From Nomad's post, Seven Questions For Expats in Turkey:
What are some things you found/find hardest to adapt to?
1) The noise. It's probably just the nature of Istanbul, but things are so freaking noisy here. Perhaps it's a combination of crowds, poorly insulated buildings, and too much concrete. Traffic. Other people's ideas of how loud it's appropriate to be and when. Even out in the 'burbs it's pretty freaking noisy, especially now that we're getting on summer so it seems like every other night there's some nearby event that involves fireworks or blasting obnoxious music. I, like most people, feel that any music I didn't choose is obnoxious so that's a purely subjective term. Now that we're leaving windows open, all the concrete makes people talking or laughing at even normal volume sound like they're right in the room with you.
And actually I'm exaggerating about the fireworks, for this year at least. Last year there were fireworks pretty much every other night. It turns out one of the reasons AKP wasn't re-elected for the district governorship or whatever you call it in English is because the guy spent something like a million dollars of public money on fireworks extravaganzas ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Apparently he wasn't notified how fireworks lose their appeal if they go off ALL THE FREAKING TIME. There must be some Disneyland employees who can attest to this. Oh, and also that AKP guy was unpopular for other acts of corruption he was busted for. One notable example is the public money he took to build a community center, but instead built a dershane with a grocery store and cafe (or Little Caesars or whatever it is this month) underneath. I went to the grocery store once and it sucked. I don't know why they're still in business. It had the narrowest, crookedest aisles ever, and the most nonsensical organization I've ever seen, plus all the vegetables were limp and warm.
Back to the noise. Another thing I can't adjust to is people's speaking volume, especially men. Mostly I don't think people are arguing anymore when they're just talking or even vehemently agreeing with each other, but sometimes I'm still not sure. It's not just me either. The other night in the taxi BE and the driver were vehemently agreeing about politics, and for the whole 15 minutes I was trying to convince LE they weren't mad at each other, with no success.
2) Education and medical care. My issues with doctors and education have been pretty well-covered on the blog. Well, education not so much but I have trouble thinking about it for long without getting extremely upset, especially now that I'm facing having to educate my son here. Or should I say "educate?"
Anyway, I have a theory that no matter where you're from, there are some things you will never find acceptable if they're even the slightest bit different from what you're used to. Medicine and education are some of those culturally ingrained things. It's not like I'm blind to the issues of American medical care or education, so I'm not necessarily endorsing them. It's just that the Turkish way sits so very, very wrong with me in a way the American way doesn't. There's no rational reason-- it just is.
Interestingly, I met several foreign women in the park in the US, and education and medicine were some of things they were having the hardest time dealing with, too. The German woman couldn't stand how doctors seemed so cold and single-minded and interventionist, while the Italian woman hated it that her son's preschool (actually pre-preschool) was spending a lot of time teaching the alphabet and numbers instead of letting the kids play. So there you go. Everyone is right in her way because there is no absolute right in these situations. There is and there isn't, I mean. Pragmatism doesn't matter much when I'm going to be pissed off about my son having to memorize and regurgitate a bunch of un-analysed crap while trying to be noticed and not noticed in his class of 60.
And I still don't get why Religion classes (Sunni religion in most state schools) are required or even allowed in a secular country. It never fails to interest me the different mad ways Americans and Turks contentiously define the separation of church and state. In America, they fight about prayer in schools while in Turkey they fight about religious dress. In America, a church group can meet in a school after hours and everyone is cool with that, but in Turkey I'm pretty sure that's frowned on. Stuff like that. I'm not saying one way is better than another. It's just interesting is all.
3) Being a woman here. I'll never take to that. I don't like what it means to be a woman, or a married woman and I don't like all the tacit limitations on behavior. A "girls' night out" for me will never involve tea and cakes, but the few times I've tried to have a proper one since getting married, there was such petulant resistance from my husband he managed to ruin the fun with his endless phone calls and bitching. It's not like all husbands are this way, but enough are that it's not outside of the norm. I don't like it that BE and his family frown on my having male friends, even gay ones. I don't like it that BE will probably never get his head around why I will never think it's my job to iron his shirts, especially when he's way better and faster at ironing than I am. I don't like it that LE already says to his grandmother, "Don't come to the park with Dede and I. Stay home and make food and tea." I don't like it that BE and the ILs found this delightful (granted, LE said it in a way cuter way than I wrote it, but still). I'll never get used to being the "weaker" sex, requiring men's guidance and protection from the world and from the silly whims of my own mind. Istanbul is way less shitty for women than a lot of other places, but some things are still so ingrained. When I watch "Mad Men," I'm like "I wonder if Turkish people get this?"
4) Living in an apartment building. Hate it. I think it must be the most unnatural human state with people all piled on top of each other like this. It's not a Turkey issue-- it's my issue. I've pretty much always lived in houses with yards. Once I lived in a flat that was one floor of a two-story building, but there was still a yard. And once I lived in an apartment in a converted two-story motel, but at least the insulation was good. I just can't get used to having to be quiet all the time (here after I complained about the noise), like stopping LE from playing loudly in the morning knowing the people downstairs can clearly hear a coin drop on the floor, not to mention a Hot Wheels or a plastic guitar thrown in anger, or a fit of echoing rage in the bathroom at not being allowed to remove the caulking from the shower. I don't like the glowers I'm sure I'm getting from neighbors who don't approve of me disciplining my son, and I don't like that our neighbors know how often BE and I fight or how upset I get when we do. It bothers me to think about what sort of woman they must think I am in light of Number 3, above. And then I get mad that I even have to worry about this shit.
5) Class issues. I think I've covered this elsewhere, but I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of "servants," or that people inherently matter more or less than I do because of how much money they make. I don't like this idea of "the peasantry," which refers to that great mass of people who are considered too mentally feeble to decide even how to vote properly. I know I get really frustrated with the rural folk and how they contend with city stuff like elevators, and yes, I'm guilty of poking fun at them, but deep down I find the whole thing tragic because they had to leave their bucolic lives for this. Like the Oakies chasing the ephemeral California dream, they went from "regular poor" to "fucking poor" with just a geographical shift, and suddenly they were in a place where no one liked them and no one wanted them.
The government can't take care of them properly and nor does it seem to want to except for political lip service and the occasional crumb of charity. The lack of social services here astounds me, and I don't get how it can be lack of money. How much did they spend on flowers along the Sahil Yolu from the airport? How was there so much money to re-pave İstiklal Caddesi not once, but twice? Where do all these mosques keep coming from, especially when we consider the overcrowding of schools? How come the poor only need to get fed for Ramazan and Kurban Bayram? Where did all that earthquake aid money go?
One way that Turkey has it way over America is that the social safety net is much stronger, I think. Americans tend to rely on services while Turks tend to rely on each other. I don't know if Americans relied on each other before there were services, but that doesn't sound very American to me, Teabaggers be damned because I'm sure they'd be the first with their hands out bitching about the services if a tornado hit their town. When I worked in social services, we often talked about people who "fell through the cracks." These were people who couldn't access services for whatever reason, or people who the services couldn't find. That notion was always chilling to me. Here, it seems like it's all cracks. Like, how on earth do the working poor take care of their old and sick people? If I'm poor and you're poor and you come to "visit" me for a week, how should I feed you and your family? And what of the abused women and children?
It's not like I'm such a bleeding heart, but I do spend an awful lot of time wondering how the hell people get by. BE is forever getting mad at me because I keep giving the cleaner raises, plus I give her as much stuff as I can, like extra food and medicine and clothing and toys. It's just that I feel so deeply ashamed of all our stuff every time she comes here, when they're forever running out of bread and cooking fuel. BE doesn't share my shame (though he does feel sorry for them)-- to him it's just that way and there's nothing to be done. He's not particularly religious but I sense a bit of that Allah büyük so what are you gonna do? fatalism of religious countries It's not indolence or stupidity that makes people like my cleaner struggle-- it's a system that decided their fates at birth. Poverty is the same anywhere, of course, but here, the number of poor people and the depth of the poverty really get to me, plus the apparent callousness of the "haves" towards the "have nots." Also it seems to me that class lines are much more rigid than at home, both in terms of people moving up or down, and the extent to which people from different social classes mix with each other.
Anyway, that's probably enough for now. I'm looking forward to your comments, as I'm sure I've missed some stuff and there's probably some other stuff I've gotten completely wrong.