Every evening here may easily turn into a story. When I was invited to the Ramadan supper, I thought that it will be just a way to spend time. Well, it turned out really different. Turkish friends Gulse, Dilara and their parents were sitting by the table and next to them we, four orphans – Turkish boy, man from Holland, girl from Mongolia and me, Lithuanian. Even this family is strict with traditions, though they are really open. I can’t imagine this kind of evening at my home (of course, then I’ll be back my relatives will have to face up with some changes).
It is said that a journalist must be extrovert, of course everyone needs attention and likes when others adore your work and discuss it, but I would say – you should be in a middle – extrovert to attract attention, moderate discussion, know more than others, be open, but most of the time you have to be kind of introvert – you have to learn how to listen, react to the person opinion, encourage to speak more, pay attention to every detail or sometimes just look at everything from the distance. Otherwise, you won’t find any new original topics and of course you won’t meet personas of your stories.
As I read in Pierre Flener diary, who stayed in Turkey for five years, people have a lot of stereotypes about Turkey. Nevertheless, this diary was written in 1993 – 1998, some kind of mystical images are still alive. “They had the wildest prejudices about Turkey, imagining that I roasted in desert heat on some sand dunes, that I rode on camel back to my office, that I had trouble learning Arabic and reading/writing the arabic alphabet, and that all my woman students were fully veiled,” Pierre was writing in his diary.
Just imagine if it was true, would people decide to live here? When you have to face up so many cultural differences, you feel the need to create your new comfort zone, too. On the other side if you really want, you can get used to anything.
While I was collecting information about people who decided to stay in Turkey longer, I was sure that there will certain opinions I will need to hush up just to avoid causing problems for people who decided to spend a major part of their life here. So, in some parts I won‘t use some names or if it coincide with my opinion, I will bring it as my observations.
Mongolian Undram Unur lives in Turkey for 5 years. She choosed this country because it‘s cheaper than study in other countries of Europe. Also, she received a scholarship and her parents let her go. “I choose and create my path by myself. I’m really lucky that my parents are open – father lived for five years in Switzerland and mother has a lot of friends in Canada, Germany and other countries, so she travels a lot,” says Undram.
In her opinion Turkey is a lucky country – you can find everything here. However, the first year for Undram was difficult. She was learning Turkish, but still had to use a lot of body language because she couldn’t speak fluently and didn’t have any friends, so was spending all her evenings at home. But after hard time, comes better.
After a year she started studying Industrial Engineering in Anadolu University and made a lot of Turkish friends: “They help me every time I’m in a trouble or can’t understand what lecturer is teaching.”
It was funny when I asked her what she is missing. “Asian food,” told Undram and started rehearsed what kind of meals she likes. I stopped her and asked: “What about parents?”
We started laughing. I totally understand her. When you come to another country, you create new life, make new friends, have different problems, you are not the same person anymore.
“I really miss them,” she corrects herself. Undram adds that another thing which she really misses is comfort – using trams and busses instead of getting a lift by a car sometimes irritates.
Talking about financial side she worked for a summertime as a bar tender in London, but to work in a bar in Turkey no worth powder – you get 20 TL (8.73 EUR) for 8 eight hours, so it’s better just concentrate on studies.
Undram is studying engineering, because nowadays it’s marketable, not as marketing, law or economics which study most of the students. Moreover, 30 percent of lectures are in English, so she will be able to make an international career too. Unfortunately, lessons which should be presented in English, are taught in Turkish – students can’t understand or don’t want to listen in another language. Anyway, exams are in English.
Girl sounds really enthuastic about her life here, but what about cultural differences? “In Mongolia you can see working women everywhere. Here, mostly men. They are everywhere – in service, Pazar, shops. Also, it was strange for her that you can’t chew loudly – it’s rude in Turkey. But the worst thing is Turkish men who think that all foreign girls are easy ones. You can understand this from the way they are staring at me or shouting from the cars.”
Despite these disadvantages she carefully says: “If I met the right guy, I would be able to live in Turkey forever – I really love this country, if not I’ll go to make a career back to Mongolia.”
Arne Mulder from the Netherlands knows Turkey only for 2 years. First contact with Turkey was in 2008 when he took his Turkish colleagues’ advice and decided to study in Anadolu University. “At that time it was a big step because it was the first time when I was leaving my home for 6 months.”
As he landed in Istambul the first impression was beyond the expectations. “I realized that I’’ll be surrounded with history and religion, so it was really a special moment.”
When he got to the city he had to study named Eskisehir – opinion hasn’t changed. It looked like a modern developed town.
Not surprisingly after six months he realized that it wasn’t enough to really get to know the foreign country. After some time he got back here for the internship and got a job offer which he accepted.
I was curious whether the real reason was not the beauty of the country, but a Turkish girl? “If you go somewhere for this reason, you will end up not happy,” asserted Arne.
There are bunch of other reasons to live here. “Turkish people always help you, if they can’t speak English, they will find a person who does. There will never occur anything like once in the Netherlands. Just imagine, a girl fell off her bike and nobody gave a hand to her. People were just staring and did nothing. It would never have happened in Turkey.
Of course, we all have our flaws. For instance, Turkish people are not very strict about the time. If the meeting is arranged for 10 o’clock, they can come at 11. But maybe it’s similar for all Mediterranean countries.”
Arne noticed that the country is growing and developing quickly. There are many economical changes, new taxes (for example, more expensive alcohol), so prices became quite comparable to the Netherlands.
If the job contract will be extended, he will definitely stay in Turkey for a long time. “If not Turkey, then I prefer Switzerland,” he laughs.
Arne adds: “From the point of view of my family, maybe the decision to live in Turkey was a little bit selfish, but for me Turkey now is like a home.”
The last day Americans were staying here, me, Caroline and Qianqian, were sitting on the bench in front of Porsuk river. Suddenly, out of the blue, one guy with bike came up and started talking with us. At first he looked nice and open. Oh, just take a look, American, Chinese, Italian and Lithuanian met each other in Turkey! But in the end it turned up too strange, he was paying attention only to me and finally asked my number. I didn’t like it, but I was thinking that it’d be interesting to interview him later, so we exchanged Facebook profiles.
As I foresaw he was a little bit crazy. He started attacking me with these banal phrases as you are charming girl, can we meet at the midnight, I am exempt from my passions and etc.
Fatally, I had several issues like this in Lithuania, but in hometown you know how to protect yourself. Here, you can’t be sure if it will work, so you have to choice who trust and who not, really carefully.
So what Italian guy is doing in Turkey? (To be honest I don’t know if eveything he told is true). Wid Green is a 28 years-old man, who studied Audio–Visual Arts. “I'm a young boy christian refugee, also, orphan because my family is dead. My father is a Tunisian – amazigh tien and my mother is Italian. When I was 15 my father decided to live in Tunisia.“
However, his life in Tunisia wasn‘t succesful. “In 2011 revolution broke out in Tunisia. Four prisons were broken and islamic prisoners were behaving like terrorists and were killing all Jews and Christian Tunisians.“
So, now he has no family and decided to stay in Turkey. He lives here from 2012 of April. Firstly, he tried out himself in Istambul, but at this moment Wid works as a cooker in Eskisehir.
Anyway, he sees his future only in Turkey: river in Eskisehir reminds him Venice, Turkish people respect foreigners and cultural differences are acceptable: “I can learn Turkish language very easy because I speak 6 languages: English, French, Italianian, German, Greek and Tunisian (amazightien – old tongue of carthage/tunis). I will adapt with bizantic/otmanique culture because Tunisia was old colonique Turkey.“
Talking with Undra, Arne and Wid gave me a feeling of what life should be like. As Mustafa Kemal Ataturk once said: “Peace at home. Peace in the world.” Wherever your home is.