Check out those super interesting things to know about Turkish people, their Turkish tea and the Turkish culture in general!
Turkey seems to be an entire different world which operates on a system that’s unfamiliar to people who are not part of it. I have many German-Turkish friends back home. But when I actually spent a few months by myself living and studying in Turkey, I learned to never question the Turkish people and their actions. I came across some characteristics which are very typical for the Turkish people and their culture which I would like to share with you.
Turkish people will never leave you alone if you’re lost (also if you are not lost)
Often, when Turkish people don’t know the location or direction which you’re looking for or they can’t speak your language – they will insist on holding your hand until you have reached the exact address you were looking for. Sometimes, even if you are not asking for their help, they will still offer you to escort you to where ever you need to go.
This can end up in a long lasting friendship (most likely with the Turkish people you meet outside of Turkey), but it can also end up in a lot of trouble (people you meet within the country). Be observing, know your boundaries and also make them really clear, and you will be fine. Unfortunately some Turkish people are so willing to help that they may just send you in the wrong direction, just so they feel they did their part and don’t loose their face.
It’s Turkish Tea time, 10 times a day
The most popular and produced Turkish tea is the Rize tea. Turkish people are all about friends, family and socialising. The Turkish tea comes from the Rize Province on the Black Sea cost where the climate is very mild and the soil most fertile. Having Turkish Tea several times per day is something that’s imbedded into the Turkish culture. Turkish people have their tea with everything. Turkish people are the number one tea consumers in the world, bringing off China and even England.
My favourite Turkish tea is Ada Çay. It’s a herbal and caffein free tea and you can only get Ada Çay in Istanbul. “Ada” comes from “Adalar” and means translated “Island”. Ada Çay grows on he Princess Islands which are located right next to Istanbul.
The Turkish culture – people are super proud
Almost every Turk would be incredibly excited to have the opportunity to show you around and share endless stories about the Turkish culture, preferably talking about the Ottoman Empire. Never ever in my life I have experienced any culture which is as proud as the Turks are. Italians are proud to be Italians, but not as proud as Turks. Americans are proud, but not like Turks. When I was walking along the streets, all I can see is national flags. Everywhere.
Cars are covered in Turkish flags, posters of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk are being put up publicly everywhere and on almost every car you will find a sticker with his signature. This is also very big in Germany, not just in Turkey. There is no restaurant ever you will find which doesn’t have the Turkish flag hanging somewhere. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is seen as the hero in most of the Turkish people’s eyes.
Atatürk was a Turkish army officer, revolutionary and the founder of the Republic of Turkey. He was serving as the president in 1923 until he died from liver cirrhosis (he drunk far too much Rakı) on the 10th of November in 1938 in the Dolmabahçe Palace. A different country means a different culture and experience. To get to know a place, you have to interact with the local people. Even if you’re visiting Turkey for a short time, Turkish people will make sure that you learn about their culture and get most out of your stay.
They are very eager to teach you Turkish
You don’t speak Turkish? No problem! Turkish people can go on and on about life in Turkey. Whether it’s about life in Turkey, war, the Armenian genocide, groceries, directions, or anything else. Eventually, whether you like it or not, you start to understand bits and pieces of the conversation. Some things start to make some sense, some other things will never…
Turkish is actively spoken by 75 million native speakers, mainly in Turkey and it’s border countries. Further more the Turkish language is spoken in more than 30 countries where it is not an official language, including in my home country Germany with over two million Turkish speakers. Some Turkish words made it into English, such as divan, kayak, kebab, kiosk, pilaf and yogurt. If you plan on visiting Turkey for longer than just a holiday trip, I would highly recommend to start learning some of the basics as English is NOT a widely spread in the non touristy areas. It will really help you with the smallest day to day things you will need to tackle.
On my first day living in Istanbul, I went to do some grocery shopping (and obviously didn’t speak any Turkish), the shop owner, an older guy, probably in his late sixty’s, started yelling at me and threw some words out in English and Turkish that he was upset about me not speaking Turkish and a few words about the Ottoman Empire. I had no idea what he was really saying, but it came across super aggressive. One man out of the other 15 man in the shop spoke proper English and apologised afterwards for the old man’s behaviour.
They keep their space on the street
If the pavement is too narrow (and all of them are, especially in Istanbul!), don’t you even try to pass. You will have to ‘give in’ and will have to step aside onto the street in order to avoid bumping into them. Turks hold onto their lines without ever moving over, ever. Yo bitch, get out the way! If not, you can wait until the end of your days to continue your walk. Turks are very stubborn people and won’t move to any side on the pavement, ever. The world can end, bombs can go off left and right, world war three can begin, THEY WON’T MOVE.
A city of 18 million (registered) people are given about 0.5 meters of space to walk through the streets of Istanbul. High kerbstones ‘protect’ people from traffic, because there is no expectation in place that cars should be driven safely to begin with. Looking at a country’s infrastructure, you are able to learn a lot about its nation. Roads are a common part of the daily life and they show a lot about a culture and its people and how they behave.
English people generally follow systems, however, they don’t really believe in them. They may break the rules politely, sneaking over red lights, or crossing against the lights when it is safe to do so. The Germans always follow the rules, because rules work. You can be sure that Germans will reliably honk at you to show their disapproval at those who break the rules (mostly foreigners). You won’t see a German person crossing the red lights, ever, even if there is no traffic far and wide.
In Turkey and Istanbul, THERE ARE NO RULES; it is just expected that everyone must look after themselves. If you need to reverse ten meters because you missed your exit on a motorway — you do it. If an old lady or pushchair gets knocked down — so it goes.
There is an estimated number of 3.845.349 motor vehicles (1 car for each 5 person) in Istanbul, as of December 2016. 21.268.879 counted cars as of end of February 2017 are in Istanbul and about 30.000 new cars join in every month !!! HELP!!!!
They’re always singing and dancing
Happy nation you could say, as they are very patriotic about their country and love to sing about it. They can be extremely hot tempered but have good hearts at times, but the Turks know how to enjoy their life and get over arguments with a simple song. Life in Turkey happens on the streets, mainly at night, and so does a lot of dance.
Walk along Istiklal street near Taksim square and you will see locals joining the street musicians with a dance or a song ((İstiklal Avenue or Istiklal Street is one of the most famous streets in Istanbul, which is visited by nearly 3 million people in a single day!) They don’t know each other just yet, they stop anyways and have the time of their lives, dancing and singing all together (mostly in circles). Interesting fact to notice here, it’s only man who do that.
I have NEVER seen a women joining in the jam. My favourite Turkish dance is Kolbastı which originated from the black sea cost in the north-eastern part of Turkey. Trying to translate ‘Kolbastı’ into English (as good as possible), it means ‘caught red-handed by the police.’ The name Kolbastı comes from nightly police patrols of the city of Trabzon to round up drunk people, who made up a song with the lyrics: ‘They came, they caught us, they beat us’ (in Turkish: ‘Geldiler, bastılar, vurdular’).
Once you get the gist of the different Turkish dance styles, you can tell from which part of the country people come from.
The bus drivers are kind, sometimes
As we know already, Turkish people just randomly stop or turn unexpected without indicating and for no apparent reason, and so do bus drivers, just to be nice, pick you up and give you a lift. They stop in unexpected locations pick up or let off passengers, and that includes the main highway entrance ramps, intersections, and major highways.
If you’re not afraid to run into the middle of the street, they’ll stop mid-traffic and let you on with a smile. Just be brave going through all those crazy vehicles!
Are you hungry? No? Eat it anyways.
When it comes to food and drinks, you can be sure to be fed as they love introducing foreigners to their delicacies and keep feeding you, even though you may not even be hungry. If you are invited at a locals house, they will feed you, and you will have to eat, no matter what.
After you have eaten, and drunk heaps of Turkish tea, and you have several times mentioned very clearly that you are not hungry anymore, you will continuously be fed until you can’t walk anymore. Turkish people do not understand ‘no, thank you, I am full.’
The Turkish cuisine was one of my favourites cuisines ever, before I turned vegetarian / vegan. Menemen, Köfte, Mantı, Börek, Meze, Döner or Baklava. You name it. It’s all amazing and every dish has its own unique taste. And of course, Turkish food is not the healthiest food ever, and therefore one of the most delicious cuisine I have ever tasted.
Baklava is my favorite desert. It’s a nutty, syrupy, pastry dessert, full of sugar, which is never better than when served in Turkey.
So, does that sound exciting to you? What are you waiting for? When is your next trip to Turkey? It’s definitely worth checking out Turkey. You will learn A LOT. It will be a crazy journey. I can guarantee this to you. My time in Istanbul has a massive impact on my life today. Once you get out of there you will be a stronger, more independent and powerful person who believes she can do ANYTHING in this world after this experience. Trust me, it’s a bit of a challenge, but it may be worth pushing your own limits 😉
If you are keen to learn more about Turkey, if you are thinking of moving to Turkey longterm or for a holiday and you need help in getting set up or prepared, please give me call! I am excited to get on the phone and to help.
I am your girl to talk about the life in Turkey as a foreigner, especially as a women in detail, and out of a Westerner perspective.
Lots of Love.