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We will send regular newsletters to our members who have signed up for receiving it during the registration. In 'mymerhaba' newsletter, our editorial staff provides updates, with regard to any information related to places worth visiting, viewing, or otherwise worth knowing, for those who care to know more....

Anke from Kemerburgaz

 Untitled Document

Thanks to Anke for sharing her experience in Turkey with us.

Tell us about yourself
Born in what was then East Germany, I didn't stay put there for long. Studies took me to Moscow first and to America after the Berlin wall came down. There, I met my Turkish husband back in 1993 while we were both grad students. After four years of university teaching and another seven in Human Resources at a small Turkish bank in the Netherlands, I am now a stay-at home mom.

What made you come to Turkey?

Mostly the desire not to have our daughter grow up in the cultural vacuum of a "third" country. Germany was never an option for us. Being East German, the new reunified Germany has never really felt "home" even to me. Plus, my husband is generally more "rooted" in his country than I ever was, anywhere, so the long-term perspective was always Istanbul. It feels a little like this is real life now, everything else was just a preparation somehow.

What do you do in your daily life?
Making a home for my family, doing sports and all the things I never had time for when I was working. Watching my daughter grow up fills my life with joy. Maintaining and promoting her German against the onslaught of Turkish (in the family) and English (at school), requires my full attention. I have been at home for about a year now and have yet to be bored once.

Family?
My husband and our four-year old daughter, and finally grandma and grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins close enough for weekend visits!

Can you compare your first days here with today?

We arrived here at the end of 2004, but Turkey was by no means an unknown entity to me even then. We had visited several times a year when living in the Netherlands, and working in a Turkish-owned company with a large majority of Turkish staff (as personnel manager no less) had left me quite familiar with the people and the mentality. In the meantime, of course, we have found our own rhythm here, and our social circle has expanded, but I don't have this huge "thank God I'm getting to know things a bit" feeling, because this process took place for me nearly unnoticed over 10 years while still "safely" living abroad.

Has living in Turkey influenced your approach to life?
If I am honest, no, not really. I am still the same easygoing, globally-minded person I used to be. I may have picked up some of the local slightly fatalistic outlook though; for example, my approach to traffic jams has never been more quietly resigned than it is now. Though on second thought, this might be driven more by the fact that I am not working now and rarely have to be anywhere on a schedule.

Turkish language?
I was already speaking Turkish quite comfortably when we got here (Turkish husband and Turkish employer - I really had no choice but to pick it up somehow) and have improved by daily practice. This is something I am really grateful for. I can't imagine having to handle the 1001 little things that have to be organized when setting up a new home and not being able to communicate with the people concerned - especially the ones doing the actual job, as in, the handyman or the lady making the curtains. I still leave the tough negotiations to my husband, but this is more a cultural than a language handicap at this point I think.

Let's talk about the region you are living in?
We live in Göktürk, a village in the green suburbs of Istanbul which has seen a lot of development over the past years. Traffic has been getting worse accordingly, but once you are here it really still is an oasis of peace and quiet in many ways. In the hot season, it feels like living in a summer house, and my daughter barely wore shoes during her last big vacation. (I prefer not to think about the winter here right now, having just left behind a season of more slush and school closings than can be good for one's mental health...)

Have you traveled in Turkey? Tell us your discoveries

I'm afraid we are no great adventurers, just your regular summerhouse and hotel vacationers, so noting much exciting here. We regularly spend a week or two in Ayvalik during the summer - cold sea, great fish and toast and olives. Bozcaada last year was a treat, but since it was all over the papers and magazines all season long, I am afraid it is becoming too popular for its own good. Years ago we traveled to Kapadokya in winter, and we were spellbound - a fairytale, really. On the other hand, skiing Uludag during bayram is something we did once and swore never to repeat - you spend more time in the lift queue than actually on skis.

What is your preferred characteristic trait of Turks?

Exceptional warmth, hospitality and genuine caring about the other person - family, neighbors, kids, strangers. When my neighbor, who is probably past 70, sends me asure and good-humoredly scolds me for making something for her in return because "we're all family" it warms my heart.

What was the annoying one?
In a way, the same one. It can sometimes turn into a fussiness that makes the rational-minded, sober sort-of-German that I am, cringe. Think "Oh my God, just be sure the little one doesn't catch a cold" (the little one is eight and can barely move because of several layers of clothing plus hat and scarf, while the temperature is 15 degrees above - Celsius, not Fahrenheit mind you). I may be exaggerating a little but you get the general idea. Plus, they can be pretty hung up on national ideas, historical insults and things like that. Then again, a lot of Germans I know will split a restaurant bill down to the penny strictly by who ate what, so who am I to complain about fussiness, right?

Turkish Cuisine?
I adore a big portion of it - unfortunately, that would be the more fattening bits, like böreks and kebaps, pilavs and manti. Though on second thought, I also love most of the hot vegetable dishes, and fish and meze. Well, actually, I am a fan of almost everything except anything "zeytinyagli" (especially dolma) - to my taste, veggies ought to be either cooked and HOT or cold and RAW. I have been known to secretly microwave my mum-in-law's zetinyagli biber dolmasi (for newcomers: rice-stuffed green peppers in olive oil, to be emphatically eaten cold) so as to enjoy them hot for lunch the day after the big family gathering.

Any suggestion to new comers to Turkey?
Learn as much Turkish as you can at the highest possible speed, it will make a world of difference for your comfort. It's been like this for me, and I probably live in one of the most cosmopolitan neighborhoods in all of Turkey, it must be even more important elsewhere. Also, especially if you are from Europe: learn to delegate whatever you can afford to delegate. Unlike many places back in Germany or Holland (less true for the US), a professional manicure here neither requires an appointment, nor does it cost a fortune, and most importantly, it does not usually make you wish you'd done it yourself because the execution is sloppy. Same goes for carwashes, odd jobs around the house (get a recommendation from someone you trust though on this last one) and then some. Especially important in this respect: if you can afford it at all, consider professional help with things like customs formalities for your stuff, residence permits etc. - the cost is a bargain compared to the time and nerves you have to invest in doing these yourself.

Any suggestion to people planning to visit your region?

Assuming my region to mean greater Istanbul: do come to visit, it's a great place to be. Bring a lot of curiosity and wonder (for the sights) and patience (for the traffic) and you should be fine. If you expect more modern urban chaos and less 1001 night you'll be surprised how much of the latter you'll still encounter. Whenever we want to feel like a tourist in what has now become "our" city again, we spend a Saturday morning at the Grand Bazaar and/or the Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Bazaar) - they still are a different world.




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Latest comments about this article

 By Peter Starr  25.12.2013

Dear Anke, Would you be interested in work involving German into English translation for Prof. Fuat Sezgin? Saygilarimla. Dr. Peter Starr [email protected] Fuat Sezgin Research Institute for the History of Science in Islam

Would you like to add your comment about this article? Click here!


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