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Why come back to Turkey?
1.       Henry
2604 posts
 02 Sep 2012 Sun 04:48 am

Taken from an article in Hurriyet Daily News

“Why the heck would you come back to Turkey?”


You wouldn’t believe how often I get asked this question! I get it ALL THE TIME. 
There are a few things I get from strangers, one is my name being mispronounced as Sanem,
and the other is this.
It has become prevalent enough to write about. 

For those who are reading me the first time and for the sake of context, let me summarize:
After living in Canada for 11 years I returned to Turkey last September.
Since then I continue to get these pitiful sad glances from people as if they’re saying
“poor thing…why would you do that?” and truly puzzled faces which seem to say
“what’s wrong with you?
Why, why, WHY?!” Another face is slightly arrogant, “you’re so naïve…
just spend enough time here and you’ll run back to Canada—you just don’t know how bad it
is here yet.”
It was one of those things that was sort of amusing at first, but after a while got annoying.
There were so few people who said, “that’s amazing!” or “Good for you”
(admittedly both are North American exclamations anyway).
I still struggle with the people who pity me and try to answer them the best I can.
Recently I heard about another friend who lived in San Francisco and just returned to Turkey
Her workplace even gave her a visa but guess what:
she STILL chose to come back and live here.
I heard that she’s being asked the same questions,
so maybe it’s time to mention why—at least in my humble opinion. 

(The other scenario happened to someone else I know who came back because he could not
get his work visa renewed on time. He did NOT want to come back
—so I acknowledge that scenario and how one may not be thrilled to be back in Turkey
when they didn’t choose to return.)

So, why, indeed? I will never forget the police officer at the passport office,
with whom while renewing my Turkish passport, I had the following dialogue: 

Him: So, you’re a Canadian citizen?
Me: Yes. 
Him: You can work and live in Canada? 
Me: Yes.
Him: No need for a work permit?
Me: No. 
Him: …and you came back here, willingly?
Me: Yup. (waiting for the inevitable question to pop)
Him: **Why?** 
Me: Because I wanted to be here with my family and I love this country.
Him: (to his colleague) See! No matter what, Turkey’s soil is gold.
(“baksana abicim...ne olursa olsun Türkiye’nin taşı toprağı altın!&rdquo
I wish the best for you, sister.
Me: Thanks. 

Here are some reasons for me, and this is by no means trying to glorify Turkey or put
North America down:

-I was getting older. I wasn’t 21 anymore.
I wasn’t the selfish creature I used to be.
I started to think about my elders and how they may need me as they get older and face
some of the challenges ageing brings.
Plus, after years of full freedom, I willingly wanted to be with them too. 

-I didn’t like being so very alone anymore
—I lived in Canada with no family whatsoever, without the security network others had in
the way only family could provide.
I spent endless Thanksgivings and Christmases alone.
Christmas was particularly hard and sad, since they are quintessential times spent
with family.
All those Christmas family movies on TV made me incredibly sad and feel lonelier.
I could never relate to the neurosis of Christmas shopping or to the post-Thanksgiving diet,
due to having eaten too much. 

-In return, I missed the collective spirit of Ramadan,
how you meet for iftars and how you’re aware of others who are fasting and the respect
shown for them.
I missed visiting family and even just calling family members up for “Bayram”.
Yes, I know I could Skype or call from overseas, but it’s a totally different feeling
being in the same country and knowing you’re in the same time zone. 

-I missed Turkish breakfast: Canadian breakfast would be eggs, bacon, pancakes, coffee
and toast. Turkish breakfast has a million kinds of cheese, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers,
jams, eggs, fresh bread and some other ingredients I can’t describe
…and the love put in it by whoever makes it.
I missed the ability to have breakfast outdoors in a leisurely fashion
…taking your time, no rush, with constant re-fills of tea and lots of loud talk
with tons of interruptions. 


-Turkish people are warm and caring and involved: this has its downside too,
I admit, such as people telling you bluntly you’ve gained weight, being in your face,
asking too many personal questions, etc.
But sometimes you want exactly that: you want someone to care enough to tell you honestly
that you’re in a downward spiral, not keeping so much distance and to ask some personal
questions — being a bit more involved.
North Americans always kept a polite distance.
North Americans being individualistic and Turks collectivists, this was expected. 

-I missed the spontaneity, the ability of just dropping by somewhere without having to
schedule it 3 weeks in advance:

Sorry, Canadians, whenever I wanted to do anything with any of you,
I had to schedule it 2-3 weeks, sometimes a month ahead of time.
I never liked it, I longed for some Mediterranean spontaneity, the kind you get here.
Just call someone you like up, “want to go for coffee after work today?”
and you usually do.
Or you schedule for the end of the same week.
I always felt like, “maybe I won’t want to see that person in 3 weeks”,
or “who knows what mood I’ll be in that day?” which was legitimate for me.
I tried extra hard to get used to this but it never felt natural to me. 

-Turks’ emotions are real:
If someone asks you how you are in North America, you usually say “GREAT” or “good good,
how are you?” even though you don’t mean it.
You also wear a smile at all times and I admit, there’s something good about that.
But sometimes you just want to be real. A real person with messy emotions.
I know Turks also fetishize suffering and sorrow, which is reflected in our culture and songs.
At the end of the day though, I can show my anger if I am angry, cry if I am sad,
laugh if I am happy, none of this is extreme or taboo—and I like that. 

-Friends, not therapists: North Americans in large cities like Toronto or New York are
astoundingly lonely and spend so much money on therapists, or “shrinks”, as they say.
As much as people go to therapists here, it is not the only resort:
you can get through life’s everyday trials and tribulations by meeting up with a friend,
by getting a coffee reading or a long evaluation of whatever it is you’re going through,
all through shared experiences.

-Weather, climate: This one’s a no-brainer.
In Canada, we had winters that lasted five months, in Turkey winters are three months long.
I need sunshine for a better mood.
I remember how the cold would seep into my bones.
I’d come home and do everything to feel warm,
but it would sometimes take hours to feel warm again.
I remember wearing the warmest and thickest of everything and still freezing, walking through
snow was such a struggle, a Camel Trophy challenge!
Life doesn’t have to be that hard. Try walking through this, and imagine a -20 windchill too:


I could go on, but these are a few reasons that played an important factor in determining
my decision.
I stand by my decision. I’m quite pleased that I am back.
There are tons of things that really annoy me about Turkish customs and expectations,
but I knew the pros and cons coming here.
There’s good and bad everywhere, and believe it or not, it’s a fine choice to live here,
despite what 90 percent of people say. 


Edited (9/2/2012) by Henry
Edited (9/2/2012) by Henry
Edited (9/2/2012) by Henry
Edited (9/2/2012) by Henry [re formatted to fit sentences into window]
Edited (9/2/2012) by Henry [more formatting]
Edited (9/2/2012) by Henry
Edited (9/2/2012) by Henry

2.       alameda
3499 posts
 02 Sep 2012 Sun 09:56 am

Hmm....noticed I can´t "like" this post by Henry, why? I just wanted to note that I´ve met more than a few who after spending too many years in the "West" to sucessfully return and integrate back to where they left, realize what they have lost.  


Edited (12/16/2012) by alameda [removed part that made post too long. ]

3.       Henry
2604 posts
 02 Sep 2012 Sun 10:50 am


Hmm....noticed I can´t "like" this post by Henry, why? I just wanted to note that I´ve met more than a few who after spending too many years in the "West" to sucessfully return and integrate back to where they left, realize what they have lost.  

I´m not sure what caused the formatting problem that lets sentences disappear beyond the column border. I had to do a lot of editing to the original post to allow all the words to be seen.

It´s always interesting to read why people feel more comfortable in a certain country. Many Turks come to Australia to live. Some marry here and are happy, others go back to Turkey, disappointed at work opportunities and a different lifestyle. Climate, work opportunities and job satisfaction, close friends, and family ties are all factors. It is often hard to understand, unless you have left your homeland to take your chances somewhere else.

Thousands of refugees and homeless people would love the chance to start a new life in a better country, but sadly for most it will only be a dream.

4.       ninja
157 posts
 04 Sep 2012 Tue 10:07 pm

Good article! Thank you!

Wanna share my recent feelings as having returned home from Turkey for another vacation. Yes, there have been quite a number of my vacations spending in different parts of Turkey. This is the first time I feel so bad at the passport control booth. When I departed at Ataturk airport, waiting at the booth for that officer to inspect my passport, he talked to me in Turkish. Not in a nice tone. He flipped over pages in my passport and found there were quite a number of Turkish exit stamps. In fact I don´t speak nor can I understand a full sentence in Turkish. He repeated and then I said sorry I couldn´t understand. He frowned and gave me a look implying that "why the heck you come to our country so many times". I really got that feeling and a little angry about it. In fact just a week ago I talked to the front desk manager of the hotel where I stayed and asked him why Turkish people were not as happy or showing warm hospitality like before.

Anyway, I won´t say I love Turkey and would wish to reside in here. But it certainly was my most favorable country for vacations. 




Edited (9/4/2012) by ninja

5.       roxanatv
47 posts
 14 Dec 2012 Fri 09:43 pm

This is a great post! 

Edited (12/14/2012) by roxanatv

gokuyum liked this message
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