I’ve been meaning to do this for a while actually, and by a while I mean about the past nine months since I’ve been living in Turkey. Work appraisals always flagged up my tendency to put things off until I was really in the mood to do them, which I always rebuffed (when I got round to it) but in all truthfulness it’s a pretty accurate description of me.
School reports mirrored those of my fathers almost identically in saying if I spent as much time applying myself to studying as I did to making people laugh I’d be a genius (ish) but hey you can’t be all things to all people.
My nana always said you should write as if you were talking to the people reading, so if you can picture this being said in a Kentish with a bit of cockney type accent then we’re halfway there.
New start vs Generalised Anxiety Disorder
GAD I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I’m one of life’s worriers. I over think things and have an infuriating tendency to assume the worst will happen or has happened in most if not all situations from making dinner to organising an event to someone not answering a phone call (yep, really). However, I balance this outwardly with what I like to call surface confidence. To look at me and to spend time with me you’d probably think I’ve got it sussed, but to know me and I mean really know me you’ll find the outer layer is like a really good foundation, covers a multitude of imperfections that you feel are glaringly obvious but to others, not so much.
Which is why, me packing up and moving 3000 miles away to a little town called Dalyan in a country I’d visited precisely twice, knew approximately three words of the language and the sum total of two people, to start a whole new life, is in short, pretty unbelievable. And yet April 11th 2017 came around and that’s exactly what I did. Crazy huh.
Even more bizarrely, I can probably say it’s one of if not the best decision I’ve ever made. And trust me I’ve made some questionable ones in my 32 years to put it politely.
The point of this writing is just to get out of my head my findings, and if they help just one person then that’s one more than would have been helped had I kept them there, so that’s fine by me. My Dad always says the longest journey starts with but a single step so here we go. He also says never let the petrol light come on in your car and don’t put more ice cream on the spoon than you can eat in one go but I tend to ignore those ones.
So first things first. Language. I spoke a bit about my feelings on language in an earlier blog post but to reiterate what is now the glaringly obvious, I should have made a much more concerted effort before I came here to at least grasp basic conversational Turkish. I think, on reflection, why I didn’t was the old procrastination rearing its head again. I’ll be living there so I’ll have loads of time, it’ll be easy right? Wrong. Although I have picked up some Turkish, nowhere near where I’d like to be but certainly more than I knew before, not having a basic grasp meant the first few months were at some points incredibly isolated and overwhelming.
Volkan as you know is fluent in English, he’s got a double major and a master’s degree in International Business, Economics and Business Management respectively, which he obtained in the USA amongst many other qualifications and skills. He’s probably the most intelligent person I’ve ever met (excluding you Dad, of course) and I’m in awe of him continually, so us communicating has never been an issue. Where the problem lies is when you’re out with other people.
Having no idea if someone is talking to you or worse, about you, is horrific. You feel totally inferior and in my opinion you feel pretty stupid. It’s embarrassing. Plus there’s the frustration in having to sit through sometimes entire dinners nodding and smiling and then asking the question on the way home, “so what was all that about then?” It’s like watching from the outside of a double glazed window, being part of something physically but not actually contributing in anyway. Which is rubbish really.
So first and foremost my advice would be please, take the time, find the time, make the time, to learn some of the language. Doesn’t need to be dictionary perfect but do make an effort. We expect everyone to speak in English don’t we, and how does that happen? It happens because people take the time to learn it so they can talk to you, to me, to each other. Just give it a go.
My lord the Turkish like their food. They have yoghurt and bread with everything, and chillis and these pickle things are part of the staple daily food intake too. What I previously would have considered to be the strangest combinations are now so deliciously obvious. Eggs and spinach? Why not! When it comes to food I’ve got this absolute hatred of unnecessary eating, and by that I mean eating for the sake of it. I like to eat when I’m hungry, if that’s continually through the day then fine, likewise if it’s not until 10pm at night and then 4pm the following day that’s fine by me too. I can’t stand being told when and what to eat and oh you haven’t eaten today aren’t you hungry? No, no I’m not, if I was I would have eaten, very simple.
I’m also not the most creative of cooks to put it simply. My best friend and I when we lived together used to share the evening meal responsibilities between us- on her nights she’d make these amazing curries from scratch and all these delicious concoctions, on my nights we’d either have ‘cutlery free cuisine’ ( lazy food you can eat with your fingers like nuggets and chips) or chicken in a sauce etc etc. Do not expect lazy cooking here. I’ll admit I’ve found the cheeky English shop which satisfies my need for sharwoods tikka masala sauces and bisto gravy, and one butchers in town has chicken nuggets, but for the most part food is made from scratch, fresh, healthy, and actually meat tends to be the accompaniment as opposed to the main feature point of the meal.
It would be incredibly easy to be vegetarian out here if you were that way inclined, and I don’t think you’d even really miss meat that much as the flavours of everything are just out of this world. The fruit and veg just tastes so totally different and don’t even get me started on the beetroot. That stuff is to die for. Bear in mind before I came here I was convinced I hated aubergine, olives, chickpeas, lentils, the list is endless.
Now, dish them up all day long please, I’m fully converted. Don’t be afraid to try anything and everything put in front of you. Worst that can happen is you don’t like it. The restaurants in Dalyan are outstanding as a rule and I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad meal out anywhere I’ve been.
Ha ha ha ha. It’s almost a swear word over here. I’m a planner, well at least I was. I think we tend to live a life run by the clock waiting for something. We check the time to see how long we’ve got before we have to start waiting for the next thing to happen. Here, none of that. The closest you tend to get to a firm arrangement is see you this afternoon/evening etc. The actual time within that bracket is irrelevant.
If the ‘plan’ is I’ll see you this afternoon if I see you at 1 or I see you at 5 it’s the same thing as they’re both in the afternoon, and if you’re not around when I come I’ll just come back another time, no big deal. That’s how it works here. If you invite people for dinner there’s none of this arrive for 7.30, drinks and chit chat until dinner is served at 8.15 and we all sit down together, oh no. If you invite someone for dinner here it’s pretty much a literal you will eat dinner at my house.
So you make food when you want it and people come when they come and eat it. No more complicated than that. I do miss the formality sometimes of a good old dinner plan – having people over for dinner or going out for food I’ve always viewed as a special occasion, something to look forward to as a social thing – but Turkish people are so much more hospitable and social than us Brits as a rule; it’s refreshing to just go with the flow and that be the norm. If you go to the extreme and spend some time in the villages experiencing real traditional Turkish Village Life (which in my humble opinion is really something that should be on your to do list whilst you’re here) then that is a real eye opener which seriously brings into question the need for the all singing all dancing technology and gadgets so many of us have these days, but I digress – that’s a story for another day.
Lack of planning still frustrates the hell out of me sometimes though, anxiety means for me I like to know where I’m going and what I’m doing and when but that’s just not compatible with the way things are here so I’m learning to adapt, slowly but surely. I’ll get there. Eventually. So my final pearl of wisdom for now is if you move here, don’t expect the way of life to be anything like you’re familiar with. Don’t fight it, just let it be what it is and go with it. No one else around you will be stressed or worried that the rice boiled an hour ago and is now getting cold so why should you be? Rice is nice cold anyway 🙂
‘Til next time folks
PS. Whilst we’re on the subject of not knowing things, I bet you won’t know most of these either…..