Happy Turkey Anniversary to Me! (a.k.a 12 Things I Love and Hate About Turkey) 

Well well.  How time does fly. And what a busy week of celebrations!

As of right now, it has been exactly one year since we touched down in Turkey!

We came with so many expectations- none of which actually happened.  I’ve also improved my Turkish dramatically (I now know to say nasip değilmiş to my previous statement), and I think I’ve had about as many culture shocks as I’m going to have.  But that remains to be seen I suppose…

Am I home sick? Of course. When your past 25 years were spent (for the most part)   in one culture/on continent,  you’re going to miss what once was.  But I’m not losing any sleep over it/crying over it. Hell, even hubby is “homesick”  for America, and he only spent 8 years there. But after its been a bit longer, I’ll probably be missing Turkey whenever I go home to the states.

Anyway, here are 12 things I love and 12 things I hate about Turkey, now that I’ve had a year to let it all sink in.  I reserve the right to recycle concepts from my previous love/hate lists here and here, since it’s been a year! Keep in mind, some of these things may be unique to Izmir (but I wouldn’t know, since I’ve only lived there!)

I love…

1. The food/ food culture!  No matter where you are from, you can’t deny that Turkish food is on point.

2. Pazar.  We have something similar in the US (farmers markets and flea markets), but the Turkish Pazar is on a whole different level.  Check out my descriptions of pazars and pazar etiquette here.

3. Celebrations.  Ain’t no party like a Turkish party, ‘cuz a Turkish party don’t stop! The last Turkish celebration  I went to was a wedding, and I had an amazing time! The dancing, the singing, the laughing when my hubby tried to do some traditional Turkish dancing… It was great.

4.  The cost of living.  Compared to the US, the cost of living is quite low. But the standard of living is also lower. Food, clothes (from the pazar), and non – electric things tend to be pretty cheap.

5. Public transportation. This may vary in different cities, but the public transportation in Izmir is top notch. I can get anywhere without a car (which is good for me, since I never got my drivers license changed and I can’t drive stick anyway).

6. Turkish hospitality. Despite the drama, Turks are very nice.  They are always eager to give you something and provide you with lots of snacks and goodies. You will never be hungry or thirsty if a Turk is around!

7. Ice cream.  I don’t know why, but the ice cream here is better.  I think it has more vegetable oil in it, but I like it better.  Even the ice cream from Burger King or McDonalds is superior in my opinion. In the states, I could barely consume a small milkshake, but here?  Give me the large. Hell, give me two! Maybe they aren’t as sugary? I’m not sure…

8. Fruit juice options.  This may seem silly, but I am all about the fruit juice here.  There are so many (cheap!) options that are very good.  I remember trying to find a decent juice in the US that didn’t taste like the watered down version of whatever I bought.  Plus there were like, 100 orange juice options and almost nothing else.  Here? Peach juice, sour cherry juice, apricot juice, ATOM (the best mixed juice ever in LIFE), and then the standard orange, grape, apple… And I personally reach for the nektari (nectar/thick juice).

9. Snacks. Speaking of consumables, Turks know how to make a good cookie/biscuit/ snack.  The chip flavors here are so good!! Not to mention the dozens upon dozens of cookie/biscuit types that I consume like an addict.  Again, in the states cookies were just too sweet and I almost never bought them.  Here? Come at me with that Eti Cin, Yulafli biskuvi, bademli kurabiye…I’m waiting!

10. Rules don’t apply.  This can be good or bad, but for the most part it has benefited me since I’ve gotten here.  In Turkey, rules can be applied very unevenly, at the whim of whomever you are dealing with. This can make your life easier or harder, but so far it’s been easier for me.  I like how I know that no matter what rule comes my way, I know I can wiggle out of it if I try hard enough (yes, this even applies to the government).

11. Haggling.  Haggling here is a way of life.  You are expected to do it, be it at the pazar or at a job interview for a better salary.  I appreciate the fact that it isn’t taboo.

12. Majority Muslim population. I like how I blend in here as a hijabi.  With the majority of Turkey being Muslim, I don’t have to worry about being singled out like I do in America. If you’ve seen my previous posts, I’m not one to apply religion to politics and what not.  Hell, how I practice Islam is often pretty different from how people here do…but I do appreciate how I remain anonymous in a crowd.

I hate…

1. Nosey nosey nosey neighbors. Or should I say,  nosey everybody? It doesn’t matter if it’s the corner store owner down the street or the family friend of xyz years.  Every dang body thinks they need to know all about your business. To the point where you rethink leaving the house if someone is on the street.

2. Not using brand names. Ok, so I’m American. In America we call thinks by the brand name most of the time (honey, I need a Kleenex. Hey can you get some Fanta and Lays? We are running out of chlorox!). Not so in Turkey. Just the other day I asked for sarıkız (a soda), and the cornerstore owner had no idea what I was talking about.  I pointed to it and he said “oooo you mean soda”.  No,  I don’t mean soda! I mean sarıkız! I dont want Uludağ.  I don’t want sırma. I want sarıkız! Ugh! This leads to a lot of confusion, especially when I can’t remember the general term for something (like a cleaning product) but only remember it by the brand name!

3. Family-centric culture.  I’m about to sound like a terrible person, but I’m going to be real with yall. I love my family (Turkish and otherwise).  I like to be around them and do things with them… To an extent.  What I don’t like is when people get offended when you just want to do your own thing. Or when they think they have a right to make your life decisions for you. I miss the level of independence from family that is normal in America.

4. The cost of electronics.  In a world where computers and smartphones are considered a luxury.. You’re going to cry when you see the bill after purchasing something as small as a clothes iron or coffee machine. For example, a standard iron (like a sunbeam brand one) can cost upwards of 70₺. A basic coffee machine with nothing more than an on button can cost 100₺, let alone one with a timer.  Basically anything with a plug is prohibitively expensive.

5. Being unable to communicate. While I am perfectly capable of getting around, buying these at the shops, and haggling at the pazar, I still can’t fully communicate. There are some complex concepts (like emotions), and other topics that require a delicate tongue.  When I’m upset, I can’t explain why to someone who doesn’t speak English without sounding like an idiot. If I want to have a stimulating conversation, it certainly won’t be in Turkish.  I want to be able to express myself to those around me, beyond simple daily tasks! But sometimes it’s better that I don’t speak Turkish so well, since some things I’m thinking are better left unsaid….

6. Still not being independent. It’s been a year and I still haven’t achieved the level of independence I had in the US. Some of it comes from culture, some comes from my inability to pass my plateau of Turkish language, and some comes from my own fear to continue to push my current the boundaries.  Certainly this will improve in time, but for now I hate it.

7. Being sweaty…all the time.  Being sweaty is basically a part of life in Turkey.  Even though I lived in Florida and South Carolina (both hot and humid states), AC/”klima” are a common fixture in my country.  Every house has central heat and air, the buses and other transportation are nearly refrigerated, and you need to carry a jacket in the summer for the rooms you will be in.  But in Turkey? Nah, man. I have never seen central air, only the window units (klima), and even those aren’t always available. With the massive amount of public transportation/ walking comes massive amounts of sweating.  You need to get used to it.

8. Lack of deodorant.  I think this is an issue more for the older generation, who uses “kolonya” (a scented alcohol rub thing.  Its not like cologne as we call it).  Combine being sweaty/hot with not using deodorant…and in most public places, there is a horrendous body odor.

9. The cost of meat.  It’s just…insane. Compared to the comparatively cheap cost of meat in the states.  Fortunately I’m a “zeytin yagli“(olive oil based food) kind of person 😉 so it isn’t that big of a deal I guess…but I find it hard to make some of my favorite things.  On that note…

10. Lack of other culture’s foods.  Where’s my chinese? Japanese sushi? Italian? Mexican? When you do find foods that aren’t Turkish, they are crazy expensive!  All you can eat sushi for 60TL?  When I used to eat it for 12$? Are you insane?

11. Franchises are NOT the same. When I roll up to a Burger King, McDonalds, or Dominos, I expect the food to be as it was in the states (since these are American franchises). NOPE.  The menus aren’t even the same! So when I get that hankering for something familiar…tough luck.

12. Culture clashes.  As much as I try to adjust my expectations, there are just some cultural differences that I can’t get over yet.  For example, women are expected to take a (in my opinion, EXTREME) service role in the house, particularly for guests.  To a point where, in the US, it’s considered rude/degrading to be expected to do what you are doing. This wasn’t a problem at first, because I was foreign.  But after a year, I’m not foreign anymore…and these expectations are falling on me.  Maybe I’m just too prideful, but I very much struggle to meet the societal expectations here.  Fortunately, my husband doesn’t put them on me.  And when we get to move out, we will have more control.  But for now? ugh.

 

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