Living in Turkey for the past few months and being exposed to the culture of my host country, I came to learn that the Turks place great value on something that I hold very dear to my heart as well: family, and the importance of cultural tradition. From the call to prayer that wakes me up in the morning to the numerous family owned establishments in my neighborhood, I learned that familial relations are of the utmost importance to Turkish people. The respect shown towards elders by simple acts of kindness as giving up one’s seat in a bus or giving them a right of way is quite prevalent in Turkish society. An elder man is referred with Efendi or if he is an Imam or other very respected man as Hoja (‘teacher’ in English). Elders command an enormous respect in Turkish culture and I always listen whenever one engages me in conversation.
In small family-owned restaurants, the peaceful harmony between family members and their warm attitude makes me feel welcome and happy. Working together I have noticed that families grow closer and upon inquiry, I have found out that to many, working with their closest relatives does not feel like work but an enjoyable time that allows them to spend time with their family and meet newcomers like myself. Such a wondrous cultural aspect that one usually associates with the past.
Cultural traditions are prevalent in Turkey. Large congregations usually crowd the local mosque on Fridays and the greeting As-Salam Alaykum helps one to get kind smiles of approval and start many interesting conversations. Whenever I meet with a male Turkish friend, the traditional greeting is to come together and touch cheeks. Turkish culture is an open one that embraces closeness and interaction between friends. Interacting with the locals has been of an utmost importance to me because finding out how they live and what they think about the world helps to open up my eyes as well. One can learn so much if s/he observes, interacts and learns from someone who’s culture may appear different but who places the same importance on the same virtues as you.
Ivan Zhivkov, a Fall 2013 SU Istanbul student, is a History and International Relations Major at the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. His passions include reading, writing, traveling, history and global cultures.