgrounds and with different interests come to teach and learn. It is a public space and thus, the café is a trans-sectoral cooperation with the local public administration. Newcomers visit obligatory integration courses in this building; locals come to attend sewing courses, attend lectures on art history, or learn a new language, for example. It is a mix of people of different age, nationality and various educational backgrounds. Around 1,000 persons attend the course programme per day.
While Über den Tellerrand has already tested cooking events as a tool for integration in various settings and cities (over 30 locations in Germany and around 7,500 cooking events in 2017 nationwide), the café is a prototype. It is the next step to test our integration concept in a permanent structure in the city of Munich and an attempt to anchor our idea of intercultural encounters as a steady part in the daily life of Munich’s inhabitants.
When successful, we plan to scale in Germany in cooperation with the nationwide network of Über den Tellerrand and the Volkshochschulen.
We will also use the space to test different event formats and tools, e.g. speed-dating for exchanging ideas of local social entrepreneurs, Arabic-German menu, co-creative workshops, e.g. for re-designing and greening the café’s terrace in spring. The formats, which proof most impact, can be transferred to other daily life situations to nudge intercultural interaction in our society.