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!
During my time in China, I always heard my friends telling me that I was “so chinese“, because of the things I said or did. It’s funny though, because some of those things I have already been doing before I even came to China. They were the outcomes of how my parents educated me, my background of the turkish culture, and my physical circumstances.
But there are also some thoughts and actions that I adapted into my life after my time in China.
Here are 8 signs that I’m turning chinese:
Whipping eggs with chopsticks
I definitely adapted to this behaviour after having lived in China. Before, I only saw my vietnamese friend doing this, but I never gave it a thought. When living in China, I always had eggs for breakfast, basically every day. We also didn’t have a whip, so I used the chopsticks just as my friends were doing it. And I have to say, it is way more effective.
Not drinking ice cold drinks
I already tried to avoid ice cold drinks even before I came to China, because I am a person who can get easily sick from ice cold drinks. Every time I complained about ice cold drinks in China, my western friends would look at me with big eyes and say: “Merve, you are so chinese.” :’D When I was in China, I realized how much they are afraid of cold things such as drinks and ice cream. Drinking hot water in summer is a very common thing there, and I actually like it and think that chinese people really know how to take care of their health.
Missing Squat Toilets
Now, you might think I am crazy to be misssing squat toilets, the nightmare of many laowais travelling and living in China and other Asian countries. But let me say one thing guys: Some of them might look and smell disgusting, but they are soooo much better for your health. It is so unhealthy to press your “number 2” out of your body by sitting upright, than for it just to come out naturally through squatting. It sounds funny to talk about these kind of things, but it’s important to be aware of your poo and the way it is pressed out :’D
Please tell me in the comments about what you think about this. I’d be interested. #pootalk
Being afraid of loosing face
First of all, you have to know what it means in chinese culture. It is not just being embarrassed, but also trying to avoid the embarrasment of other people (colleagues, friends, family). So it is not only important to save your own face, but also the face of the other person. So if you have done a mistake at work, your boss would never dare telling you the mistakes in your face. That would be an embarrassment for you, as well as an uncomfortable situation for himself. Because of this losing face philosophy, there is a lot of misunderstanding in the working environment. Still, I like this concept, and I have always behaved like this actually. I always felt uncomfortable criticizing other people. I came to understand that I might be unable to fully criticize someone in a negative way. Also at work, when I see a colleague having a hard time with another colleague, I would always have the urge to help them or make them feel comfortable again. I am also someone who could never say directly what I don’t like about the other person (except when I am hungry :’D), not because I am afraid of that person fighting with me back or insulting me, no, but simply just because I would be ashamed of myself to embarass another person just like that, in this case, to make them loose face.
This also is something that I haven’t just learned in China. This has a lot to do with my upbringing. It actually might not be a typical way of turkish upbringing, since many turkish people can be very direct and aggressive, but just the combined characterstics of my parents contributed to this behaviour of mine. Maybe my parents are secretly chinese (with my mom’s looks, it would even be possible :’D)
Tell me what you think about this theory of losing face, and how you behave in cases like these.
Taking photos of everything
This has also been one of my most favourite past times even before living in China. I actually felt like fitting in when I saw all the other chinese people around me taking pictures of their food and stuff :’D I truly felt like I belonged.
Again, I have always been a very loud person when it came to speaking and laughing, and just making noises in general. So when I started living in China, I didn’t stand out anymore :’D Everyone else was just as loud as me.
Thank you, please
I might appear as rude when I don’t always say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ to everyone. My friends noticed that all the time at the dining table for example and pointed it out. I told them that I didn’t realize I kept on forgetting it. When I explained that in turkish culture, you don’t really use these phrases when talking to your close family and friends, our chinese friend agreed and told us that it’s similar in chinese cuture as well. They sound too formal to use with your friends and family. Still, I am always reminding myself at least to say thank you more often to my colleagues.
Slurping hot drinks
Chinese people make a lot of noises when eating and drinking. I know a lot of people who get annoyed by that. I am luckily not bothered so much, since I have to commit to doing one of these noises as well, which is slurping hot drinks or soup. For me, this had nothing to do with a cultural background. It’s just that my mouth is very sensitive to any temperature, so when I am drinking something hot, I have to slurp it to prevent my tongue from getting burned. I guess chinese people do it for the same reason. Or maybe for the reason that japanese people slurp their ramen: because they say it tastes better :D
That’s it! I’m on the right way to become chinese. I think if I should return to live in China again one day, I will probably even adapt more manners.
What about you guys, is there anything mentioned above that can be applied to your behaviour as well? Let me know below!
The letter I was probably the easiest to do so far, with so many places that are very very high on my travel list. Let’s begin!
1. Country: Indonesia
Indonesia is second place on my travel list right now, right after Japan. There are so many beautiful places to see on this island country, that consist of seventeen thousand islands in total. So, you can imagine the range of beauty here.
Here are all the places I wanna see in Indonesia:
Ubud is famous for its lush rice terraces surround every hotel, restaurant, cafe or any other location you go to.
In Bali, you can do anything you want: Living in beautiful villas, hang out on paradise-like beaches, eat healthy and delicious food, visit rice terraces, pet adorable, wild animals, and more.
Seminyak also belongs to Bali, as well as Ubud, and is famous for hip and beautiful locations. It might be the more upper-class part of Bali as I heard, so if you wanna have a fancy vacation, you should book a hotel here.
This swing in Gili Trawangan has become extremely famous on social media platforms now, and I think many people come to Gili mainly to see this speciality. But the Gili Islands have way more to offer than just this swing.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving are popular activities in Indonesia, especially in Gili Air, and are definitely on my Bucket list.
In Java, you can visit rice terraces, beaches, as well as its famous volcanoes and the craters, just like this one, the kawah putih (white crater) which is actually a crater lake and it just looks mesmerizing.
One more famous sight is the temple Borobudur which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are actually some pretty amazing beaches in Sumatra which should not be missed when in Indonesia.
You have probably seen this pink beach somewhere on instagram, and now I can tell you that it’s located in Lombok. The colour looks so strong and deep, almost like a Lush bath bomb.
By the way, you can reach all three Gili Islands by boat from Lombok, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
I will stop here with all the painfully beautiful beaches, or I will just book my next vacation to Indonesia :’D
Anyway, it’s definitely a great way for me to keep track of all the places I want to see in one place, and I can always come back to this post when I seriously plan to travel to a specific country on my travel list. I actually wanted to include some pictures of Indonesian food, since I have only heard good things about it, but I won’t do it now, or else the post will be too long.
Plus, I wanted to add that the people of Indonesia are known to be one of the friendliest and laid back ones. I myself have met two people from Indonesa, a good friend of mine from uni and my current co-worker, and they are all such kind, fun and down-to-earth people.
2. City: Istanbul
“If the earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Istanbul is probably the only famous city in Turkey that I haven’t visited yet, and it makes me so angry and frustrated. All my turkish friends tell me that I can’t be a true turk if I haven’t visited this city, and they might be right. From all the cities on my travel list, Istanbul is very high on my list. Here are some reasons why.
This is the living proof for the connection between two continents, and you should definitely have glimpse at it from a far, or even take a bus ride across it. Also a must-do, is a boat ride along the bosphorus to admire all the residences located at the shore of the sea.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque/Blue Mosque
This mosque has established itself to the most popular landmark of Istanbul, and has a very significant importance in Ottoman history.
The inside of this mosque is a dream for any architecture-enthusiast, with its huge dome and the blue stained glasses from the rooftiles. It looks magical, and I can only imagine what a goose-bumpy experience it would be to be inside this mosque.
The former greek, byzantine church that was famous for the old city of Constantinople, has been turned into a mosque when Constantinople has been renamed Istanbul. It’s been turned into a mosque, but now serves as a museum.
Topkapi Saray/Topkapi Palace
Probably the most famous palace in Turkey, has been the main residence of the sultans of the ottoman empire. It doesn’t have a breathtaking view from the outside, but looks incredible beautiful on the inside. Definitely worth a visit if you wanna see something less touristy in Istanbul.
This place looks like something out of a greek mythology. It is said to be a sunken palace, and actually has some elements of greek mythology hidden inside, like the head of Medusa. A very impressive sight, and should definitely be on your Istanbul list.
If you have ever wondered what this tower here is, that is seen on basically every Istanbul picture, it’s easy to answer: It’s the Galata Tower. It is said to be used as a lighthouse which would make sense since it is high up on a hill and oversees the harbour.
Another famous tower, or rather a lighthouse, in Istanbul is the maiden tower which is located on a small island in the middle of the sea. It has always reminded me of the tower of Rapunzel, and since then, I have always wished of visiting that place.
The Grand Bazaar
Your trip to Istanbul would be inclomplete without going shopping at the Grand Bazaar. Trust me, you haven’t been to turkey, if you haven’t really visited an authentic bazaar.
This is the place to be if you want to have a snack – THE snack! Balik ekmek, a.k.a. fish sandwich. It is the must eat thing in Istanbul, even before kebab. And you have to eat it here at Eminönu, where they catch the fish fresh out the sea, grill it, and serv it to you in an instant. And then, with the view across the Bosphorus, you can enjoy your little delicious snack and dream of the next time you visit Istanbul.
If you want to know more about turkish food, check out this informative post on Buzzfeed to have a little introduction to turkish cuisine.
It’s finally not only the sights that make many people lose their hearts in Istanbul, but the overall atmosphere and the feeling that you get in this city that is on two continents, is surrounded by two different seas, and has been influenced by european, asian, and arabic history over the past 2000 years.
3. UNESCO World Heritage Sight: Ibiza Biodiversity and Culture
Ibiza is not only famous for its parties, but also for its natural diversity which is obviously amazing. Look at these colours on this photo which doesn’t seem to be photoshopped.
Still, I wouldn’t refuse to go club-hopping when in Ibiza.
I can imagine that Ibiza is probably one of the best party locations in the world, keeping it class, but still fun as hell.
Alright, I know this post has become quite long, so I had to keep Ibiza short, but what more is there to see except the ocean and parties (both very amazing of course). This was one of my favourite, but also the most detailed post in this challenge. I already can’t wait to visit all these places soon.
What do you think about these places? Are they on your Travel List as well? If not tell me your future destinations in the name of the letter I.
At least that’s the beach we went to. It is a public beach famous for its turquoise to light-blue water and a long beach you can take a long walk at. The Sheraton Hotel is located on that beach as well. Convince yourselves:
2. Stroll through the soap-smelling streets of Alacati:
The streets of Alacati are famous throughout Turkey. It is considered as a little version of Mykonos. It is guaranteed that you will fall in love with that place. Every corner offers a perfect photographic background. The cobble-stone streets mix perfectly together with the aegean beach flair. After a long stroll and some photo-sessions, the best way to relax is to sip some coffee at a corner cafe, feast on some turkish sweets or some western cupcakes. Be warned though, the prices are a bit higher than at usual restaurants in Turkey. But totally worth it. Also, don’t forget to visit the windmills.
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3. Visit the Marina at the City Centre of Cesme:
Here, you can find all the touristy shops ligned after each other when walking down to the Marina and the Yacht Club. I bough a beautiful white-purple shell and some ice cream on the way to the Marina. When you arrive there, you will be overwhelmed by the amount of the yachts parked there. You can sit in a cafe or a restaurant with a view to the sea, or you can hike up the Cesme Castle and get a great view over the bay.
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4. Have a turkish breakfast with organic foods:
The hotel we stayed at offered a organic breakfast every morning which was so yummy, I am dreaming about it now. They had different kinds of bread to offer, hard boiled egg, tea, different kinds of cheese, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, cream, honey, olives and different kinds of jam which were so delicious and exciting to taste. The most delicious jam I had was lemon jam, something I had never eaten before. I am generally more the nutella kind of person, but this lemon jam would definitely make it on my breakfast table. They also had rose jam that I enjoyed a lot.
5. Relax at the Ayayorgi Beach:
This is actually not a public beach, so you have to pay for it, but it was out of season, so we had free entry, but still we had to eat or drink something in return. The prices were quite high of course, but we enjoyed the day and the beach was as calm as a lake.
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I hope I could give you a little insight into life at Cesme. It still has many other things to offer that I didn’t have time for like the Boylik Beach, Altinkum Beach, the Surfer’s Bay (since it is considered as Turkey’s Surfer’s Paradise due to its winds), and the possibility to hop on a ship towards the greek island of Chios.
It is almost like a coincidence that “Phantastic Beasts and where to find them” is being released on my blogging anniversary. Plus, it is really scary that from all of the days, it is today that I had the feeling of updating my blog, almost as though I knew it. Of course I don’t remember which day I exactly started blogging, it is quite a while ago. I can only remember that it was around the time of the chocolate festival in my old university town (Which is end of November). It was a nice surprise to see the notification and that’s why I decided on a Travel Q&A.
I wouldn’t consider myself as a travel pro, but I did gain some experience in that field, and it has turned into a new hobby and interest, so strongly, I would like to do it as a job.
So here I collected some Questions from Q&A Tags I found on the internet and will answer them:
10 Questions to ask a traveller
1. What was your favourite city? – This is such a hard question. There were so many beautiful cities I have seen just this year. I really have to say that Cappadocia has left a special mark on my heart that I can never erase. I can’t compare that city with another one. Then again, Shanghai is another city that never gets boring and is definitely one of my favourite cities I have visited.
2. What was your favourite country? – There are only 3 countries that I have seen many cities from and they are Germany, Turkey and China. From those 3 countries I’ve gotta say that Turkey is my favourite because it has everything from beach sites to megacities. It is also the home of my heart.
3. What was your longest flight? – 12 hours, from Frankfurt to Hong Kong with Lufthansa.
4. What was the scariest moment? – It was just recently when we were in Paris. We were still in the gardens of Versaille after it went dark and we wanted to leave but the main entrance had already closed earlier on. So we had to leave from the back exit, and it was completely dark and there was no one except for a couple with a young child. They helped us get out and even took us to the train station with their car. But at the beginning, it was really scary.
5. When was the most heart-warming moment you had with locals? – Definitely that one time in Jiuzhaigou village in Sichuan Province in China. It was in February during Chinese New Year Festival when my friend Ana and me went on a holiday to Sichuan. When we arrived at the village, we got lost and couldn’t find out hotel and there were barely any people who could speak english. We then entered another random hotel and found a family living upstairs and having dinner. Their 2 younger nieces helped us and their aunt pushed two bowls of rice and veggies into our hands and told us to sit down and eat. We didn’t know them, they didn’t know us, but they were smiling at us, sharing their food with us. I had tears in my eyes during that incident and I will never ever in my entire life forget the kind face of that woman.
6. Did you find any sights or activities a bit off the beaten track? Beyond the tourist traps? – Yes, last year in March when we went to Barcelona, I found out about a labyrinth garden, a little outside of the city centre, close to the university faculties. We went there, and we even got a free entry. The park was stunning and there were almost no tourists and very few visitors anyway. A lot better than the Parc Güell.
7. What was your favourite meal? – I am a huge fan of the chinese cuisine by now and I am still dreaming of the food I ate there. One of the dishes was Peking Duck of course, but the most unforgettable meal I had was after our 3-hour-trek up and down a part of the Great Wall. We had an organized lunch after that and it was the yummiest meal I can remember, because I had never been so exhausted before in my life.
8. What was the strangest thing you ate? – Definitely, Stinky Tofu in Shanghai. It smells like boiled shit, tastes like nothing but the consistency is like you just bit into a raw egg. The after-taste is exactly like the boiling-poo smell though. I needed gum after that.
9. What was the funniest/strangest/most insightful thing a local said? – In Paris, a lot of french locals flirted with us and on our first day, when we walked back from the Eiffel Tower, two guys walked past us and one of them turned around and said to my sister and me: “you are the most beautiful girls I saw” in that cute french accent :’D
10. Where would you revisit? Would you ever move to any of those cities? – Hong Kong and Paris. I’d love to live in Paris I have to admit. It is a very beautiful city that I had not expected to be that nice. I can truly understand all the hype. And the people are just so nice there. I will write a blog post about that trip soon :)
I hope you enjoyed the post about my travel experiences so far. There were still some cities that I didn’t include, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t like them.
I hope to be continueing blogging the next few years (or even forever), especially about more awesome places I will visit in the future :)
What about you guys? How would you have answered these questions?