FIVE TIPS FOR A HAPPY NEW LIFE IN TURKEY
If you’ve not lived abroad before, the prospect of emigrating is bound to be rather daunting to say the least.
Holidays are one thing – but living in a country where the locals don’t speak your language, have a different culture and possibly even a different religion is not the same thing. Simply pointing and speaking a little louder might get you what you want to start with but, let’s face it, it’s not going to make you many friends.
So, if you’re thinking of moving to Turkey, here are five things to expect:
The Turks are a remarkably hospitable race. It’s not unusual to be invited in for tea with the family on a first meeting – and that might even be while you’re visiting a shop. When you arrive in your new home, Turkish neighbours – particularly in more rural areas – may even bring you small gifts or food on a plate. Remember though it’s considered impolite to return it empty. Try to find a few sweets or even a home delicacy to reciprocate.
When you’re making new friends, you will be asked plenty of questions by inquiring Turks – and some will be what we might otherwise consider direct. They want to know what you do or did for a living, where you lived, how much you earned in your job and how much you have paid to buy or rent your new home, car or any other major purchase. Such things are not taboo in Turkish culture.
Aware of the stare?
Turks are inquisitive by nature and, if they haven’t seen you before in their community, they may well stare as you go by. It can be a little disconcerting to begin with, but it’s not meant to be unfriendly. They’re just interested in the new face. It’s not necessarily a good idea to smile and wave though. Older Turks in particular associate the cheery Western behaviour with simpletons – or perhaps someone teasing them!
Turks are a fiercely patriotic race and are proud of their history and culture. There are many holidays throughout the year to mark significant moments – many linked to the life and work of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic. His name and image are ubiquitous and it’s probably a good idea to do some swotting up to better understand the man’s deep connection with the nation.
A Little Language Goes A Long Way
Turkish is not an easy language to learn as it contains man words derived for Arabic, has a 29-letter alphabet, a rolling “R” sound and “back” and “front” vowels spoken from the throat or through rounded lips. However, if you make an effort to learn even a few sentences, it can make a difference to the welcome you receive in markets, shops, bars and restaurants. A huge number of Turks are fluent in English anyway – but any effort to speak to them in their language is usually greeted with a smile and even some encouragement.
But perhaps the most valuable tip anyone can give a “newbie” expat is to try not to fall into the culture of “us” and “them”. Your hosts in the country you’ve chosen to make home won’t be going anywhere.
It’s best to try to integrate, roll with the punches and to try to enjoy rather than control an experience which can be energising, frustrating, fascinating, bewildering, inspiring and downright scary – sometimes all at the same time!