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Turkish culture

Posted May 09 2012 5:59pm
I wanted to do some more posting on culture -- different cultures, especially a comparison of Turkish and American. I know that years from now, I will have trouble remembering my life in this country. And I don't want to forget.

I found a great website that listed culture breakdown by country. And this past Thursday, I presented the findings, highlighting the ones I thought most appropriate -- especially the ones that stuck out the most to me after two years abroad.

Today, I present the Turkish findings. I asked my friend Rana to read these and she had me change a few of them, but overall she said, they were very accurate. You'll notice, they answer the same questions as the American post. But the answers are, usually different.

So while all of these will not apply to all Turks, and there will be exceptions, generally, here are the things that are basically true of all Turks. I have highlighted the ones that have really started sticking out to me even more during my two years in Turkey.
If you're Turkish ...
  • You know about the concept of freedom of speech but you wouldn't dare talk about it too much.
  • You believe in God, as much as you believe in separation of religion and government. You still finish your utterances by saying Insallah (If God wills it). There is a 99 % probability that you are Muslim; you're much less likely to be zealous about it.
  • You would believe the news you see on TV, but the life of the rich and famous seems more intriguing -- you would rather watch trashy paparazzi shows. The "news" shows aren't all that different anyway.
  • You probably smoke like... errr... like a Turk.
  • You put salt in your food before you taste it.
  • You're very familiar with popular culture figures such as Hülya Avsar, Tarkan, Sibel Can, Ibrahim Tatlises, Ebru Gündes, Okan Bayülgen, Cem Yilmaz, and you probably know all the nasty little details of their private lives.
  • If you're male, you are a futbol fanatic. It would be unthinkable for you not to support one of the major Turkish teams. By the way, you fail to understand why someone would use a bizarre word like "soccer."
  • You are unaware that you have more official and not-so-official vacations than any country in Europe. Nowadays, that mostly means running out of town so that you can avoid visits by boring relatives. How long?
  • You think that everyone in the world is concerned with what happens in your country. You're shocked when you learn that some Europeans or Americans are unable to locate your country on a map.
  • You live in a secular country but you believe in God, and of course you are Muslim-- nominally. This means that you might fast during Ramadan yet still have no qualms about consuming alcohol the other 11 months. You'd still go to Heaven though, because God forgives.
Fortunately, hamburgers aren't made of ham ...
  • You might have committed most of the sins in the book, but you can proudly announce that you've never eaten pork. You fail to understand how foreigners can eat it.
  • You think that fast food like McDonald's, Burger King, or KFC is expensive and prestigious. Long after your meal is finished, you sit around the uncomfortable chairs, and chat away.
  • You probably own the latest model cellular telephone-- even if you don't really need one or can't afford the bills.
  • Your house is well-heated in the winter, but you fry in the summer because you don't have air conditioning.
  • You have your own bathroom with western-style toilet. You do have a second, Turkish-style toilet in your apartment, but you shun at the idea of using it.
  • Your mum does your laundry in a washing machine.
  • You are always overdressed, even when you go grocery shopping.
  • You eat at a table, sitting on chairs. You take it for granted that Turkish cuisine is the best in the world. You think the rest of the world eats bland, boring food.
  • You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food. But you will feel cheated if you don't have your daily dose of meat and bread.
  • You don't understand the whole privatization movement (telephone system, airlines, and power/utility companies etc.), especially since you know that corrupt politicians will make any profits disappear fast.
  • You expect that the phones will work-- and they do. However, depending on where you live, getting a new phone for your apartment could be tedious, like anything that involves bureaucracy.
  • A train is a transportation alternative you only remember when the Ankara - Istanbul road is blocked due to heavy snow. Trains are painfully slow, always over- or under-heated.
At least they all agree on basic values ... 
  • You don't understand how Americans can keep things running with only two parties. There are a gazillion political parties in your country, but you'll still have difficulty finding decent politicians to vote for. You know that politicians from any party are all concerned with the same thing: filling their own pockets. To you "Socialist," "democratic," "nationalist," "republican," "populist," "leftist," "rightist," are just vague words for doing approximately the same thing. You know that politicians will always foul things up not matter what their orientations. However, you see "Communism" as an evil.
  • You think that the situation of the country is hopeless, that none of the problems will ever be solved. You are still hopelessly waiting for that political Godot who will save the country's economy.
  • You think that everyone in your country is of the same race.
  • You dread the court system, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, landlord, or supplier, taking them to court would be an ordeal that could take months or years.
  • You respect someone who speaks English, but will approach anyone who speaks "another" foreign language (French, German, Russian, Yiddish, or Japanese) with caution. You are boastful about your great English, except when it comes to using it to communicate with a foreigner. By the way it's only necessary to learn English so that you can chat up foreign tourists.
  • You think a tax level of 50% is scandalously high.
  • School is free but expensive.
  • University is normally four years long-- unless you want to waste precious parental resources. The word "college" might confuse you because in your language a kolej is a private high school.
When Constantinople got the works ... 
  • Turkish Coffee is Turkish; but you probably prefer tea or instant coffee.
  • Tarkan is the biggest pop star in the world. Any foreigner you meet will ask you about him.
  • Because of inflation, everyone is a millionaire-- rightfully so.
  • Turkish men are the sexiest in the world and they are real macho womanizers-- or so you like to claim.
  • Yoghurt comes in plastic containers; sometimes glass. Shaving cream comes in tubes or cans. Milk comes in bottles and -- increasingly -- in cardboard boxes.
  • You use the day/month/year format: 29/05/1453. (Of course you know what happened on that date.)
  • You say milyar for 1,000,000,000. On the account of inflation it is not difficult to be a milyarder (billionaire) in your country. It is highly likely that you are one.
  • You will proudly -- and mistakenly -- claim that your country never entered World War II.
  • You expect to marry for love; but the marriage of your parents was probably arranged by their families. You officially get wed by a civil servant, which is the norm. A religious marriage has no official validity and you would not even worry about it unless you are particularly religious. This is also your only option if you are a man who wants to get an illegal second wife-- third, fourth?
  • Once you're introduced to someone you can call them by their first name, but according to social status and the context at hand, you will need to use their title and the proper address form. Last names are never used in conversational contexts.
  • If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless. Unless you're in a different country.
But does it have an ottoman ... 
  • A hotel room has a private bath.
  • On television, films are usually dubbed. In movie theaters, they are subtitled-- and usually mistranslated. You think that reading subtitles is an ordeal.
  • You can't seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the officials, without paying bribes.
  • If a politician has not been cheating on his wife, you would question his ability to govern.
  • If you live in the city, just about any store will take your credit card.
  • A company can fire just about anybody it wants. But it will also hire anybody.
  • You never eat bacon, but you will have kokoreç (fried sheep intestines) after a good night's drinking.
  • Labor Day is May 1st.
  • You've probably seen Star Wars, Top Gun, Home Alone, the Doors. Chances are you have not seen a domestic movie in years.
  • You probably know the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Madonna and anybody who is currently on MTV. For some strange reason, you have never heard of Cocteau Twins, The Smiths, Rinôçérôse, or New Order.
  • You're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases... but unless you can afford private medical insurance, you don't want to get ill... that would mean spending long hours in hospital corridors waiting for a physician who will be not appear until next Thursday.
  • You studied Ottoman and Republic history in school. But chances are you are getting all your Ottoman rulers mixed up now. You are good with geography.
  • Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation. Your are proud of the heroic past of your people. Time after time, Turks have saved their country from the barbaric foreigners.
Everyone knows that ... 
  • If you are a traditional male, a woman can be a bit plumper than the average... all the better.
  • You're used to having a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy-- if you can afford it, of course.
  • You measure things in meters, grams, and litres.
  • You are not a farmer, but chances are high that some of your ancestors were.
  • The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly talentless entertainers, singers, or sleazy models. No one wants to watch authors, classical pianists or nuclear physicists on TV.
  • You drive on the left side of the road-- or anywhere else as necessitated by circumstance. You don't stop at red lights, even if there are people around. If you're a pedestrian, you will fearlessly and nonchalantly cross the street, anywhere you please, whether the light is green or not.
  • You consider the VW Beetle to be a smallish car. However, to you it is a VW Tosbaga (turtle).
  • The police have submachine guns, of course.
  • The biggest meal of the day is in the evening-- or any other time you see fit.
There once was a Turk from Trabzan...
  • The jokes you make are often about the Northerners (the people living in the Black Sea region). Of course, you are not offending them since everyone knows that it is the Northerners themselves who make up these jokes.
  • If you live in Istanbul, there are parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night.
  • The image of your country is extremely important. You feel that your country is misrepresented all around the world. The United States is your best ally, but for some reason they don't care about you as much as they should.
  • Both inflation and unemployment are very high, all the time.
  • You care very much about what family someone comes from.
  • Opera and ballet are rather elite entertainments. It's likely you don't see that many plays, either.
  • Christmas is in the winter, but in your mind it is the same thing as New Year's Eve. If you're posh, you'll have a Christmas tree and will exchange gifts-- on New Year's Eve of course.
  • You live in a secular country where religious and governmental affairs are separate. You don't have the equivalent of televangelists in your country; you don't even think that it would be a good idea.
  • You can easily name the capitals or the leaders of all the nations of Europe.
  • You are amazed at the possibility of welfare and unemployment payments. But you know that it will be years before the system is in effect.
  • The lawyers in your country speak funny. There sure are a lot of them but you don't understand what they do.
Space and time ... 
  • If you are late for an appointment, you'll mutter an excuse if you're 30 minutes late. An hour late is still tolerable. (Rana emphasized that for appointments, being on time is usually important, but casual meetings, this is much more accurate.)
  • When you're talking to someone, you can't feel comfortable if they stand more than a foot away.
  • If you are not understood, you would rather increase your volume than rephrase.
  • You always bargain for everything. After all, everyone who is in the selling business is a crook, and everything is always overpriced.
  • If you have guests, you will serve them tea.
  • When you negotiate, you may play convoluted games to get what you want. Also, in social situations, it is sometimes considered improper to be too direct.
  • If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you may expect them to show up half an hour late. The business may take much longer than you imagined, and may be frequently interrupted by another person, a phone call etc.
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