Friday, August 19, 2011

Part 2: ON MY MIND and "culture clashes"

Dear readers,

As I mentioned many times early - I just started blogging on July 4th, so I am still basically a "newbie" at this - but thoroughly enjoying it! I am still trying to figure out how to use all the features available and most importantly, how to increase my hits and readership!

900+ pageviews for someone who just started out I guess it's not bad, but I see I have a long way to go to really get the numbers up! I am now basically "promoting" my blog by posting to Facebook, Twitter and Internations and then hoping that my friends "share" my blog with others. But, there has to be a better way - but I haven't figured it out yet! I recently visited some Turkish blogs where the bloggers "contend" that they get thousands of pageviews a day - I personally find this difficult to believe! I wish everyone would include a "pageview" counter like I have - I believe in being totally honest and don't want to hide the true facts.

This blog is still a "work in progress". In my summary, I have mentioned what I will be writing about and then will expand/decrease my scope based on readers request.

One of the things I did realize is that most of my readers are more interested in and I get more page views when I write about "culture clashes" and Turkish people in general. So, I will see what I can do to increase my posts in this area. But, I want to keep it fun and not use it as a forum to vent and complain. I want to be as objective as possible when talking about the differences in cultures and these are my personal views and thoughts! This does not mean everyone has to agree with me...I can only write about what I know and that is the US (specifically New York City) and Turkish culture (my life in Istanbul) that I have personally experienced.

I am Turkish - but I'm not! Sure, I was born in Istanbul - both mom and dad are Turkish - dad from small town near Eskişehir and mom's side from Izmit and Crimea, Russia.

I grew up in New York and I'm from the "Brady Bunch", Welcome back Kotter", "Partridge Family" and "Fonzie" era! In a way - I'm playing "guess my age", but since I think that "age" is nothing but a number and what you feel and project are your "true" age, I think we don't need to belabor this point!!!

So, when you take a kid that was brought up on the streets of Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; who lived in Istanbul after graduating from HS (Erasmus Hall) at the tender age of 16 (in 3 1/2 years) and worked as a secretary at Bosphorus University for about 2 - 2.5 years (met some fantastic people then - that's another post!); who then returned to the USA , working and climbing the ladder her entire work career (17 years) in NYC at American Express in downtown and then midtown Manhattan (first Finance and then Establishment Services Sales Division), receiving a degree from NYU by going to school while working; with a 10 year stretch living in Guttenberg, New Jersey (the last 3 in a posh concierge/condo with view of Hudson River and NYC skyline - rented my apartment from my best friend Chrysoula) and then throwing this person back to Istanbul - well, you get an interesting and diverse character/personality!

I can't believe I summarized my life in one paragraph... I did mention in my previous article that I like to write short and sweet! There are still some gaps, but that's from my childhood and not very important to the entire picture.

Once again, I digressed.. but I was just trying to explain why I AM Turkish, but not at the same time! I am very proud of my heritage and I am truly amazed that even though I grew up in NY, I still have lots of my Mediterranean traits! But, then again - NY is a melting pot of all cultures, so I guess this had something to do with it too!

But these two different lifestyles come into conflict at times and the end result can be very funny or sad depending on the circumstance!

Some more examples...

I am fluent in Turkish - I can read and write Turkish and pretty much learned how to read Turkish when I was 9 years old and my dad handed me a Turkish newspaper and said, "read Vildan"! Of course, it wasn't that simple, but eventually I did learn! And.. we always spoke Turkish at home. However, this does not mean that my Turkish is at the same level as Turks who were brought up here. My grammar is still horrible... I do read alot to improve (but do not prefer to read Turkish novels.. I get sidetracked easily!) my Turkish and of course as part of my freelance life, I can easily translate from Turkish to English, but not vice versa. I am still stumped by many words that I might not have used/heard before - especially the more "formal" words. Turkish is not an easy language and has many rules/regulations, but if you are living here, it is always a good idea to take some lessons to at least learn the basics. One little trick... if you learn how to pronounce each of the letters of the alphabet, then you will be able to read Turkish! Every single letter (except for the 'ğ' which is silent) has a specific pronunciation which does not change according to the word - like it can in English.

Turks are really bad at saying "no"... so they don't say anything at all and skirt the issue totally! Let me give you an example that is work-related... you ask he/she to advertise in your magazine... the person in question is a friend... and says "sure, sure" ! So, you send he/she the info, prices, etc. and wait for a respond... 9 times out of 10 - there is no response! You call or email... they either don't pick up the phone or do not respond to your email! I never push my luck when this happens and "realize" this is their version of saying "no" And guess what? The next time you see this person... there is absolutely no mention of the fact that he/she never returned your phone call or email!

Along the lines like the above example... most Turks are really bad at responding to emails! This drives me nuts! The subject matter is not important... but, you need a response... it's common courtesy... and don't get one!!

The Turkish language is a little more formal... and this can be difficult to understand by other cultures. For example, there are different ways of addressing people you know, versus those you don't. Turks are not crazy about too much "familiarity" in conversations. For example... to a friend.. you will say "nasılsın" to say "how are you", but to a person that you don't know or have a more formal relationship with, you would say "nasılsınız". You would never call your boss by their first name, but have to add "hanım" (female) or "bey" (male) after their name according to their gender. There are just tooooo many examples, but the above are just the basic ones.

Turks can be a little over "emotional" at times... and may not be good at some "joking" that is totally appropriate in other cultures. For example, you can make fun of Obama as much as you'd like - even on TV, in print... etc. But, god forbid you try to do the same with any government official in Turkey. At the drop of a hat, they will take you to court for slander! If you make a "bad" comment about a nurse... a taxi driver... etc... the ENTIRE professional group will go up in arms and say that you are putting down EVERYONE in that field! And.. never ever say anything bad about an opposing soccer team to that of your own to a friend/acquaintance who is a fan of the other team... your friendship might get into jeopardy!

Turks can be a little too inquisitive about subjects you might not have even thought of... this has happened to me many times! For example, when I first moved back to Istanbul, I didn't have answers too or ever thought about two specific questions that I was asked over and over again (and still get asked!)They are: "What does Vildan mean" and "Your last name is Yahni - where does this come from?" To be quite frank.. I STILL don't know the answers to both of these questions... except to say that the name "Vildan" is mentioned in the Kuran and since most of my father's side of the family is deceased and I haven't kept in touch with any of my cousins in years (no family problems.. we were just never close because we never lived in the same country or city in Turkey) - so I have no idea why my father's family selected our last name (never thought of asking dad before he passed away in 1992) after the Turkish Republic was formed! One of the things I did find out though is that "Yahni" is a very common last name in the Jewish faith too, but our family is Muslim. One of these days I might research my family tree.. but to be quite frank, it's not on the top of my list!


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