Even though many Europeans consider the touristic cities at the Mediterranean Sea as ‘Western’ and, therefore, as an extension of their own country – which is true to a certain extent, as you can talk in any language you desire with the local population – there are some striking differences between the ‘real’ Turkey and Western Europe.
Foremost, it could well be possible that the Turkish people have coined the word ‘relax’. If I am late for class in the Netherlands I have the tendency to speed walk in order to minimize the damage of being late. The students in Turkey consider rushing to be on time a ridiculous phenomenon. This meant that in the first couple of weeks I came to class completely exhausted from the intense power walk, and my fellow students arrived – with a relaxed vibe – five minutes later. When I witnessed that the teacher did not mind at all (most probably because they are not always on time either), I decided to adopt that relaxed vibe. Even after two months – as an example of excellent integration – it is impossible for me to arrive on time.
In Turkey, football can be considered a national sport in which men and women participate. You mean that they play football with 35 degrees outside? No, of course not. There seems to be a natural allergy for sports in this country. However, most people are really fanatic when it comes to watching football. Choosing the club you support is a lifelong decision and it needs to be carefully taken. The interesting thing is that the major rivalry in Ankara is based on either supporting Galatasaray or Fenerbahçe: two clubs from Istanbul. On the day of the match Galatasaray versus Real Madrid, the whole city coloured red and yellow, including t-shirts, scarves and flags. In the evening the streets were astonishingly empty as every football fan reserved a table in a café to watch the game. The supporters were devastated after the defeat, and the day after could be characterized as a national day of mourning.
Another – very welcomed – Turkish habit is to eat all day long. Breakfast at 2 pm, lunch at 11 am or dinner at 10 pm? Problem yok. On every corner of the street you can buy Turkish food such as kebab, gözlemeor poğaça. This means that bringing your own lunch (which must be so Dutch) is – like long-term planning – unnecessary. Just eat whenever you feel like eating, with whoever is around and whatever you desire.
Turkey can be characterized as a country where Western values meet Arab traditions. And especially these Arabic elements make it such an experience. Just keep in mind that it is very unwise to ask a football fan why he enjoys watching ’22 men running after a ball’. When you insult football, you have touched the core of their identity.