7 Myths about Turkey that are not true

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.

  1. Everyone wears a headscarve

    Bildergebnis für kopftuchträger in der türkei
    tagesanzeiger.ch

    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.

  2. Vegetarians and Vegans have to stay hungry

    Bildergebnis für vegan turkish food
    Source: ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com

    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.

  3. The president will arrest every tourist

    Bildergebnis für erdogan
    Source: freiewelt.net

    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.

  4. Turkey has a problem with Kurds

    Bildergebnis für Kurds in turkey
    Source: vocativ.com

    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.

  5. It’s dangerous to go out at night

    Ähnliches Foto
    Source: famoushostels.com

    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.

  6. Turkish girls are not allowed to have a boyfriend

    Ähnliches Foto
    Source: pinterest.com

    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.

  7. Marriages are arranged

    Ähnliches Foto
    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.

  8. Alcohol is prohibited

    Bildergebnis für raki sofrasi
    Source: youtube.com

    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.

  9. Turkish people are arabic

    Bildergebnis für arab turks
    Source: quora.com

    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!

Merveille.

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7 Myths about Germany that are not true

Lately, I have been struggling to live in Germany. A lot of the things really annoy me here since I have been back from China, and I am in a constant state of wanderlust. Still, Germany is the country I was born and grew up in, and this past year I got to explore a lot of amazing german cities and most of them were pretty amazing. So I thought I would show some “Heimatliebe” (home country love) and debunk some of the most common myths about my home country.

  1. All Germans are Nazis
    Bildergebnis für er ist wieder da
    Source: constantin-film.de

    Of course, there is the NPD (the nationalists party) in Germany that is actually a legal party that can be elected into the Bundestag, and I guess there are many Nazis all around the world (I am looking at you America!), still I would say that this is not true about Germany. We have racist and intolerant people everywhere, the more fascist people demonstrate on the streets, the more people will oppose them in bigger numbers to celebrate culture and international influences. I did experience my share of every day intolerance in Germany about my turkish background, but nowadays, I am trying to get over it as long as I am not being insulted or physically threatened.

  2. The trains are efficient and always on time
    Bildergebnis für deutsche bahn
    Source: stern.de

    Many foreigners think that the train system is as good as the car manufacturing in Germany, but I have to disappoint you: The trains are always late, drive rarely, are dirty, always have technical issues, and they are more expensive than taking the frigging plane! I just hate these trains by now! I had been taking them for around 5 years now, almost every day, and they have been annoying me so much! They are actually one of the reasons I wanna leave this country :’D

  3. Germans walk around in leather pants and Dirndl every day
    Ähnliches Foto
    dw.com

    The only time germans (and with this, I don’t mean ALL germans. Some of them don’t like these clothes at all) will wear their traditional clothes is at the octoberfest or spring fest, or on occasional festivities.

  4. Germans only drink beer and eat sausage
    Bildergebnis für german beer and sausage
    LifestyleAsia.com

    Okay, germans do eat a lot of sausage and beer counts as a full meal in some south german cities. But there are actually a lot of vegetarians and vegans here, and many people (guys included) who would rather drink wine or a fizzy cocktail than beer. Many girls prefer white wine over beer and I have met some guys who’d rather drink a cocktail than a beer, especially during parties in big clubs. Beer is more of a relax/barbeque/football drink.

  5. Germans don’t shave
    Bildergebnis für german women dont shave
    Source: everydayfeminism.com

    If you go to Berlin, you might find a lot of “hairy” women who pretend to shave just as a rebellious act against sexist social norms set towards women and how society thinks they should look like. Then again, there are a lot of people from different backgrounds living in Berlin, and because of its liberal, queer mindset, Berlin might be one of the most tolerant cities around the world, both towards foreigners and gay/queer/trans people. If I look at a normal german suburban town like the one I am living at, it’s the exact opposite: If I were to walk around with unshaved legs and armpits, people would give me looks. Everyone in Germany is shaved! This myth has been formed in the 80s when feminism was born and the free body culture was gaining popularity, which leads me to the next myth:

  6. Germans only go to FKK beaches (nude beaches)
    Ähnliches Foto
    haveltourist.de

    Germans can be very tolerant when it comes to being natural and accepting nudity. There are actually a lot of nude beaches and thermal baths that have textile free days and hours, but there are many young germans who can’t cope with this situation here either. I feel like it’s more the older generation that practices this or new-age hippies. Also in changing rooms of fitness studios, you will see middle aged women walking around naked with a bush while young girls will cover up and try to get dressed with their towel still covering them.

  7. Everyone drives the newest car
    Bildergebnis für deutsche autos
    Source: autobild.de

    It is quite true that germans love their cars, man and woman alike. They probably love their cars more than beer and sausage. But not everyone drives a Benz here. And not everyone has the newest model. Especially beginners will start with an older car to lower the costs in case of a small accident. And there are also people who don’t have enough money or don’t wanna spend their money on the newest car every half a decade. As much as germans love their cars, they love their environment a little bit more and will keep their car for years, giving it to their kids when they’re older, instead of buying a new one.

And this was everything that I could debunk about german myths. I am sure there are at least as much more as the ones I mentioned. If you have any in your mind, don’t be shy to ask me in the comments.

I hope you liked this post!

Thanks for reading!

Merveille.

5 Myths about China that are not true

1. Everyone eats dog meat

IMG_20150723_101435
A dog enjoying the calmness of that dirty river :’D

It’s true that there is a dog meat festival in a village in Guilin. These people are definitely the cruelest, dumbest, most ignorant and evil people in this world. Seriously, how can you possibly tortue and then eat a dog??!?!!?!??
Yes, this festival is a reality in China, but it’s the exception. I have never seen anyone eat dog meat where I lived in China. I also don’t know anyone of my friends who tried it or seen dog meat being offered anywhere.
Of course I am not trying to deny that this behavious exists in China, but it is also not true that everyone in China eats dog. It’s rather more common to see dogs being kept as pets now, and they seem to be more popular than cats. There are also more people protesting against the dog meat festival every year. So I hope that after a few years, the government will actually do something to ban it for good.

2. You will return with lung cancer

20160214_121031_Richtone(HDR)
That day the smog in Shanghai was stronger than on other days.

Another misconception that many people get after watching the news too much. Again, I am not trying to deny the fact that the air is polluted, but it is by far not as bad as you see in media. Of course, when you happen to live in Beijing, it is more serious, but if you happen to live in any other city, you won’t see the smog as often as you feared. I was living in small town close to Shanghai, and the only times it was really smoggy were the 2 or 3 days after Christmas.
December is a very bad time to visit China, because the pollution is gonna be the strongest. Since winter is really hard in the north, heating will go up during the cold months. The eastern and southern parts of China don’t have central heating since there is basically only one month of proper cold weather. Still, the smog from Beijing wanders east to Shanghai and the cities around it. I did wake up to a smoggy morning and I just cried in my bed. I didn’t know what to do other than wear a face mask.
Still, this only lasted a few days. The other days were maybe only a little bit more polluted than the weather here in Germany. No city nowadays is 100% clean. I guess you’d have to live up on a mountain or by the beach to have clear and clean air.

3. Street food is not safe

IMG_20160324_230513
Some fatty but yummy street food in Xi’An

Totally wrong! Street food is in most cases even safer and cleaner than restaurant food. You can actually see all the ingredients and how they cook it, so they can’t trick you. Also, most locals get streetfood on an almost daily basis, so don’t worry. It seriously is restaurant food that you should be worried about. Behind closed doors, those cooks use MSG and used oil and what else we can only guess about.
Street food is the safest option in Asia in my opinion.

4. Everyone is rude

IMG_20160604_152028
Some frown, some laugh.

I hear a lot of tourists and travellers complain about how rude chinese people are. I can see how that happens though. I also had my share of chinese rudeness, but it was mostly some mean taxi drivers refusing to take us because we were not chinese, or couldn’t speak the language, or didn’t have the adress in chinese characters. Other than those evil taxi drivers, I mostly met the nicest people on earth. When I was lost, there were people who would get out of their ways to help me. Once, a girl even took us all the way to our hostel although it was raining outside. Not only young people, but also older people are so nice when they see you are lost. They are actually the ones who will understand your broken mandarin the best :’D
Also, when you plan to go to China, you should get ready to learn at least some basic sentences in mandarin. People will appreciate it and they will be more eager to help you out. Actually, this is something you should do for every country you visit. In the end, you are the visitor.

5. It’s a communist country

IMG_20160313_234626
Mao is watching you

Of course, the party that rules the country of China is a communist party. Still, chinese people must be the most capitalist nation I have seen. They are addicted to shopping and real estates as well as tourism. China is a rising star, and without a capitalist concept, it would have never become the most powerful developping country.
I would describe China as a perfect mixture between communism and capitalism. I am sure, that the political situation in China will eventually get better and better after the following years to come. I kind of feel like China might be the next super nation since the US is doomed with Donald Trump :’D
Anyway, what I wanna say is that the political situation in China is actually not as bad as others imagine it to be.

So these were the most crucial myths people know about China before actually visiting. If you visit a country with specific misconpetions already floating around in your head beforehand, then it is quite certain that these things will actually happen.

So please, wherever you go, let go of your prejudice and enjoy the place in its purity!

Merveille.