I had an interview with an UK-based blogger recently and he asked me this question. I’m not usually lost for words (in fact you can rarely shut me up), but I was in this case.
How much have I really integrated into Turkish culture?
After over eight years here, I don’t think I’ve integrated that much. I still crave bacon and a variety of different countries food (that usually includes pork). I still struggle with Turkish but I can at least order a bottle of red wine so that’s progress. And Oh.My.God I still roll my eyes at the inconsistency of the bureaucracy here.
However, I respect this country and abide by the laws when I am out. I wear a mask (and at the rate we’re going probably always will), rarely speed (total bollocks but then to be truly Turkish you must speed, am I right?), never litter (why is it so hard for someone to put something in the bin?) and always pay my bills on time.
I may have jumped into my life here in Turkey with blinders on but now that I am truly out in the world with no buffer (aka The Turk) I think I am beginning to really come into my own. It was easy to integrate in the beginning. I was the new plaything for the family and was lovingly introduced to every facet of Turkish life. I worked in the kitchen perfecting my baba ganoush, and learned to accept tomatoes despite a lifetime of hate. I love, love, loved making salca and harvesting the olives, and I loved nothing more than sitting with my mother-in-law drinking Çay and listening to her and her friends make fun of their husbands, but after the breakdown of my marriage I found living in the village stifling. Why after all these years, you might wonder? It was fun, don’t get me wrong. It was a completely different way of life. Definitely a slower way of life and a much healthier lifestyle. But as time went on the dust that never goes away, the constant electric cuts, the non-existent internet, the village dramas, the weddings (or funerals) that I have to attend even if I’d never met him, her or them, and last, but certainly not least, his fecking family who I’m quite certain have a voodoo doll with my name on it squirrelled away somewhere, sent me so far over the edge that I found myself in freefall. Now I’m living in the city and I’m loving every second of it, despite COVID lockdowns and restrictions, despite my sometimes dire financial situation and despite the fact that our swimming pool hasn’t been opened this season (which is the real kick in the pants).
So now I’m going to ask you, how much have you integrated into Turkish (or other) culture? Let me know in the comments below.
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I reckon as a single male I reckon my level of integration into Turkish culture would have been shallower than yours in some parts but deeper in others.
Turkish women can be reserved in many ways so being accepted by them is, I think, a great achievement but when they smite you, it can be quite cutting (and unnecessarily hurtful). I think men generally are a lot more accepting of outsiders and are willing to make you a mate whether you want them to be or not.
Good to see a post from you Jane. Hope you and daughter are doing OK. Take care.
Good to see you are doing well Jane.
Hmm, not much, yet really even though I spend more time with Turks than other nationalities. but I’ll use many hospitals visits and COVID as reasons. Hospital visits – I know more than most Turks about how to make appointments and my way round the health system, thanks to a couple of ailments that the Turkish health system cured. UK said I had to put up with it. Being over 65 we were gloriously ‘locked down’ overnight last year and have had other restrictions since. To a certain extent we have avoided some invitations. I think I can respect customs and other people and we cook Turk-lish at home. After not being able to afford to leave for nearly 2 years we do sometimes miss bacon and a good chocolate biscuit. But we still love being here.
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After 40+ years of being married to a Turk, and living here for the first nearly 5 years where I had to learn the language as no one spoke English (including hubby) and now for the last 21 years, I still would not say integrated. I will never forget my mother-in-law’s “days” where everyone turned turned up for teas, eats, coffee and cologne and a look at the new bride; reminiscent of being an animal in the zoo. I am now accustomed to and experienced in the local ways, but I remain unabashedly and in some ways defiantly very definitely English. I can now usually hack it. My husband had to survive 20 years of living and working in England, we both gained and lost, lost and gained from our experiences.
For me I had to learn to let things happen, rather than neatly being planned in advance, especially for family gatherings. I long ago learned to turn off the “its going to be like this” switch and turn on the “just lay back and cope with what happens” one. Whilst it is lovely to call on a friend without prior planning, it remains difficult for me to accept the same in reverse without feeling put out. I am however, proud of being able to pull a meal together for a considerable number of people at relatively short notice using Turkish cuisine.
When I contemplate homesickness I feel both countries now have a pull on my heart as I have become so accustomed to life here. I like to say that I have a love hate relationship with Turkey in that ‘I love to hate it’; by that I mean in particular the bureaucracy and some customs. I have learned to admire the ingenious ways Turks find to circumvent various bureaucratic blocks, but still feel wouldn’t it just have been easier to be more straightforward/logical in the first place!? Both countries have amazing countryside and features, histories and disasters, wonderful people and horrible people. More sunshine in Turkey is definitely a huge asset, I am not so sure about the heat.
I am sorry to hear that your marriage has ended. Whilst all marriages are difficult, mixing cultures and therefore expectations does bring added strains and one is lucky if they prove to be tolerable.
I remain defiantly b….y English with some permanent Turkish trappings.
All best wishes Sue.
Enjoyed your post Janey. I feel I have integrated but on close examination ,no I haven’t.
Mainly because I am a bit of a loner and prefer my own company.
I would say that I find it harder to integrate with expats than nationals.
Totally agree with you about bureaucratic logic ,lol
Sounds as though you’ve integrated rather well. 8 years in a village dumped you right in the Middle of it. You can laugh at all those tourists who haven’t a clue and smirk because you’ve lived it.
I’ve lived for 45 yrs in Greece. I’ll always be a foreigner but damn it, I know better than my Greek husband which saint is being celebrated where and I can drink my Greek coffee, sweet or straight. I know what to say at a funeral, or a wedding and I can understand the politics even though I avoid the subject like the devil.
Now you’re free to enjoy another side of Turkish life. I wish you all the best.
Just downloaded yr second book
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It is good to know you’re still around. As someone who has been married 5 times, I can tell you that some of us have a steeper learning curve than others. ☺️
Any plans to go back to Australia with your daughter, or will you be staying in Turkey?
We had flights to come home in June last year. I purchased them just before all the bok hit the fan with the pandemic. I actually said to myself “oh I wonder if I need to worry about that virus in China” when I purchased the flights back in March.
But yes I’d love to get back but right now the borders are closed and the flights are capped so getting home before 2023 just doesn’t seem doable.
We shall see where the next road leads me…
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Hopefully, things will improve soon.
I’m two for two of living in foreign countries and not integrating into the culture (or mastering the language). I never thought I’d be “that expat” but it’s actually not an easy thing to be the other and to give up things about yourself that are more deeply ingrained than you were aware of. It also doesn’t help that the cultures I was living in were largely homogenous and fairly nationalistic.
Hi Jane. İ am an American woman living in Turkey for the past 11 years. İ spent the first 10 years living in a very small town/ village on the kara deniz side. İ think i have integrated myself very much, but sometimes its not a good thing. This past year i moved to Istanbul with my 3 children
Well, i’ve come to Turkiye (now we need to spell it that way, am i right?) right across the little pond, my hometown is located in the free state of Crimea, just shy of 250 km from Turkey. Its gonna be 5 years now, and yes, just like any other people commented – i havent so far been fully integrated into Turkish culture, even though my wife is of Turkic origin. Eastern Turk, to be precise.
She’s a modern muslim, i have to say, as she has no issues about considerable alcohol consumption or even getting some bacon for mangal or plain breakfast. Actually, it’s not so hard to find pork even in Turkey, lots of it is being produced by Germans in Izmir. It comes to our place (Yesilovacik village, not sure if you know) deeply freezed and rather tasteless, so i usually bring some decent bacon and other pork stuff any time i visit Russia, which happens once in 3 months, on average. Other particularly nostalgiс foods like German camembert cheeses or imported Russian beers could easily be found at Metro Cash&Carry and Carrefour Hyper Palm City AVM in Mersin, we visit those places occasionally.
Long time reader of your blog, first time posting though 🙂
Welcome to my little corner of the internet. Yesilovacik? There is a Yesilovacik in Mersin near Silifke. I’ve passed through there. Yes bacon can be found (shame about the quality). An excellent, gooey Camembert can be a little harder to come by but I admit I hit up Macro often… keep in touch.