For anyone who studied Sociology or Cultural Studies at university they may have come across the Iceberg Model. I think it is a great model to help understand a culture. When you get involved in a relationship with a Turkish person for many it begins on a holiday. Yet what do you get to know about a culture in 2 weeks?
What you see above the sea is just the tip of the iceberg and that is exactly what you get when you visit Turkey for the first time. Yet if you actually look at some of the points on top not even all them are present in the Turkish holiday resorts. My first trip to Turkey was to Kusadasi (Kuşadası) and I was surprised at how ‘irish’ it was. I didn’t experience even some of the things on top of the iceberg because you have irish restaurants which sell food that we eat in Ireland, you have Irish bars which look like the ones in Ireland and you have Irish/English music which we listen to at home. Even the people who work at the resort that have never been to Ireland speak with an Irish accent. So when people go to such a resort and fall in love with Turkey/Turk, what are they really falling in love with? Because how can you really fall in love with something/someone that is not in their full representation. For me I learnt bottom of the iceberg much quicker because I spent a lot of time in Istanbul after Kuşadası and therefore I was not in the bubble of a tourist resort. Yet for many foreigners they spend quite a lot of time visiting the same tourist city and when they go to their partners home city they often come back in shock at how different the culture is. They find it difficult to accept that their partner is anything like their families or you will hear them say well his family is conservative but he isn’t.
Holiday romances are easy to find in tourist resorts and if you want one you will get one. Yet for those who contemplate a long term relationship they need to consider seriously the implications this will have on their personal development and future decisions. Life is not a holiday forever no matter how much we want it to be that way. It is not going to be about going to the bars and sunbathing by the pool. There are going to be challenges involved because of cultural differences. So it is best to know about these before rather than learning about them later where you may find it difficult to cope with the expectations of Turkish culture. There is a cultural adaptation curve which is taught at university which is really useful for those who intend to live in Turkey because you will face culture shock yet a lot of people don’t know that they will have this experience. Knowing about it makes it much easier to deal with it.
When the honeymoon period is over you will begin to feel the differences and question how you are going to deal with those differences. There are ways to adapt yet how we adapt differs from person to person. Some people don’t adapt and their holiday romance doesn’t last. Some people try for a long time to adapt but in the end the hill becomes to hard to climb. Some people adapt over a long period of time and they become really assimilated into Turkish culture. This all can depend on a variety of factors such as where in Turkey you live, what your partner is like, what their family are like etc. Yet most importantly the biggest factor is about you and how well you cope in new situations.
In my next posts I hope to deal with the points on the iceberg, both top and bottom. After five years of experience with Turkish culture, I am still learning new differences yet I hope to share my experiences to help those wanting to learn more about Turkish culture.