Every country, every region, every culture has something idiosyncratic, something characteristic without a negative connotation. When you live like an expat you integrate some of those things into yourself but others you just either don’t understand or don’t like them; in the end, it is just a personal preference. We are living in Istanbul at the moment and after a few months, we’ve started to acknowledge some of those Turkish particularities. So as a small sum up, we hope nobody gets offended by it as it is never our intention.
This Turkish army official is first of all the Founding Father of the Republic of Turkey and Father of all the Turks. This is a patriotic country and its founder is an icon. You will find a picture of him in many houses as you would about any relative, but not a long distance relative… Some believe he is literally the father of all the Turks. It may seem a bit eccentric and unusual (at least in Spain we don’t have some similar figure) the truth is the respect they show for him even today is laudable.
Legend says that once a cat saved a sultan’s life. This might be the reason of the Turks love for these animals. Cats are everywhere, coffee shops, metro stations, the gym… And don’t you dare tell them off! They feed them (some of the cats look more like a tiger than a small feline) and care for them. You could be walking along the crowds and suddenly someone ahead of you stops to pet a cat, NOBODY will complain. It is a pleasure to see them taking such a good care of animals.
Every coffee lover knows about the Turkish Coffee, they said that getting coffee got difficult after the world wars and Turks started to drink tea. Now it is everywhere, restaurants and shops, it is sold on the streets and if you are on a terrace where they don’t make it themselves don’t worry they will bring it from any neighboring one.
Car horn use
A noisier obsession would be using the horn for everything. Usually, traffic is difficult and it ends in traffic jams, everything is solved by the horn. If this was it, it wouldn’t be that bad, but as soon as a taxi driver sees you walking (it doesn’t need to be in a tourist area and you don’t have to look like a traveller) they’ll use it just in case you want them to take you somewhere, as if you had forgotten to call them? The other day a taxi stopped just in front of us, and we only wanted to cross the street…
Don’t let anybody out before you enter
Routines in public transports are usually different wherever you go. Here the usual is a full transport and in every stop, there is a small battle going on to get in or out. In the bus or in the metro passengers tend to do various things. On the one hand, there are the people that see their stop getting closer but they only get off their seats once the doors are open (making life more difficult for those who want to get in). On the other hand, you find those that get in even if nobody has jet gone off (making it difficult for everyone especially if it is full). And lastly, those who wait at the door but leave such a small room that only one person at a time can get off making the getting off process eternal (well until someone gets fed up and they all enter at the same time). Here like many other times, just take it easy, it is the best option.
Turkish food is good and varied. No matter whether you like meat or fish, it would be a bit more difficult if you are vegetarian but you will also find restaurants to eat. But is such an obsession to eat… Meat, meat, meat… Aubergine, aubergine, aubergine… Sweet, sweet, sweet… We don’t complain, although going to a traditional Turkish restaurant means there is no breakfast the next morning because we are still full up (literally). But it will be your mistake if you don’t try it all.
This is a thick and bitter drink made with sheep milk, salt and sometimes powdered garlic and mint, but it looks like liquid yogurt. It is served very cold and drank with your meals. It is originally from Turkey, although some other countries have claimed it as their own. Turkish drink it in every meal and they are as fond of ayran as they are of tea. You can always find it bottled but the traditionally made ones are much better.
The Turkish smile
Turks will love to hear your stories, share theirs with you, ask you lots of questions… the only problem might be the language. If you don’t speak Turkish it might be more difficult but the Turks will make an effort (in Turk) to talk to you anyway. This might be frustrating at times, especially when you need something done or you are in a hurry, but you will find yourself with a smile after all of these encounters. And the smile… As long as you smile everything will be ok. Because, you know… “You are never fully dressed without a smile”
Do you think we left something behind on this Turkish handbook? What will you add in your … Handbook?