Wednesday, October 22, 2014

some drink coffee some drink tea

i've wanted to write about living and growing up in different cultures for a long time but i've been tentative on the subject because in the past i had never felt as if i truly knew enough about other cultures to touch on the subject.  now i feel that the time has come that i've lived in turkey long enough to at least have one other strong point of view that i could make some comparisons to my own culture.  there are many similarities and of course incredible differences between growing up in turkey and growing up in the united states and although i have been in istanbul (on and off) for about five years i want to see where some unrehearsed writing will take me on the subject.

i first want to note that turkey can be safely termed a bit more of a homogeneous country than the united states because americans, north and south, are primarily descendants of immigrants and the majority of turkish people, here in istanbul at least, are descendants of mostly turks.  most turks are not born in istanbul yet they have come to the city from other parts of turkey.  the different regions in turkey are numerous and quite different yet they all carry very strong inherent values that are on the hearts of all turkish people.  some examples of this begin with muslim values and customs even that are relative to how people should expect to be treated.  compared to other religions, muslims have a great regard for hygiene especially for the hands.  they rarely touch food and almost never use their left hands.  they remove their shoes upon the entry of a house so as to leave the filth of the outside world at the doorstep.  the house is sacred.  turkish houses are remarkably clean and slippers are sometimes provided for guests to be comfortable.  turkish culture is famously hospitable and guests are held to a high regard, thus being in accordance to words from the Qur'an which promote selflessness and the humility towards others.

muslims practice ramadan and a religious holiday of kurban bayramı (this is the turkish name, i'm not sure in other languages).  in both of these holidays they are called to acknowledge the poor and misfortunate by practices of fasting and the sacrifice of an animal whose meat is shared with first the homeless and then with neighbors.  muslims are called to pray five times a day thus giving 1/24 of their day to Allah.  there is a notion which i have observed in islam that Allah has called on us to give similar fractions of our being to Allah such as the month of ramadan being 1/13 of the year's commitment and so on.  it can be simply put that if we have a total of something we should give one portion of that towards Allah and thus it keeps us humble and discipline.

turks grow up like this.  some adhere to the teachings of islam more conservatively than others yet turkey has been created in the teachings of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who believed that the republic was a foundation for all turkish people and turks should respect the beliefs of others. in a few symbolic examples, some drink alcohol and some do not.  some smoke cigarettes or nargile and some do not.  the turkish people have also been raised with tolerance even among the heavily political times which have essentially never seen silence since the formation of the republic in 1923.

that being said i can think deeper upon the lives of my turkish friends and wonder what it was like for them growing up.  much value is placed on the family and people often stay in the house they grew up in until they are married with the often exemptions of university and military service (to the best of my knowledge, six months if you go to university and fifteen months if you don't go to university).  some of my friends have gotten apartments and others must still call to check in with their parents and have curfews even though they are my age.

turkish people also wear uniforms to school and have a standardized and difficult exam which will, in some ways, determine their future careers and university options.  there are two types of school, devlet and özel, one which you must pay for and the other which is free (devlet is 'state' in english and özel is 'private' yet i'm not sure which one has no tuition, probably devlet).  i think there is a lot of pressure on young turkish people for their paths of education and employment because the job market is very tight.  many jobs require a long payless time of intership where they work long hours even on saturdays sometimes.

this was a brief outline of turkish culture yet i cannot even begin to write about the vastness that i have learned in the last five years, it is simply too much to write about.

on a side note, i really don't know anymore the demographic which reads this blog.  i receive random insights from people of all over the world and on that note i urge people to reflect deeply about the cultures which they come from.

i wonder what it was like to grow up in other countries.  i can think endlessly about my culture and what it was like to be an american of mixed european descendance.  i have a strong memory of my youth and it is greatly accredited to the stories which have accumulated over the years.  these come from many sources like my family, friends and school life.  i wasn't really much of a trouble maker but i was always very close to that edge.  i hung out with people with absolutely no judgement of their upbringing and this mix of people and cultures has lead to so many interesting things that have happened to me in my life.  no examples are necessary.

american culture raises children in the wake of patriotism.  the united states was founded by a long series of successful and unsuccessful wars in the value of freedom.  i don't write of politics so i won't express my opinion on the previous statement but i have them and they are strong.  american children, for the most part grow up in the suburbs.  they have houses instead of apartments and have lawns of grass in front of their houses.  most americans drive cars and they are given their licenses at the age of sixteen in most states.  they don't all eat fast food but they do have ready access to it.  food is noticeably bigger in portion.  some drink coffee some drink tea.

it is tempting not to call the united states conservative yet the country was founded, as is run by, christians.  christians believe in God and place a great value on the ten commandments which are the foundation of the legal system.  the word's 'In God We Trust' are written on the currency and even though the people of the united states are of mixed religion and culture, the country is essentially built in a christian framework.  americans are raised with the values of security and hard work.  the adult american is to be self sustaining and it is frowned upon to stay with the family beyond the mid twenties.  they work at younger ages than many countries yet feel a pride in their independent upbringing.

americans date at earlier ages (i think).  they binge drink at parties yet don't smoke cigarettes nearly as much as many other places i've seen.  they invented a wide range of music that has affected the entire world and have produced many innovations towards technology.  they grow up in cliques of sort and dress in ways of self-expression or perhaps rebellion.  these are a few of the many things written on the hearts of american people.

i have been blessed to see many different cultures.  it really never stops amazing me how different this world is.  i've had my reservations about the notion that people are the same everywhere, i don't know if i can really support that belief.  your culture incubates you during your upbringing and writes upon your heart values which you never really knew existed.  it is only in the way of travel and experience in other cultures that we truly see how different we are.  yet we can find home in other places.  it is possible for us to assimilate in other regions of the world because albeit we are different we are still humans and we have all started our walks down our own paths through life.

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