Lemon Cologne – Enduring Turkish Traditions

Discover why lemon cologne is more than just a scent in Turkish culture

“… of all the traditions that say Turkey to me, the use of lemon cologne is the earliest and strongest memory I will always have. When I first came to the country back in 1990, I took long road trips on buses stinking of cigarette smoke. Despite the nicotine fug I always came out smelling of citrus. This was because after every stop we made, the bus boy walked along the aisle, proffering a bottle of strongly scented lemon cologne. By watching the other passengers I learnt to hold out my cupped hands into which he would sprinkle or indeed sometimes pour the liquid, depending on his enthusiasm and attention span.

A bottle of lemon cologne continues to be a much welcomed present from Turks visiting family living abroad, and mothers’ often pack one in the luggage of a child setting off to study in another city. When sprinkled on the wrists the aroma works as a poignant yet comforting reminder of home. Sadly, like tea being served in real glass on the ferries, as Turkey embraces newer and more hygienic practices, in many cafes and restaurants bottles of lemon cologne are being replaced by small squares of freshness in the form of moist towelettes. Offered at the end of a meal, they still carry the same scent as before, but the solemn ritual of offering and receiving perfumed water from the bottle is lost…”

You can read the full version of this extract in my essay “Lemon Cologne” found in
Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City, 2nd Edition.

About Goreme1990

I’m Lisa Morrow, the person behind www.insideoutinistanbul.com. I was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up a leafy middle class North Shore suburb. After finishing high school I went to Sydney University but failed to find my niche. After working as a public servant, cleaner, sales assistant, waitress, bar maid and car counter, I went overseas. Once there I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. My three months stay in the small central Anatolian village of Göreme changed my life. On my return to Australia I earned a BA Honours Degree in Sociology from Macquarie University. An academic career beckoned but the call to travel was louder. After several false starts I moved to Turkey and lived there for ten years. In 2017 I moved to Lisbon, Portugal, but continue to travel regularly to Istanbul. In addition to my blog I've written a travel narrative memoir called "Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul" and two collections of essays, "Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City" and "Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries". I have a regular segment on San Francisco Turkish radio and in early 2017 I released an audio walking tour called "Stepping back through Chalcedon: Kadikoy Walk", through VoiceMap. In addition I write for various international and Australian magazines and websites, as well as for this blog. A full list of my published articles, with links, can be found on the Writing on Turkey and Writing Beyond Turkey pages.
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4 Responses to Lemon Cologne – Enduring Turkish Traditions

  1. DomWeksWers says:

    Hi! My name is Gerardo Nolette and I live in Lafayette,TN. I have read your blog post about Lemon Cologne – Enduring Turkish Traditions – Inside Out In IstanbulInside Out In Istanbul and I want to say that I am quite impressed with your professionalism on the subject!

  2. I personally dread the custom but it seems that some people like it. 🙂 On my recent visit to relatives of my boyfriend, I dared to decline it and the big aunt said, puzzled, “It’s a green tea aroma, not lemon!” 🙂 It’s just one example but I have so many memories about the cologne for sure ….

  3. Derya Lount Yeni says:

    Beautifully written::))

  4. mikeandyulia says:

    Nice post! I really enjoyed reading it.

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