10 Signs you’ve lived in Turkey too long

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You know you've lived in Turkey too long if this looks normal to you

I’ve lived in Turkey for about 15 years now, and have almost completely adapted to the way of life. I’m no longer surprised if I’m offered a piece of stinky cheese direct from a goat skin and can use even the most basic of squat toilets without needing to hold my nose. I’m so assimilated I sometimes forget there’s any other way of living, until I come back from a holiday abroad.

That’s when I realised that you know you’ve lived in Turkey too long because rather than telling friends about what you saw, you recall with a kind of wonder the things that are different over there than here.

Things you notice that mean you’ve lived in Turkey too long

No one takes their shoes off before entering the house and puts on slippers.

People say sorry if they bump into you by accident.

When drivers stop to let you cross the road at a pedestrian crossing, they aren’t simply stopping by chance before nearly running you over when they take off again without looking.

Commuters let you get off the bus/train/public transport before they try to get on.

You don’t have to worry about death by asphyxiation when you catch a bus. They aren’t rank with the intense odour of unwashed bodies because all the windows are closed, winter or summer, for fear of catching a cold.

The street musicians are great but people don’t put down their shopping to dance like they do in Turkey.

When people ask guests in their home if they’d like a glass of water they don’t first check if the person wants it ılık (lukewarm), or soğuk (cold) from the refrigerator.

If you’re a woman it isn’t necessary to hide your underwear underneath another item of clothing when you hang it out to dry.

No one has to run around the house closing all the windows in summer when the sound of the generator on the mosquito spray truck comes drifting inside.

You can organise for a groups of friends to get together without the need to check that everyone is happy with absolutely every tiny detail of the arrangements. And no one cancels at the last minute by telling you their mother, cousin, aunt, in-laws, brother or best friend from their hometown has suddenly decided to land on their doorstep, unexpectedly, for a three week/month stay which means you won’t see them again until their guest has gone home.

Now I know this list of signs you’ve lived in Turkey too long isn’t comprehensive, so I’ve love you to tell me what surprises you when you come back to Turkey after being in another country. You can write them in the comments section below.

Find out about my journey to Turkey. Making the decision to come was easy, it’s staying that can be a challenge. Read all about it in my travel memoir Istanbul Dreams: Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom.

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  1. Thank you for this piece, I liked it! I would add:

    9. Mastering the art of understanding what I call Turkish Women’s Eye Language. I never realized such a thing existed until I found out colleagues in our open plan office were “talking” about me silently by looking at each other across the room. Allahallah!!

  2. Every time I come back to Turkey, I notice how many street dogs and cats are on the streets.. I wonder- what are they doing to street animals in my country? Do they kill them immediately?

  3. When I leave Turkey, I have to remember not to cut into a supermarket check out line if I’m only buying a pack of cigarettes or a newspaper.

    I have to remind myself not to ask people how much they paid for their house, car, or kids’ private school.

    Being busy is not a badge of honor! Having too much leisure time is…

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