After Uzbekistan & Kazakhstan, In my third post of Q & A Series With Locals, I interviewed Anjana from Turkey. We got in touch via Instagram. During our online conversations, she came across as a nice, thoughtful and gentle person. Anjana is an Indian expat who’s been living in Turkey. She is an artist from Istanbul, you can check out her stunning artwork here. I discovered/learned many things about Turkey from our Questionnaire. It’s been close to 2 years since my trip to Istanbul and after the Interview, I want to go back and explore the rest of the country as soon as possible!
Q & A WITH ANJANA FROM TURKEY
Please tell us about yourself.
Hello, I’m Anjana, born and brought up in Bombay, India. I’m an Interior Architect with a Masters in Yacht Design, currently working on creating art with wood in Istanbul. I moved to Turkey in May of 2010 for my husband, who is Turkish, and have been living here ever since! I lived in Izmir for 3.5 years before moving to Istanbul.
How many countries have you visited so far?
Italy, Croatia, The Netherlands, a tiny bit of Germany, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Hungary, Greece, Georgia, Thailand, UK, USA
How would you describe Turkish people?
Like with any country in the world, there are all kinds of people living here.
I’ve had both, positive and negative experiences.
I’ve met people who have been incredibly kind, helpful and welcoming. I’ve had some great conversations with people talking about each other’s cultures, thoughts and dreams. Over the years I’ve made some close friends whom I absolutely love.
I’ve also met people who have been rude, very racist, condescending and have yelled at me “go back to your own country!”. I’ve unwillingly, been subjected to negative ‘conversations’ about religion, with people trying to get me to convert.
But over the years I’ve learned to try my best to not engage with negative people because there are
loads of great people with an open and positive outlook to talk to instead
How would you describe Turkey?
Turkey, to me, is a country of contrasts.
Wealth and poverty side by side. Urban, busy cities next to tiny, quiet villages. Non-religious people living alongside religious ones. Open minded individuals amongst the more closed minded.
You’ll come across many tourist traps that will try and take all you have but before you can feel down about that you’ll meet some locals who will go out of their way to do what they can to help.
Geographically, it is a beautiful country. Loads of places to explore – a gorgeous coastline lined with amazing beach towns, historically rich cities, highlands with mountain houses when you need a break from civilization.
How well does people in Turkey speak English on a scale to 1-10?
Not taking into consideration touristic spots, a surprisingly small number of Turks speak English – and this is in the big cities. Most people who speak English here are the ones who have either, studied in Private schools which hire foreign teachers for teaching languages, or people who have studied abroad, or professionals working for large/international organisations.
In small towns and villages, it is almost impossible to find locals who speak or even understand English. So, I would say 1-2 overall. Turkish is an official language of Turkey.
Which is the key phrase/word/expression that people in Turkey usually say?
“Allah Allah!” It’s a polysemic expression for a multitude of emotions – good heavens! Good grief! What the hell! Ah shit! Oh no! and so on
“Boşver” – literal translation is ‘give empty’ but its used to say ‘let it be’ ‘forget it’
“Ellerine sağlık” – ‘thanks to your hands’ a very cute way of expressing appreciation when someone makes something for you (food, a handmade present).
“Güle güle kullan / Iyi günlerde kullan” – use happily / use in good days / enjoy your new (whatever you have bought or have been given)
“Kolay gelsin” – may it be easy for you, usually used when someone is working on something difficult
Which is the best/essential local food to try in Turkey?
Turkey is food heaven for meat lovers – İskender kebap, all kinds of kebaps really (Adana kebap is my favourite), lahmacun(Turkish Pizza), are just some of the many options. Definitely fistikli baklava (Pistachio baklava) & künefe for dessert.
Which is the best/essential local drink to try in Turkey?
Raki – made from twice distilled grapes and aniseed. They also have some delicious local wines made in Turkey.
Which is the best/essential festival to attend in Turkey?
The Tulip festivals in Emirgan and Gulhane parks in Istanbul, every year in April, are worth visiting.
Turks don’t really celebrate festivals on a large scale, unfortunately, so there isn’t much in terms of festivals.
Which sport are Turkish people crazy about?
Futbol! (Soccer / Football)
Go Fenerbahçe!! 😉
Which are the best cities/places to visit in Turkey?
Beach towns along the Mediterranean coast are all absolutely beautiful. Fethiye, Akyaka, Datça, Kaş, Marmaris, Çeşme, Bodrum, Antalya to name a few. Fethiye is my personal favourite. Cappadocia/Kapadokya, Pamukkale, Ephesus for their historical beauty. The Black sea region highlands and the beautiful mountain houses there.
Istanbul of course, for its historical value, beautiful Bosporus and city life.
What are the landmarks and hidden gems of Turkey?
The abandoned village in Kayaköy, Af Kule monastery in Fethiye, a region called Moda in Istanbul (for its very artistic vibe, little cafes & boutique-style stores), Asansör in Izmir for a gorgeous view of the city, local vineyards in Tekirdağ.
What are the most popular stereotypes/cliches about Turkey?
The Fez is not commonly worn around Turkey. It was actually banned in Turkey in 1925.
The annoying Maraş ice cream vendors are only common around touristic spots.
Turkey is not conservative like a lot of the middle east. (It was even more modern a few years ago). The burqa or headscarf is not compulsory, women can drive, live alone, study, etc. Praying 5 times a day is not a compulsion. The country does not shut down during the fasting festival of Ramazan.
The Turkish language is an Altaic language, not similar to Arabic, even though it does incorporate a few words from Arabic and Persian, it is not even close to Arabic.
Turkish uses the Latin alphabet.
Camels aren’t used for transportation anywhere in Turkey, I’ve actually only seen them in touristic cities.
Polygamy is illegal in Turkey.
Are there any local customs a visitor should be sensitive to?
As with a lot of Asian countries, if you visit someone’s house, make sure to take your shoes off at the entrance (most of the time you’ll be given house slippers).
For a tourist visiting for a short period of time, there is nothing of importance that comes to my mind – just behave polite and civilised 🙂
Now centuries later, the pigeons are gone, but hikers have a gorgeous valley to walk through while imagining how it must have been back then