Final Post – Interview

Well guys, we are at the end of our journey here!

I want to say that it has been a pleasure bringing you my experiences from Istanbul. I enjoyed hearing your responses and your thoughts about the world equally. It is my hope that you were able to take away some worthwhile information as well!.

I wish that I could arrange to have a meet with your class once the semester is finished, but I will be staying here for another 6 months as well. So hopefully we can arrange something via Skype before the term ends!

Alot of the topics that we discussed were pretty weighty (another reason I was so impressed by your feedback!) and may be difficulty to grasp onto. So for our final blog, I decided to have a chat with someone that is in your guys’ age group, and get a little comparison on what it’s like being a teenager in Turkey.

My roommate’s younger brother Kıvanç (kuuvanc-ch) was very eager to help me out with this project. I’ve gotten to know their family a bit during my stay here, and Kıvanç has always been curious about life in America, so it wasnt so much a surprise he volunteered!

What’s your name?
How old are you?
How is school? What are your favorite classes?
I really like mathmatics, I’ve always been good at it.
Anything you don’t like?
Sure, I hate literature
Do you speak any other languages? (Asked him this in english- laughing)
Yeaa, a little bit of english! And even less german.
What kind of hobbies do you have?
i play the guitar, I want to get even better at this. I like playing basketball and drawing also.
If you had to pick to be a rockstar or a pro basketball player which would it be?
I don’t think I could be the rockstar, but I think it would be more fun to be a player.
You’re tall enough to be a basketball player at least! (he’s like 6.1″)
Yea, sometimes that intimidates people, maybe that’s my secret weapon on the court!
So what’s your favorite music or bands?
duman (a turkish rock band), Model (another Turkish alt rock band), Kesha, Pitbull, J-lo
Favorite Movies
The Expendables, Tron, Hunger Games of course! (he had just come back from seeing the newest movie), Avengers, and Thor
If Istanbul were under attack from mutant cat aliens, who would be the better superhero to battle them?  Captain America?  or…?
I think Grumpy Cat would be the best.. he would just scare them away.
What’s your favorite food?
Meatballs, macaroni, kebap, kalamar (calamari)
Have you traveled a lot? Where are some places you’ve been?
I’ve been to Germany, Czech republic, Slovakia, and Austria….
Anywhere still you want to visit?
england and france and definitely the USA
Is there any big differences that you see in Turkish and American culture? What comes to mind?
Turkish people are more friendly and more helpful than Americans. Turkish kitchen food is more delicious than american food just from what I’ve tasted. I think american people more obedient and more hardworking. Turkish people have a big ottoman empire history. American people are more modern than Turkish people, Turkish people are generally lazy and generally Muslim. So they are different culture. Turkish people have more traditions and generally like taking the easy way out of a problem.
(the last point he made interested me, so asked a bit more)
So you think that Turks generally try and do a job quicker?
Yes, I think they try and do something as quick, don’t take the time to make sure it is done properly. Sometimes in school too.
Do you do this?
*laughs* Sometimes
What would you like to study one day?
I really like math so maybe I will work in science, but I also like photography so maybe I will do this also.
My roommate and Kıvanç in the background
So, again, I hope you guys have had a worthwhile time on this project. When I return in the spring to Portland, maybe we’ll have a chance to meet in the classroom. In the meantime, I encourage you guys to keep up your travels, interest in the world, and meeting new people. You never know where it will lead you!

Trip to Bolu

Iyi Haftalar (Good week to you!)

Well guys, we are beginning to wind down our project here. Next week I will be presenting my last blog to you. For this occassion, I will be interviewing a middle school student here in Turkey, to get an idea about some of the similarities and differences that might exist between your lives and the live of a turkish teenager. Hopefully you will enjoy this!

I was impressed with your responses to last week’s blog. Also some of the words that you came up with!

This past weekend I took a little tour outside of Istanbul to a city called Bolu with some friends. Bolu is located halfway between Istanbul and the capital city Ankara in the mountains. Most of the interior of the country is sits on a high plateau with mountains criss-crossing everywhere. And while Turkey is a fairly large country, because of it’s terrain, this makes traveling quite long! Even though it is only about 150 miles from Istanbul, it took us about 5 hours to get there by bus!


The first thing I noticed in this area was that it was strikingly similar to the Pacific Northwest. There were many little villages in valleys, green forested mountains everywhere, and of course, rain and fog over everything! We spent our first day wandering around the city center, visiting the main mosque (cami – pronounced jaa-mi), small shops and vendors. Because of the terrain and climate, mushrooms and hazelnuts grow here in abundance. I learned that it is quite a local industry that people go off into the forest to harvest mushrooms, using dogs to sniff them out sometimes.

City center from mosque
Center Square of Bolu

We also were able to find an old hamam that had been converted into a cute cafe.

Mushroom vendor in Bolu
Mushroom vendor in Bolu

A hamam is a typical turkish bath, sort of like a spa where a person can go to use a steam room, sauna, and get a massage also. In many larger towns and cities, it is common to find these. Especially in winter, it was a normal tradition to visit one for good health and to help with circulation issues, but anytime you go, it’s a relaxing experience.

A typical turkish hamam
A typical turkish hamam

After our trip to Bolu, we went further up into mountains to the village of Mudurnu, a spa town. Life seemed to move a lot slower in this village. During the day, people would sit in cafes on the one main road, but as it got closer to evening and got colder, everyone went into the pubs and resteraunts to chat and watch football matches. It was very common to see horses being ridden alongside SUV’s through the town.


Early morning Mudurnu
Early morning Mudurnu

Lake Abant

After a day here we continued to a Nature Reserve higher yet in the mountains called Abant. There is a large lake here that is the result of melting snow over the ages. Like in the other places, there are spas and natural springs here and is a popular resort, even in the winter. We made a small trek around the lake, took a carriage ride back (quite freezing by this point!), and enjoyed a piping hot cup of Salep when we returned. Salep is a traditional winter drink in Turkey, and it is made from creamed cauliflower, sweetened with sugar and various spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. (Kinda sounds gross, but actually its really delicious, kinda like a spicy eggnog!)


Well that’s going to be all for now. I hope you all enjoyed the week’s post and look forward to bringing you our final post next week. Just one question for you guys this week: Winter activity, what do you enjoy doing? Is there anywhere that you go away to, or just a fun tradition?

I didn’t have any cats unfortunately to leave you guys with this week, so please accept this humble stuffed falcon as a replacement 😉


Şükran Günü – Thanksgiving

Selam Öğrenciler!

About last week’s post

I was quite impressed with the array of responses I got from the last post. Most of you seemed to take a good albeit varying stance and understanding with Turkey’s relationship with the EU. I enjoyed hearing about your thoughts on comparable situations or experiences witnessing selective interactions. Well done!

There is a lot more intricacies at play in the example of Turkey, but gauging from some of the responses some of you gave about places like the Ukraine, Mexico, and elsewhere, I think you guys get the idea of how people can feel more socially and politically inclined towards one way or another!

At the beginning of this project, I had a few students talk about whether the name of Turkey was at all related to the bird. (I get this question from other english-speaking people quite a bit actually!) I think there isn’t a better time to take a look at the etymology of Turkey (where I am) and turkey (that delicious bird that will be eaten by millions this week).

Which came first… the turkey…or, Turkey?
Turkey turkey

Here you can see where Turkic languages are spoken today. The area of green in the center is the ancestral homeland of the Turks.

Turkey gets its name from the tribe of Turks that settled here in Anatolia about a 1,000 years. Anatolia was mostly settled by Greek, Armenian, and other Christian groups at this time. The Turks arrived from central Asia (around what is now Uzbekistan and Mongolia). They were a nomadic tribe, calling themselves Göktürks (in Old Turkish, Gök meaning – sky or heaven indicated their affinity to Tengri – the shamanistic Sky God. The word Türk original meant – the strong ones). In time they settled, converted to Islam, and become one of the majority ethnicities of Anatolia.

SOOOO.. the bird.. coincidence?

Well, not quite…!

It turns out that the delicious, savory bird that we know so well for Thanksgiving is originally from North America. Spanish merchants began to ship them back to Europe following the Conquistador period, where they were then domesticated for eating. However, the Spanish sailed back often to the Mediterranean first, and Constantinople (Istanbul) was a thriving hub for sea commerce at this time. The birds stopped here first before going to places like England where they were extremely popular. Merchants there associated them with the Turks, first calling them “Turkey birds” and the name stuck!

To make it even more interesting, in India, there is a domesticated bird very similar to the turkey called  guinea fowl. guineafowl

This bird was traded with Ottoman merchants hundreds of years ago. The Turks began to call this bird – Hindi (since it came from India) and this is nowadays the modern Turkish word for turkey!

Confusing? You bet! But a very fun linguistical fact! It goes to show that ideas goes through some changes in meaning and concept when it jumps from one language to another.

As for my Thanksgiving plans, since this is really just an American holiday, I will not be able to do the traditional style. But so many people I know are curious about (both Turks and other international students at my university), I and a few American friends will be trying to recreate some of the dishes for them…alas, sweet potatoes are not really a thing here!

Some questions for this week:

1. Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, what is a usual tradition for you/your family? If not, what is a comparable holiday you celebrate?

2. Think of a word that comes from another language other than english? How is it used? What is it’s orgin and how did it get to our language? (May require a little bit of investigation!)

3. And finally… CAT PHOTO

20141124_135817Because winter is slowly arriving here, like Portland, we’ve been having a lot of rain! These guys are seeking shelter where they can on the university!

East vs West? Turkey and the European Union

Hoş Geldiniz students!

I was pleased to see so many of enjoyed the music scenes of Istanbul and Turkey, and also about your own musical tastes. Many of you expressed your interests in music from places varying from China to India, to Europe. I would strongly encourage you to look into what kinds of music are happening in these places, both traditionally and modern (sometimes they uniquely get blended!) A good place to start is of course the good ol Internet (I sent some recommendations out about but there is no shortage here. If you are wanting something a little more closer and personal, a good place to look is at cultural events and universities in the Portland area. Often there are free (or inexpensive) events that are hosted to help bring cultural awareness to residents.

One thing I do have to mention as well. I have been a little occupied with my school midterms over the past week, so unfortunately I haven’t been able to personally respond to everybody’s comments from the blog. But rest assured  I did get to read them all!

turkey eu flag with mosque

This week I chose to talk about a topic that may seem somewhat political at first, but has much deeper implications in Turkey. Istanbul is well known as being the only city in the world that rests on two continents, and shows in daily life… people will often say “I have business to do on the European side..” or “I’m going to visit my family on the Asian side..” But many people ask: Is Turkey more European or Asian in general?

We’ve touched on the history of the country several times over the course of this blog, and you’ve all seen that Turkey has been ruled by various civilizations over the centuries. This gives Turkey a unique blend of feeling “west” and “east” often at the same time. While adhering to Islam for centuries, the country was pushed quite suddenly towards the West with the reforms of Ataturk. But even today, many Turks feel a sort of “identity crisis” in how to label themselves. This is one reason why I choose this week to talk about Turkey and the European Union.

In Short: The EU

EU Map

The EU is a group of countries that have formed a union based on a common market (for example, most members have the same currency, the Euro), common political and cultural views, and common law. It started half a century ago, and has slowly evolved into its current form.  When a new member state wishes to join the EU, they have to go through a series of tests and checks to make sure that their economy, politics, and societies are in-line with the common EU values. Just last year, Croatia was the newest member to join, before that many of the former Soviet countries in Eastern Europe had joined. These countries viewed as a step towards more stability, more prestige, and having a better livelihood for its citizens. Turkey however, has been applying for membership for over 20 years and is still a candidate in waiting. (as you can see from the yellow shading in the map above)

This has caused some bad feelings on both sides. While many leaders of the EU have vocally supported Turkey trying to join and Turkish leaders attempting to join, the people of both sides have often felt different. In Europe, there are some who worry that Turkey would be “a burden” for the rest of the Union. If a country joins the EU, people and workers are allowed to travel across borders very very easily and European worry that many Turks will come to their countries and take jobs and use government assistance. Some also worry that Christianity is a common European value and the addition of a Muslim country, with sometimes different ideals will change this


The Turks initially were very excited about joining the EU. They felt that they were just as European as the other countries, and that they wished to be a part of this Union. But the EU has frequently cited that Turkey denies basic human rights to some of its citizens, that is hostile towards some of its neighbors, and does not allow for more freedom of speech (Turkey has the highest amount of journalists in jail because of the stories they write). All of these requirements the EU says are fundamental values that a new country must have to join.

But after waiting for nearly 20 years and with the Turkish economy actually doing better than some European countries, Turks are starting to rethink if they actually want to be in the EU


If you  take a look at this graph from a few years ago, support IN Turkey has gone south over the years, with more people thinking that they can survive as a country on their own.

EU GraphSo why the change in opinion for both??

Well, Turks have been involved in Europe for years. After the second World War, when Germany and Europe were in ruins, the German government began a program to bring Turkish migrants to the country to help rebuild Germany. During the 50’s till the 70’s, tens of THOUSANDS of Turks especially lived in Germany. Everybody thought that once the work was done, they would all return home. But many of them stayed, because living in Germany turns out to have been much better. They got payed better wages, they had better services, they started families and lived their lives. After English, Turkish is the next most spoken language in the country. But for a long time, the Turks were treated like second class citizens. They were reluctant to learn German and incorporate into German society and the Germans viewed them as a nuisance. This has thankfully started to change and the two societies are living amongst themselves better. When I was in Berlin a few years ago, I would walk through little neighborhoods where everything was spoken in Turkish, I didn’t hear any German! I could have been in Turkey for all I knew!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel eating a Döner Kebab. Turkish food is probably the biggest cultural export in Germany, almost everybody eats or knows the food!
German Chancellor Angela Merkel eating a Döner Kebab. Turkish food is probably the biggest cultural export in Germany, almost everybody eats or knows the food!

So because there are already so many Muslims living in Europe, this is part of the argument anti-Turkey-into-the-EU people make; what if more come? what if they don’t work? or what if so many come that they can change our laws?

When I was sitting with my roommates talking about this issue, they asked me “Isn’t it the same way with immigrants coming from Latin America to the US?” After I thought about it a bit, I think they are definitely some similarities between the two issues. You have groups of people that are coming here to America hoping for a better life, but they face lots of challenges and are not always welcomed with open arms.

Another friend of mine here made a different analogy: “It’s like when you are children and you make a fort. You say to your friends ‘If you are this tall, you like this food, and this music, you can join..’ but then when some kid you don’t know comes and says like all these things and they wants to join, you tell him no”

There are lots of factors that play in this process, probably why it doesn’t look to have a solution anytime soon. Cultural, religious, political parts play in the picture. For the time being, Turkey will remain a neighbor of Europe.

Some questions for you all now:

1. What were your thoughts on this blog?

2. Thinking about the tense relationship between EU and Turkey, what are some similarities that you can see elsewhere in the world. What I mean, people wishing to join another group/country often have various struggles, what are some of these?

3. Thinking about the analogy of the fort, was there a time when you witnessed somebody being “selective” like this?

Music and People

Hey guy,

Hope you had a cool Halloween and a good week. Halloween isn’t too much of a big deal here, even finding a pumpkin was exceedingly difficult, so hopefully you had some fun for me!

About last week’s post, I was pleased to see how many of you grappled onto the idea of gender differences. It’s often a difficult subject because so many factors help play into the picture (culture, tradition, rights) and also was interesting to hear about how and why you express yourselves.

For this week, I got my idea of a topic by walking down Istiklal Avenue (the really big main street in the center, remember?) It’s really something like Broadway in NYC, you can find every kind of person from all over Turkey and the world. It is infamously known as a place where buskers (street musicians) are playing all kinds of music, mostly traditional folk music from different parts of Turkey, but also classical and international (there is a Peruvian flute group always there!) But this is important as not only is the street always filled with tourists who help to support the artists, but Turks take pride in having this open area for musicians, painters, and other artisans to show off their craft. I thought it would be a good idea to talk a little bit about music in Turkey, the different varieties, and about some of the people behind it.

Here’s a few clips from some street musicians I made:

Cello Group

Young Musicians

In the last video, the young man is holding what’s called a Black Sea “Kemence”, an instrament that looks like a fiddle, but it is held vertically while played.   kemenci                                                             .

Along with the “Tulum”  –a turkish bagpipe– these instraments are very common in traditional music of the Black Sea region. This region was historically home to many Greek, Georgians, and Armenian peoples. Though they are not as noticeable in society, their impact was left in their music.tulum

You can hear both of them here.

Another traditional instrument is the bağlama (Baa-lama), this is perhaps on the more common instruments, and can often be heard walking down a place like Istiklal Street. This guitar-looking instruments is found all over the country, and was traditionally what the traveling musician or bards would play.baglama istiklal

In the eastern part of the country, the bağlama is used in a lot of Arab and Kurdish styles of music. The Kurds are a separate ethnic group in Turkey, with their own language, culture, and history. The have often been the minority of the country and this has led to conflicts at times over the years. You can see a typical song and dance for Kurds here.

However, probably the most popular form of music is easily pop: while American and western pop music is well known and played, Turkish pop is a genre of its own. It is even exported to the Balkans in Europe and other places of the Middle East. The most well known singer is easily Tarkan.tarkan1

This guy plays sold out shows and venues all over the country and is a good example of Turkish pop. Girls go crazy when they hear him play, guys pretend not to be interested, but you know they will dance to it. Here’s a clip of his more popular videos “The Love is Gone”

I recently had a chance to go to a club where a well known female artist was playing. Her name is Ceylan Ertem, she typically plays in small venues and cafes but is quite popular in Istanbul. My friend that I was with told me “She dresses like Miley Cyrus, but trust me, she isn’t!” I found out that she typically takes older folk and “turkish oldies” and performs more modern covers for them. While this isn’t the show I went to, it’s a much better recording than what I made, her song “I Left my Heart in Aegean” here.

So now that you’ve gotten a brief look at Turkish music, some questions to think about:

1. What were your thoughts on the post?

2. What music do you enjoy listening to?

3.  Is there music from a particular place in the world that you are curious about?

Women’s Rights and Issues

Photo(s) of the Week


Regarding these photos: This last Wednesday was the “Republic Day” holiday (Happy 91st Birthday Turkey!) commemorating the founding of the Turkish Republic. It is a day where one will see flags and pictures of Mustafa Kemal EVERYWHERE. In the first photo,there was to be a firework show near the Bosporus Bridge, but there had been a large accident at a coal mine in the country the day before, so in solidarity, the fireworks were cancelled.

Response to Last Weeks Replies

I was glad to see many of you were able to connect some of your own favorite foods and customs to what was discussed here! Many of you noticed that some of the traditions are very similar between countries. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a superstition can help tell a story about one’s culture, you don’t even necessarily have to believe in it!

This Week’s Topic

One question I frequently get is because of Turkey’s mix of “east-west” culture is how women are treated and perceived in present themselves in society. In general, there is no easy answer to this, but I will try and shed some light on this issue.

Because of Turkey’s Islamic belief system, there is traditionally a huge emphasis put on women to appear with honor and modesty, especially in public. During the Ottoman period, regulations were spelled out on how women should dress, conduct themselves in life, and for married women especially this had special implications. Women traditionally wore some kind of head covering. There are many different kinds of coverings that exist even today in societies, An illustration here may help to distinguish them here.


It is noteworthy to point out that muslim cultures are not to only ones that have a practice of wearing head coverings: In Russia and other Slavic countries, among Christian-Arab cultures, and others, women have traditionally worn these. Sometimes it may have religious backgrounds, but it was also practical for rural workers on farms (to keep out the sun and dust for example).

When the Mustafa Kemal created the Turkish Republic, he wanted to make his new country more “European”, and thus discouraged women from wearing most forms of head scarves, and afterwards became illegal for women in the public sector to wear them at work (government employees, lawyers, judges, teachers, and other bureaucrats) as well as students. It was believed that religious signs of expression should be a personal matter.

However, in the 1980’s there began to be a more popular movement to allow these expressions in certain parts of life. More and more students challenged this rule by wearing scarves to state-owned universities. Over time, it began to become a more acceptable sight for most women.

Last year, 4 women elected to the Turkish Parliament were allowed to wear headscarves in the chambers
Last year, 4 women elected to the Turkish Parliament were allowed to wear headscarves in the chambers

Today, according to a recent survey, a majority of women in the country wear some kind head covering. But interestingly enough, a majority also agree that it is up for the woman herself to choose what she wishes to wear.


At the heart of the controversy here is the fact that the current Turkish Constitution puts a great emphasis on a separation and distance on religious expression. Those who follow the practices of Ataturk believe that if religion is not controlled, it will slowly lead to more radical ideas that could destabilize the country. There is also the fear among them that the current government is pro-islamic and is asking for more rights for just Sunni Muslims but not others. Those wishing for more freedom of religious expression say it is unfair for the state to tell them what they can and can’t wear. It’s an interesting topic and is currently very hot in Turkey!

A good friend of mine at my university, Renan, who also chooses to wear the scarf (and I would say is pretty liberal) gave me an interesting bit to think about “You can only tell so much about a person from first appearance; some girls where clothes from H&M with “Juicy” written on it, some cover their heads. Until you get to know them personally, you can’t really know what kind of person they are”


Since the founding of the Republic, there has been a large emphasis to bring more people into public education, especially women. Turkey has a very large percentage of children who attend public elementary school, and because of this, a high literacy rate. Women are encouraged to attend school and universities if possible. At my university, I was fascinated to find out that more than 65% of the students were women! Because they have a high degree of university placement, women are being found more and more in higher paid positions in the workforce. However, like in the United States, these is still a discrepancy between women in men in some of the higher levels of work, both in terms of position and pay.

One last photo I will leave you with: Last year there was a major political demonstration in Istanbul. In the main square, Taksim, there were plans by the government to tear down a park to build a shopping mall. This resulted in tens of thousands of people, mostly young ones, protesting against the government’s actions. Many people from different backgrounds and walks of life (including women!) came to attend these protests that ultimately became a national event. You can read more about it by googling “Gezi Park Protests”. The photo below shows a bit of this unity the country felt.

Taksim square peaceful protests. Events of June 16, 2013.

So my questions to you this week are:

1. What did you enjoy most about this week’s post?

2. Why are women’s rights an important topic to discuss?

3. What is the importance of self-expression (think about how you express YOURSELF on a daily basis, whether through clothing, style, activities etc)


Our new cat Justin inaugerated his stay...notice the guilty look!
Our new cat Justin inaugurated his stay…notice the guilty look!

Food and Customs

Günaydın students! (Goon-eye-dun) [Good morning]

I was glad to see so many of you enjoyed some of the more historical sights of Istanbul. I will be posting more sights as I find them so don’t worry!

But as promised this week we will be looking a bit more at some of the cuisine and customs of the country. I’m going to cover a few of the main and most noticeable ones as there is A LOT of amazing food here! Similar like the art and architecture, every group that has called Turkey home over the centuries has left its mark on the table so to speak!

But let’s start with the most important meal of the day: Breakfast. So we know that Portland is pretty well known for how it handles its B-fast, so I was especially curious to see how this would be in Istanbul; let’s just say it was not disappointing at all! Instead of having one or two main things to eat, typical Turkish breakfast is a meal of options and spreads; there is all kinds of jams, honey, cheeses, and sweets to choose from. I posted an interactive picture so you can scroll over some of the foods for descriptions here

But something that you will see all the time, all over the country is undoubtedly — çay – tea

Typically served in a glass tulip-shaped glass like this
Typically served in a glass tulip-shaped glass like this

Tea is served at almost all times of the day, but you will almost always see it being served with breakfast especially. It is a black loose leaf (similar to earl grey) that turns red when it is brewed and served with sugar usually. People will have a glass throughout the day, on their breaks, at work, or when guests come to visit.

Men enjoying çay and tavla (backgammon) a popular leisure game
Men enjoying çay and tavla (backgammon) a popular leisure game
Everyone enjoys a good tea ;)
Everyone enjoys a good tea 😉

Another popular food, especially on the streets, is kebab. These are really similar to Greek “Gyros” (in fact we have 2 turkish kebab foodcarts in Portland). Traditionally it is lamb or beef chunks that are put on giant spits, roasted, and then very thinly shaved off into sandwiches.

kebab sandwichKebab

Last week I was invited to my friend Ali’s house. He was going to make us food typical for his area of Turkey, Antakya, very close to the Syrian border in Mesopotamia. Typically in this area, most of the cuisine is very spicy, which is great for me because I am a fiend for hot food! Here’s another interactive photo of this dinner here.

Customs and Superstitions

My first impressions of Turkey was how friendly the people were. It is very common for people in your neighborhood to greet you and I have been invited to tea several times. Most people are excited that foreigners are curious about their country and if you know a word or two of Turkish they are delighted that you are making an effort to speak their language.

In greetings, Turks are much more informal than Americans. A typical first greeting is to shake hands, but after your initially introduction, it is common to greet people with a kiss on both cheeks or even a hug, for both men and women, depending on how comfortably you know them. Men are much more touchy with each other, it is very natural to see man walking with their arms locked or even holding hands. This isn’t a sign of sexuality but rather how close of friends they may be.

Another interesting custom happens sometimes when you are drinking a cup of turkish coffee. As explained above, this coffee has the coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup, looking a little like sludge. But when someone has finished a cup, many times friends will “read the grounds”, similar to reading tarot cards. They will look for images and symbols to predict the persons future. This practice of reading ones future is called fal.. it can range from actual businesses predicting future to joking fun between friends. Reading palms is also apart of this.

fal cup
To read your fal, after drinking your coffee, it is turned upside down and left to cool for a moment
fal cup2
when it is turned off, somebody will look for symbols left in the coffeegrounds

Typically, Turks have many interesting customs that make them very distinct from other peoples. Traditionally, many of these are superstitious in nature. I was interested to find out many superstitions are shared between our culture: walking under a ladder is EXTREMELY unlucky, breaking a mirror, almost anything doing with a black cat, in fact there is a common phrase in turkish regarding this:

Aramızda bir kara kedi var – literally between us a black cat there is , meaning “there is some bad feelings between us, all isn’t well with us”

Similar to many other cultures in the world, some Turks believe in the notion of an “evil eye” (nazar). The concept is basically if someone is jealous of you or the things that you own, they may inadvertently put a “hex” or bad jinx on you, basically cursing you. Turks have an amulet that is supposed to protect them from the evil eye someone may put on them. It is a blue amulet with an eye on it… you can see people hanging this in their car, on jewelery, in their homes, etc. While often it is more a cultural expression than actual belief (think of some of the religious icons you see in daily life), it is seen everywhere here.

 nazar1 nazar2

When a compliment is give to somebody (new baby is born, someone gets marriend)  (How beautiful your baby is, may you be happy! etc) superstitious people will often add the phrase “Maşallah” (praise be!) afterwards because according to tradition otherwise you might accidentally put a jinx on them! These traditions are becoming less noticeable, usually among st the older population but you will still hear people giving greetings like this just out of habit.

So in looking at some of the things we discussed here, I’m curious to hear about your thoughts. For this week’s assignment:

1. What did you enjoy most about this post?

2. What is your favorite food and where (if you know) does it come from?

3. What’s a tradition/custom/superstition that you know of and what makes it unique?