Living in Turkey for almost ten years, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to participate in Turkish life. I am fascinated by what I see and always want to learn more. I read everything I can get my hands on and pepper my Turkish friends with numerous questions. I’ve absorbed and learnt so much of Turkish culture they say I’m now half Turkish. My best girlfriend says if I’d only learn to make Turkish tea I’d then be a full-blown Turk. I think I’m pretty close even without the tea-making skills, and here’s why.
Although I do still forget the order of the tea ritual, I know how I like to drink my tea. “Açık” meaning ‘open’ as the Turks express it, or weak as we think about it in English. I also know a business meeting, no matter how tense, can’t start unless you say yes to a glass of tea AND at least take a sip. Up until that point conversation is strictly limited to the weather and if in Istanbul, the abominable state of the traffic that day (any day in actual fact).
I no longer use just one finger to point something out or give directions. I extend all the fingers on my hand and wave my hand in the given direction, much like a policeman directing traffic.
I automatically extend my hand when meeting a person for the first time, saying “Merhaba, nasılsınız?” (Polite form of hello, how are you?), followed by “Memnun oldum” (pleased to meet you). If the person is a friend I shake hands, ask them “N’aber?” (What’s up?) and kiss them on both cheeks. When the person is someone I haven’t seen for a long time, has good news, or has been experiencing a bad time, the handshake and cheek kissing is followed by pressing my cheek firmly to their cheek while gripping their shoulders tightly and holding them to me. This is done on both sides of their body.
I have an inordinate number of Turkish girlfriends whose every weight gain/loss, husband/boyfriend troubles, mother-in-law/potential in-law problems, work status/changes/updates, outcomes of shopping expeditions/future shopping expedition plans, hair style disasters/changes/possibilities, I know about. They in turn express their affection for me by never failing to comment on any of these topics as they affect my life, at numerous in depth café/restaurant/bar or round table meetings.
I have a full range of glamorous tulle and jewel encrusted party dresses to wear to any formal events. Along with appropriately frivolous high heeled shoes, I have over the top dangly sparkly accessories and make-up to match.
No matter how many pairs of slippers I have at home, whenever I see any on sale I always buy some to add to my collection, because you never know who’s going to drop in.
When guests come over to dinner I frequently urge them to take “Bir tane daha”, (just one more piece), or say “Biraz daha yi” (eat a little more) while indicating the size of the top third of my little finger, before heaping their plate high with a second helping. I know if I say “Bu akşam bitecek!” they’ll be transported back to their childhood when their mothers told them the food was to be finished that night, making a competition out of eating the rest of the food so no leftovers would remain.
If that’s not enough, a group of scientists in Copenhagen have traced the gene for blue eyes back to a single individual in the Black Sea region. Although this individual lived six to ten thousand years ago, and they don’t say which side of the Black Sea he came from, those are just minor details. I have blue eyes, so I must be Turkish. It’s official.