One of the first things that caused me to enter culture shock living in Turkey was the different social gatherings they have. I found it difficult to adjust to a constant presence of people.
In Ireland we have a completely different understanding of privacy and alone time. A lot of the younger generation now grow up with TV’s in their room and laptops in their room and I was part of this generation. When you reach your teens your parents give you a certain amount of space and you spend time alone in your room as part of this independence process. Yet when I lived with my partners family in Istanbul while they had three TVs it wasn’t the norm that we would all watch TV separately. It is odd for you to sit in a room alone in Turkey while there are other people at home. You will constantly be asked are you ok? It is quite the opposite in Ireland where you can go to another room for an hour or two and nobody will ask you why you went. You begin to miss simple things like spending an hour on your laptop in your room or watching TV alone. TV is a social activity in Turkey and you wouldn’t go to another room to watch TV alone when everyone else is watching TV together. This is not only difficult for a foreigner who isn’t used to so many people around but it is difficult from a language perspective because you aren’t going to be watching TV in English.
Turkish housewives like hosting dinner to guests and this is not just once a week but can be several days a week so you find yourself often surrounded by people and it starts to get to you in a negative way. I remember my first Bayram’s (religious holidays) in Turkey and how I felt like I just couldn’t deal with anymore people. For anyone who knows about turkish culture will know that Bayram is a time for solely visiting family relatives for 3/4 days. You either visit them or they visit you depending on your position in the family. It is busy and hectic. There are children running around, there are constant supplies of food coming in and more guests arriving. What I always find annoying about greeting people at such times is that you have to kiss them all individually. It is not enough to enter a room of 10/12 people and say hello like it is in Ireland but you have to individually shake their hand and kiss their cheeks. Of course then for older people you kiss their hand out of respect. We probably appear very cold to Turkish people as we just enter home and say hi. But every day in Turkey when you come home from work/school you greet your family with hugs and kisses. What is hard too is that you never usually visit a home for 30 mins or 1 hour but rather you stay a long time and they stay a long time at your home. It can be really exhausting after 3 days of the same stuff.
I have some Turkish friends who come from different cities in Turkey and it seems like in other parts of Turkey it is even more intense when it comes to socialisation. People in Istanbul like in any other city complain about the lack of connection among neighbours in Istanbul and how people have become very individual in their thinking. I can’t imagine what it is like then in the villages as I really felt compared to Ireland that the socialisation is on a whole different level. Thankfully now that my standard of Turkish has improved I do feel a bit more relaxed when visitors come because I can actually talk with them. This was a huge barrier in the beginning where you sit with people all the time and you just have to smile. You feel so left out when everyone is talking and you have no idea what is going on.
There are so many other things to discuss in relation to guests and the different view of privacy in Turkey which deserve their own separate posts which I will also write about.