Since I have made two posts about common myths in Germany and China, it’s now time to continue this with Myths about Turkey.
Some of you might know that I am of turkish heritage. My parents were both born in Turkey, but moved to Germany to work. Of course, they have built their life here, so there was no reason for them to go back to Turkey. Me and my siblings, we were all born and grew up here in Germany. Still, we always had to be confronted with misconceptions people had about Turkey and turkish people, according to what they were hearing and reading in media, which mostly is not true. I have chosen the most common misconceptions about Turkey and turkish people and its culture to debunk it once and for all.
Everyone wears a headscarve
The headscarve or the hijab are, of course, a part of the turkish culture. Some wear it, most people do not. Nowadays, many people get the feeling that more and more women are being forced to wear the hijab, because they wrongly assume that the turkish president is forcing women to cover up. This is not true at all! The only difference he has done for hijabi women is giving them more rights. Before he was president, girls and women wearing a hijab were by law excluded from education and work life. This was sexism at its best, and Erdogan has changed it. He had given girls wearing a hijab the right to educate themselves. It is also a fact that many girls were forced by their parents to cover up. Giving them the right of education has prevented them from being forced to get married at a young age, and given them the independence of getting a job and deciding whether to wear the hijab or not.
So please, do not discriminate a turkish or another muslim woman who wears the hijab out of belief. This does not mean that they are uneducated. Most of the time, hijabi women are even more educated than non-hijabi women, since education was not always a privilege for them.
Vegetarians and Vegans have to stay hungry
To all my vegetarian and vegan friends who plan to travel to Turkey: Do not worry at all! The most amazing dishes in Turkey are actually the vegan ones! So get ready to indulge in some of the most amazing food your palate will ever taste!
Of course, Turkey has a lot of meaty, milky dishes and they use a lot of dairy products to accompany their non-dairy dishes (Yoghurt is life!), but the turkish cuisine is richer than you think. There are as many veg dishes as there are meaty dishes. Some of them are the most exquisite dishes ever! Including filled wine leaves (with rice and herbs), lentil balls, various, meat-free aubergine dishes, filled bell peppers (also with rice, herbs and tomatoes), various other lentil dishes, dishes including beans of all sorts, chickpeas and peas, vegetarian dumplings and turkish pizza, and many many more that I don’t even know about.
The president will arrest every tourist
The turkish president has probably been one of the most spoken about politicians in the last year, especially with the coup d’etat last July, the political environment in Turkey has taken yet another course in history. This was a reason for the president to arrest a lot of people who had high positions in the sections of military, law, police, media etc. Especially the amount of journalists that are sitting in turkish prisons has made foreign tourists spectical about travelling to Turkey. Also in Germany, the media kept on telling german people not to travel to Turkey, which is utter bullshit! So let me tell you this: You do not have to be afraid of travelling around Turkey. As long as you have not published a criticizing article about Erdogan or his party, you can roam around the country as you please. No one will hurt or arrest you if you respect the law.
Turkey has a problem with Kurds
This is a very sensitive topic, and I am a little bit worried about writing this. But I do know some things about this issue. There is quite a high percentage of Kurds in Turkey who speak the language and also identify themselves as turkish citizens. Then there is the PKK, the Kurdish worker party, at least that’s how they are officially named. However, this party has caused a lot of tumult in Turkey over the last few decades. They are more commonly known as a terrorist group by now, who are fighting against Turkey and for a free Kurdistan (which does not exist on the map). So they basically want to split the eastern part of Turkey and make it their own country. And the PKK wants to reach this with violence. There have been hundreds of thousands people killed over the last 2 or 3 decades and still there does not seem to be a solution to this problem. What makes it worse is that a lot of western media outlets display the PKK as a righteous party that is being oppressed by the turkish government. All I can tell you is not to believe everything you hear on media and inform yourselves about any topic. Here is a link to a great article about this topic and other myths in Turkey.
It’s dangerous to go out at night
Many people who have never been to Turkey think that it is dangerous to go out at night in Turkey. They argue that the islamic mindset makes people very disapproving of clubs and parties. But this mindset might only be true in the eastern part of Turkey. In the major big cities and beach resort towns, nightlife is bustling and the streets usually start to fill up after 10pm. Public transport is efficient, taxis are cheap and locals are usually very nice and polite, so there is nothing to scared of. Still, in big cities like Istanbul, you should do your research about the neighbourhoods to avoid, because just like in any other major big city, there are shady, dangerous side streets as well. But as long as you do your research and take care, you do not have to worry.
Turkish girls are not allowed to have a boyfriend
This is a prejudice that I am confronted with quite often when I date. Guys usually assume that they can’t approach me because I am turkish. And if they found out about my turkish background later on, they will always ask the typical question: “Are you allowed to have a boyfriend?” This pisses me off extremely, and the reason why I have never had a serious relationship is not because of my parents, but because of the misconceptions of german/western guys.
Especially nowadays, turkish people are more open to relationships which is also influenced a lot by turkish drama series where love is always the main topic (as you can see on the picture which is from a popular turkish TV show). PDA and sexual topics are still a taboo, but if you ever go to Turkey, you can see loads of young couples on dates.
Marriages are arranged
In the past, the bride and groom saw each other for the first time when he lifted her veil at the wedding ceremony. Nowadays, arranged marriages are slowly disappearing, but it’s still happening, in cities, villages, towns and valleys, but in a more liberal way. Young people are usually being arranged at other people’s weddings where the cousin of the aunt of the mother knows some other far relative of a young, single woman and arranges them to meet and go on dates and so on. Still, a high percentage of young turks is meeting at school or at work, some even online or during parties. And as you could read unter the first point of this post, another big group of forced marriage is dwindling. Including child marriage, which is now against the law and can be punished with a prison penalty.
Alcohol is prohibited
There are some new restrictions about buying and consuming alcohol in public, but Turkey is still a country that has its own national alcoholic beverage which is Raki. It is a spirit made out of Anis and grapes. It is one of the alcoholic beverages with the highest percentage of alcohol. That’s why it is typically mixed with water. People love to drink this while eating dish or a various selection of meze platters. If you ever happen to be in Turkey, do not miss out on this activity, ideally with some locals that you know and some live music.
Turkish people are arabic
Many western people assume that turkish people are part of the arabic heritage which is not exactly true. Most arab countries like Egypt, UAE, Iran, Iraq etc are homogeneous which means that they didn’t have many influences from different cultures. Turkey, on the other hand is a country with a mixture of different ethnological backgrounds, from greeks, jews, arabs, mongols, uzbeks, various balkan countries, and even jews. Not all turks have dark hair and dark skin. There are many blond, blue-eyed turkish people living in Turkey, and the majority of turkish people are brunette with a wheat-coloured skin tone. The religion, and some dishes are the only things that arabs and turks have in common.
As you can see, this post has gotten rather long. Of course, the reason for this is that as a turkish person living in a western country, I haven been personally confronted with most of these misconceptions directly. Most of the time it is annoying, and I realize more and more how ignorant people are about foreign cultures. It also made me stronger and gave me a stronger identity of my turkish heritage that I am proud of.
What I can say to everyone reading this is: Do not believe in myths and misconceptions about any culture. Do your own research, read more articles, blog posts, talk to locals, and travel to these places, not as tourists but as adventurers. This is the best thing to prevent racism, intolerance and ignorance!
I hope you enjoyed this!
Thanks for reading! And see you next time!