Wednesday, August 17, 2011

ON MY MIND... "culture clashes"

Dear readers,

One of the bad things about being laid up at home and sick is that you have too much time on your hands BUT... you are tooooo tired to do anything! Surprisingly, even though you are basically doing nothing... time does pass by quickly and it's the end of the day before you know it!

I am and have always been a night owl! Even if I am at home, I have a tendency to go to sleep very late - and I usually spend my time when at home reading newspapers, magazines, surfing facebook, twitter, internations and watching TV. I am going to be totally honest and admit that I do like to watch TV. Even when not watching, the TV is always on... I like "noise" in the background...

Now that I work from home.. I can also watch day time TV too! I have digiturk - a cable TV system with lots of Turkish and International channels - but sometimes STILL can't find anything to watch - especially now that it's the summer and all shows are in reruns. I must admit though that I do not follow Turkish TV programs - let it be comedy, drama series or talk shows - but I do watch the local news on CNN Turk or NTV. Instead, the series I follow include Fringe, Grey's Anatomy, V, Bones, Law & Order SVU, CSI Miami, reruns of Will & Grace, Cougertown and so on. For some reason, I can't totally relate to Turkish shows! I find some of the story lines totally out of my scope of interests - I guess it has to do with the fact that I was brought up in NYC... and values, outlook on life, etc. are so so different. Don't get me wrong... I am not saying I am "better" or "worse" than my countrymen... I am just saying that we do not have that many common denominators! Even so... I am very happy that I moved to Istanbul and it was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life - sounds like a bit of a conflict don't you think? This is a very long story and too difficult to summarize in a blog ... maybe one day I will write a book! I guess in a way I like the "clashes and differences"...  Some examples...

I do enjoy listening to music - but for some reason, not at home! I don't have a stereo or CD system and make due with my ipod, which includes some of my favorite artists - who I like to listen too during my daily long walks when not sick and when the weather is not so hot. I do have "weird" musical tastes I think and my current all time faves are Moby and Pet Shop Boys! I can listen to their latest cds (which I believe came out a few years ago) over and over again without getting bored. My all time favorite singers/groups are Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Queen, Tina Turner, Elton John and I really really also love American country music (Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, etc.) - but have been out of the loop ever since returning to Istanbul. I'm not a major fan of the newest groups/singers for some reason and would never buy a CD from Lady Gaga.. the recently deceased Amy Winehouse... Rihanna... Beyonce.. even though I think they are great. But, there is nothing like the "old" songs.. the words... tunes... just can't compare as far as I'm concerned. I guess it's an "age" thing. I also do not prefer listening to popular Turkish music - except for from time to time Tarkan and Sezen Aksu! I find that most of the more "popular" singers all sound the same - the music, the words... just can't relate!

I was never hooked on age, status.. how much money people earn until I moved back to Istanbul! I'm still not hooked on it, but realize that most people around me are! I was stunned when I first moved back and people asked me "how old I was and how much money I earned"! Honest to God.. no one asked me these questions in NYC. "Status" is also a big thing here - fancy titles are sometimes more important than what's underneath them... I do have lots of friends and acquaintances in "high" places, but have never used them to get ahead or get perks in my social or business life. Also, in my business life in the USA, I was always on a first name basis with co-workers, bosses, etc. But, I realized you can't do this in Turkey - all my subordinates called me "Vildan Hanım".. in Turkish, instead of saying Mr. or Ms. and the last name, you first name is used and hanım (for a female) and bey (for a male) or added to the end of your first name. You cannot be too "familiar" with your subordinates because most workers in Turkey are still not good at mixing "business and pleasure" and can cross the line if you are too friendly.

I am a bit too honest and straight forward for my own good! You have to be especially careful of this in the workforce. My countrymen are not very good at talking and saying what's really on their mind openly! They do like to beat around the bush and use inferrences and are definitely not good at accepting criticism! Maybe the reason for this is that Turks are not very good at expressing "constructive" criticism... sometimes things are very black or white, but sometimes you do need a bit of gray!

Turks usually talk too much and are not very good listeners... but I am just the opposite! I don't like talking alot and prefer to express myself in a few short sentences - hate long and dragged out unnecessary meetings and have been commended on my listening skills to the point that I can comfortably say I am a good listener!

I enjoy my space and prefer being alone from time to time... not so with most of my counterparts! Turks like to travel, eat and socialize in packs. I on the other hand, love going to a restaurant by myself for a nice glass of wine... some food and chatting with people I might run into. I also like going on vacations on my own too... good way to meet other people and to also shop, sleep, eat and go out without being bound to someone else. I have no problems going to the movies by myself either. That's the New Yorker in me... NY'ers love their "alone" time!

Rules and regulations were made to be broken... Turks hate rules and regulations! When street lights were first installed, Turks had no qualms about running red lights and EVEN beeped at other drivers who didn't. To this day, you will see drivers running red lights. Motorcylists feel that they have different rules from other motorists and usually pass at red lights, think it's appropriate to ride against the traffic and on pedestrian walkways! God forbid you reprimand them - they will yell back at you with full force and make you feel like you are from another planet! You are not allowed to talk or text on your cell phone while driving! Really? Most Turks feel that this rule does not apply to them either... I hate it when a taxi driver is talking it up with a friend while I am in the taxi! The "no-smoking" rule in all indoor spaces went into effect last summer... do you think everyone listens? No way! You will find that people STILL smoke in office buildings (including city and state buildings - you know.. the places that are responsible for enforcing the law) and some bars, cafes and restaurants. As I am a smoker - you won't see me complaining about this! Drivers also feel it's appropriate to use the "emergency" lane on highways - well.. there is too much traffic and there is a lane that is "empty" and not being used - waste not want not! Also, Turks will park their car wherever they want! It doesn't matter that there might be a car park a few feet away - double and sometimes triple parking on narrow streets are just a fact of life!

Turks can be quite negative and sometimes believe in the "evil eye" too much! I think this is why my countrymen are negative. I feel that sometimes if they say that things are going well and that life is good, the opposite will happen! On the other hand, I am very positive and my mantra is "the glass if half full.. not half empty". Ask any taxi driver how life is going and he will complain that he makes absolutely no money, but owns a home, has a private car and can afford to send his kids to college! Most of the beggars on the street make more money than you and I... this has been proven several times, when they have been picked up by the police and besides finding lots of money on their person, many have been found with several bank books in their pockets! So, ask any Turk how business or theirxlife is going and more than likely you will hear a sob story!  

All Turks in my social circle are well groomed and dressed... I must admit that when I lived in NYC, I was not into the latest trends, fashions, having my hair done, etc. Of course, NYC is a fashion capital, but the "normal" Joe/Josephine walking down the street does not dress like they have stepped out of a fashion magazine! We as "normal" people had very "normal" lives! Now, after 16 years in Istanbul... I only wear or carry LV (I think I can open my own boutique), Tod's, Gucci, Armani and Longchanp shoes and bags! I visit the hairdresser 2-3 times a week (except during the summer months) for a blow-dry and every two months for hair color and highlights and for frequent manicures and pedicures! I still don't spend tons of money on clothing, but I hate to say this - but I do my clothes shopping in Paris three times a year (more choices, less expensive + duty free!). In other words, in my own way, I have become a fashionista!

Turks are very friendly and are always there for you when in need... my mom will say that "old" Istanbul was even better at this and that times have changed. Back in the old days, neighbors were friendlier - everyone in an apartment building knew and visited each other... the young had more respect for their elders, etc. etc. But, even though Istanbul has changed, the values of "family" and "friendship" are still better than in other cosmpolitan and modern cities. Home visits and telephone calls have in most part been replaced with emails, texts and tweets, but when you need a helping hand... your friends will run to your aid - not walk! I have lived through this in 2002 when I had 4 major surgeries in one year - and nearly died. I needed blood, lots of love and support to recover which took nearly a year and I never felt alone!

So, having said all this....

Am I happy? You bet I am.. I LOVE Istanbul - I thrive on the diversity...the Bosphorus gives me joy every day... I love and am proud of our rich heritage... I love the social life and scene...  I do go crazy at the cacophony at times.. I hate the traffic and lack of public transportation... but, in the end.. the good always outweighs the bad.. and I really feel "alive" every day in Istanbul. If you live here, I think you know what I mean!

Am I still growing and learning? You betcha! One of the things I ALWAYS told my young co-workers is that "no matter how many years you have 'lived' or 'worked', the minute you say you 'know it all' " is the day you lose! You never... ever... stop learning and growing - you just have to be open to it! This is one of the most important pleasures in life! So, keep yourself open to all that it has to offer - no matter where you are!


No comments:

Post a Comment