Can You Guess Why 79% of Foreign Women Were Attracted to their Turkish Men?

relationship

I am fascinated by relationships between foreign women and Turkish men. What is the attraction? Do they work? Having recently created a website where I intend to blog about ‘Love in Turkey’ in all its forms, I decided to do a survey to find out more. I used various Facebook groups and websites whose members are expat women living in Turkey who have had or currently have Turkish husbands or partners to elicit information and their views.  I received 375 responses to the survey and there was an even distribution of ages between 20 and 50+, with a slight majority of 30-39 year band.

I am so appreciative of the many women took the time to comment or elaborate further on some of the quewoman, keep it shutstions. Their remarks were sad, tragic, funny and often enlightening and I will use examples throughout the article. Actually some of them made me laugh out loud so I will make sure to share these.

Initially, I was worried that the survey might attract those wishing to vent about relationships that had gone badly and that the results would be skewed by their negative responses but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of overwhelmingly positive responses and the interest the survey created. Sometimes being in such a relationship can feel like a lonely place to be, so hopefully, the women who participated will realise that they share many common issues and some of the frequently spouted myths about these relationships are not true.

All too often, the foreign tabloid media is eager to sensationalise stories portraying Turkish men as liars, thieves and cheats, where they have duped women out of significant amounts of money or lied about not being married. While I know there are examples of this being true, it is wrong to generalise and make the assumption that all Turkish men are the same.

It is also important to point out that Turkey is a huge country with many regional differences and is not just one culture. Modern day Turkey is a melting pot of old and new cultures and people’s experiences of living here and their relationship with their husband or partner very much depends on what area you live in. Foreign women living in large cities, such as Istanbul and Ankara, have a dissimilar experience to those who live in rural towns and villages or in the tourist resorts along the coast. Those who live in the south east of Turkey or whose husbands or partners originate for there, where the culture is more conservative and religious practices are more widely observed, have other challenges to face.

There is a common belief that relationships between foreign women and Turkish men don’t last and we all know that holiday romances don’t last don’t we? Wrong! A huge seventy-eight percent of respondents in my survey met their husband or partner while on holiday in Turkey and the results showed that the majority of those couples have been together for more than ten years. A significant number of women met their Turkish husbands/partners whilst living and working in Turkey: some were teachers working in private schools, some worked in tourism and some in other international institutions which had offices or branches in Turkey. Others met in social settings or met through friends or met while studying here. Fifteen percent of participants met their husbands /partners online, while seven percent met while their Turkish men were studying in their home countries.

multicultural womenThe majority of respondents, sixty-four percent, were British, with a significant number of Americans, Eastern Europeans and Scandinavians followed by a wide array of other nationalities, including Brazilians, Australians, Filipinos, Jordanians and Belgians. Does this correspond to the most common nationalities coming to Turkey as tourists? Probably.

As I have written in a previous blog, ‘The Language of Love’, language plays an important part in cross cultural relationships and it was interesting to see that while more than half of the Turkish husbands/partners speak, read and write English fluently, only a fifth of their wives/partners speak, read and write Turkish fluently.  However, as one respondent wrote, ‘Although he speaks fluent English, some things get lost in translation.’

misunderstanding languageLanguage and communication was one of the areas twenty-six percent of the women questioned said was a challenge they faced, with several saying that they wished they had learned Turkish in the early days of their relationships. A large proportion of women (fifty-seven percent) understand Turkish but their reading and writing is limited while five percent don’t feel a need to learn Turkish at all. Perhaps this is not surprising as English seems to be the main language of communication between the couples and the fact that the Turkish men will have learnt basic English at school and then either gone on to study abroad or at universities in Turkey where a certain level of English is required or improved their English through their work in the tourism industry.

The decision about where to live causes much stress between cross cultural couples. The current political climate means uncertain times for many and even those who have happily settled here are hesitant about a future in Turkey. However, sixty-four percent of those questioned say they plan to stay in Turkey for now, with half of those planning to stay forever. Several women stated that his was a source of tension in their relationship: ‘Neither of us likes each other’s country! We have lived in both but we are specialists at compromise.’

What is the attraction of Turkish men? According to the survey results, seventy-nine percent of the women stated that it was their husband/partner’s personality and character which was the main attraction. Physical appearance, a sense of humour, being romantic and how the men make them feel, along with shared life goals were also important factors. Sexy manOnly twenty-one percent of those surveyed said it was love at first sight.  A couple of ladies reported that their men were ‘sexual stallions’ and one delighted that ‘he strummed on my guitar and it made me wee a little!’ One man was described as ‘ambitious, hard-working with a deep masculine voice’ while another ‘lived on his own and did his own housework, so I knew he wanted a wife and not a second mother!’ One couple met at an Argentine tango festival in Ankara: ‘We had a strong connection while dancing and matched perfectly.’

All relationships need work and commitment but interracial relationships have the added dimension of cultural differences to contend with. Cultural difference is a broad term meaning how people’s lifestyles and beliefs differ. It includes aesthetic issues like language and communication, cuisine and eating habits, punctuality, traditions and dress. The survey results showed that this was the main challenge, with forty-seven percent of women citing this as the one issue that caused the most tension in their relationships. Initially, learning about Turkish culture and traditions can be a fascinating journey, where all the quirks and anomalies seem quaint and interesting. As time goes on, these same things can either become an accepted part of daily life or the basis for irritation and frustration. A third of respondents wished that they had known more about Turkish culture in general before moving to Turkey.

My advice to anyone moving to Turkey would be to do your homework first. Google the place where you will be living as the climate, culture and way of life can be different depending on which area of Turkey you live. If there is no induction process with your job/university, I suggest joining the many Facebook pages and websites where you will be able to ask questions and look at previous discussions about living in Turkey. As one lady wrote: ‘I took nearly three years to learn about Turkish culture before I would agree to move here and marry my hubby. We think very differently and have had very different upbringings but I don’t think I am any better or any worse than him. I respect his beliefs as he does mine. We spent many hours before we were married talking about our lives, hopes and dreams for the future. Fifteen years on and with a child in tow we are still happy, still talk (and disagree!) and are still in love.’

Interestingly, I received very few comments about dress being an issue. Jane, from Muğla, wrote, ‘I’m not  risqué in any way but leggings have caused a few arguments.’ Is the reason for this that foreign women are happy to change the way they dress to suit their Turkish husband/partner’s wishes or is it really not a big deal? Do we unconsciously dress more conservatively to avoid any conflict?

Moral values, ethics, religion and the status of women also come under the umbrella of cultural differences. While Turkey is a modern country, it still remains a male dominated society where some women are forbidden to do things that could bring shame on the family. A source of tAaah!ension that some women commented on was the role of women in their families. Half of those surveyed wished that they had known more about their husband/partner’s expectations of a wife before they had committed to the relationship: ‘Our different expectations in our roles as husband and wife cause many arguments.’

Unlike many western societies, the mainstay of Turkish society is the extended family. It is not just the couple’s expectations which can be an issue. As one lady wrote, ‘The extended family’s different views on women’s roles is a problem for me.’ Another wrote,’ I don’t like the intervention of his family in our private life.’ However, several women wrote that they were appreciative of their Turkish extended family who supported them with child care and filled the emotional void of not being with their own families. Thirty-eight percent of the women questioned said that the most challenging issue of living in Turkey was missing friends and family back home.

It is hard not to be able to pop round to a friend’s for a cuppa or meet up for a spot of window shopping  and missing out on celebrations back home can bring on feelings of homesickness and isolation. We rely on social media to keep up with what’s happening back home, sharing photos and posting messages to show our loved ones we are thinking about them. When there are children, it’s even more important that ties are not broken and they stay connected to their families in our home countries. Many of us wait with anticipation for parcels of goodies sent by friends and family to give us a longed for taste of a much missed food item or to receive something which is unavailable here. Giving up a career, a well-paid job, a home you have spent years creating or a life that is familiar are significant sacrifices to make to be with someone you love.  Does your husband or partner acknowledge the sacrifice you made? A couple of women commented that their husbands were not at all sympathetic to the fact that they had given up their lives in their home countries to move to Turkey.

Differing values in bringing up children was a challenge fourteen percent of those surveyed face. While none gave specific reasons, I have twelve years’ experience of showing prospective parents around an international school in Ankara and have seen at first-hand how our western expectations of children can seem horrifying to some Turks. masallah dummyUpon hearing that our school expected a four year old to be able to wipe his own bottom and feed himself, one parent called me a ‘cruel witch!’ Conversely, the Turks doting attitude to their children can come across to us as being over-protective and the children being spoilt.

Finding work as an expat women can be tricky. Again, language can be a barrier to finding suitable work in our area of expertise, even if our expertise is acknowledged here. This, of course, has a knock on effect on finances. One quarter of respondents said they had problems finding suitable employment and that their financial situation was challenging.

Despite all the trials these relationships endure, it was heart-warming to read the many positive responses and see that the majority of women are very happy with their Turkish men. This is beautifully summed up by one lady’s reply: ‘We committed to make it work and we have for nearly forty years. It has made an amazingly diverse life for both of us through hard times and good times.’

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that relationships between foreign women and Turkish men are no different from any other. It is vital to be tolerant and respectful of each other’s cultures, to participate fully in the life and traditions of the country where we live and not blame the cultural differences as the reason a relationship doesn’t work. As one lady put it, ‘Our only problem is him just being a man!’

 

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Click on the ‘Comments’ tab on my Home Page and let me know what you think.

 

An interview for ‘Expat Women in Turkey’ website

British expat living in Turkey

I was recently interviewed by Ana, who edits the ‘Expatwomeninturkey’ website. A Serbian  married to a Turk, Ana set up the website to support other foreign women living in Turkey. Her questions were geared to helping those who have just moved to Turkey or who are planning to do so soon.

Click on this link to read it:

http://expatwomeninturkey.com/british-expat-living-in-turkey-interview-with-faye-rogan-from-dalyan

Chatting with Faye Rogan

This is an interview by author A.B.Penner from a few months ago …

Ah! Fall is here, or if you live in the Great White North like I do, it’s winter. So, on that note, I encourage you to pull up a seat, grab a hot drink and join me today in interviewing Faye Rogan, author of Seeing The Truth.

 

Faye Rogan, originally from Buxton, Derbyshire, in the picturesque Peak District of England, is now an expat living in Dalyan. She has lived in Turkey for the last fifteen years, initially working at Bilkent Laboratory & International School in Ankara until she had to give up her position as the Elementary School Principal due to ill health.

She speaks fluent Turkish and immerses herself in Turkish culture, enjoying an authentic life in a traditional village. She feels lucky to be living the dream in this little piece of paradise.

It was her love for a Turkish man which led her to write her debut novel “Seeing the Truth”. While the novel is a work of fiction, it is based on her own experiences of a challenging relationship where the differing cultures, language barrier and religion were a constant struggle.

A keen reader of all types of fiction, she had never come across a romance novel that explored the stereotypical relationships between British women and Turkish men. Through her own experience and needing a winter project to keep her occupied in a very quiet, out of season Dalyan, “Seeing the Truth” was born.

 

Welcome, Faye! And thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you. Could you tell us a little bit about your novel, Seeing The Truth?

seeingthetruth

My debut novel, ‘Seeing the Truth’ is a love story set in Turkey.

While on holiday in Marmaris, Kaye Knowles, meets Vedat Erdem, a Kurdish cotton farmer from the south east of Turkey. Their holiday romance soon becomes an all-consuming love affair.

Blinded by love, Kaye struggles with the language barrier, cultural differences and family objections as life takes her on an emotional rollercoaster of joy, heartbreak, hope and disappointment.

As she explores the delights of Turkey, her world comes crashing down when she finds out that their relationship is built on a foundation of lies and deceit.

The cover of your novel is beautiful. Could you tell us where we could find a copy of it? I self -published my book on Amazon, using Createspace for the paperback version and Kindle Direct Publishing for the eBook.

Perfect! Why did you opt to self-publish rather than go down the traditional route? I decided to self -publish as the traditional publishing route takes time, with no guarantee of a contract at the end and I was not prepared with wait or waste any more time getting it on the market.

How long did it take for you to write, Seeing The Truth? I didn’t work on it continuously. I spent from Nov-Mar for 3 years writing it. It began as a project to keep me occupied during the very quiet winters here.

What inspired you to write your novel? Relationships between British women & Turkish men are very common and having experienced such a relationship I decided that a story which detailed the challenges and emotional hardships these relationships endure had not been told. Also I knew there would be a large target audience of women who had been in similar situations and it would be of interest to the many tourists who visit Turkey looking for a good holiday read.

Ah, your book sounds lovely. What do you believe makes a great story? When the reader emotionally identifies with one or more of the characters and joins in with their journey. You need to tantalise the reader and make them laugh, cry, worry, feel the pain and make them feel they are in that world.

I couldn’t agree more. Do you find that you have a specific writing style? No – in fact one of the main problems I had with my book was unifying the style. I had written the story from the 2 different perspectives of the 2 main characters, one serious & the other lighter and more humorous. Rewriting one to match the other was a struggle!

I always like to throw in a little fun question in my interviews. So, if you and another fictional character were stranded on a island, who would it be and why? I’m a hopeless romantic so it would have to be Mark Darcy from ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ – intelligent, romantic, good-looking, cultured. If I’m going to be stranded with someone let it be someone who is good eye candy!

Oh, I love Bridget Jones. Before we wrap things up, would you mind sharing an excerpt of your novel with us?

 

Chapter 1 

Karabulut, South-East Turkey, 

December 1968 

The pains had come on suddenly while she swept the yard outside. The recent rain had made puddles on the uneven ground and she swept the water away from the house so that visitors could get to the door without splashing through the dirty water. The baby was due but the pains had taken her by surprise. She gasped and doubled over as the first pain stabbed in her abdomen. She dropped the besom broom and held her stomach, panting to regain her breath. The pain subsided and she straightened up, looking to see whether anyone was watching. One of their workers, busy repairing the tractor at the far end of the yard, was unaware of her predicament. She did not attract his attention and was glad he was distracted by his chore.

Having regained her composure she picked up the broom and continued to sweep the water, hoping that the pains would not begin in earnest. She had been present while her older sister had given birth so knew what to expect. The memories of the still-born baby and then the death of her sister from a massive haemorrhage made her shiver and she prayed to Allah that she and her baby would survive.

The entrance to the house cleared of water, she propped the broom against the wall, slipped off her shoes and went into the house. She went to the kitchen, took a glass from the wooden cupboard on the wall and filled it with water from the large, plastic drum in the corner. She sipped the cold water and sat down on the rickety wooden chair by the sink. Should she send the worker to fetch her mother? Her husband would be home soon, but giving birth was women’s work and he would be no help to her.

As she wondered what to do, there was a sound at the door and she heard her husband kicking off his shoes and entering the narrow hallway between the kitchen and the front door. At the door, he had put slippers on his feet so she was unable to hear his footsteps, but watched the doorway expectantly. He smiled as he saw her and she glowed. He was fifteen years her senior and, at thirty years of age, he carried the weight of grief at losing his wife and first child so tragically. She had been flattered when he had asked her parents for permission to marry her, their younger daughter, after their loss. She had known him all her life and had admired him from afar, never dreaming that one day she would become his wife.

She got up from her chair and went to the stove to heat water to make him some tea. She knew what he expected and was happy to oblige. He took her place on the chair and asked her how she was. She smiled and said that she was fine. She reached into the cupboard for a tea glass and grimaced as another pain caught her by surprise. He noticed her look of discomfort and told her to sit down. She shook her head and carried on making the tea. Another pain, more severe than the last, gripped her body and she staggered back from the sink. Sweat appeared on her brow and she began to tremble.

Looking concerned, he took her arm to lead her to the chair. As she sat down heavily, the chair wobbled and she altered her balance to steady it. He left the kitchen abruptly, went to the door and shouted, ‘Musa, run to Zehra hanim’s house and tell her the baby’s on its way. She’ll know what to do.’

As the pains became more frequent, the girl made her way along the corridor to their bedroom. She lay down on the mattress on the floor, trying to stay calm, despite the panic welling in her. She hoped the labour would not be long and silently prayed to Allah to give her strength.

She was devoutly religious and read the Koran at intervals throughout the day, gaining comfort from the words and vowing to be a good Muslim. She hoped that her mother would bring food for the evening meal as she had not had time to prepare anything. Her husband would not be pleased if a hot meal was not laid before him.

Her mother arrived thirty minutes later, bearing a basket full of food, towels and soap. Her mother had the reputation of being a good cook and her guvec, a lamb stew and vegetables, was much praised by visitors to her home. She immediately took out a clay cooking pot from the basket and laid it on the stove in the kitchen. Her son-in-law could smell the aroma of cooked lamb and smiled in anticipation of a tasty meal. He went to the living room, where a tablecloth was laid on the carpeted floor and sat down on a floor cushion. His mother-in-law brought in the food and they exchanged nervous glances. Both of them were remembering a similar situation just over two years ago and hoping the outcome of this one would be happy and not end in tears like the last.

Over the course of the next few hours, the family and close neighbours gathered to give support in the living room of the single storey, mud-brick house, waiting for news. They sat huddled on cushions on the carpet covering the earth floor, sipping tea in small, tulip-shaped glasses, trying to keep warm against the chilly winter air. A coal fire had been lit but provided little heat. Women brought food: cooked dishes, fruit, cheese, olives, bread and an array of biscuits and desserts. Men came to calm the fears of the anxious father-to-be and kept him amused with funny stories and discussions on local affairs. They knew that if the baby was a boy, he would be promised in marriage to the daughter of the Aga, the village headman, in the neighbouring village, who had been born last year. It was to be an important alliance between two powerful families and would give added status to the both families. Their land adjoined and in future years it would be possible to merge all the land to form one huge empire.

In the larger of the two bedrooms, the young girl gripped her mother’s hand as she tensed for the next contraction. Her face was bathed in sweat, she fought the urge to scream. The light from the oil lamp was dim and the room had become airless and rank. The experienced midwife issued orders, while her mother uttered words of encouragement and comfort.

Eventually, the girl felt the urge to push and guided by her mother, her mother-in-law and a neighbour who was experienced in birthing, mustered all her energy and pushed with all her might. There was a loud squelch and the baby was out.

‘It’s a boy!’ exclaimed her mother in delight.

The baby’s first cry was heard by those gathered in the living room and the father-to-be rushed to the corridor. The bedroom door opened and his mother-in-law poked her head round and shouted,

‘Praise be to Allah, it’s a boy!’

Feeling immense relief and joy, the father ran back to announce the arrival of his son and received congratulations. He knew the future of the family lay in the hands of this newborn child and prayed that they would all be safe from harm.

Thank you so much for sharing! Your novel sounds delightful, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

For anyone wishing to follow Faye Rogan, please click on the social media links below.

www.twitter.com/fayerogan101

www.facebook.com/FayeRoganAuthor

And to purchase her book, Seeing The Truth, please click here.

 

Happy Writing!

 

When Ali Met Sally (Part 2)

Sally grasped the hands around her neck, feeling the gnarled knuckles and leathery skin. With every ounce of strength she could garner, she wrenched the hands away from her neck, sucking in gulps of air and staggered to her feet.

Hearing a scuffling sound coming from outside, Ali appeared in the doorway of the house, switching on a wall light which bathed the yard in a muted, yellow glow.

‘Nene, ne yapıyorsun?’ he shouted, rushing to help Sally, who was now rubbing her neck. He then proceeded to shower a torrent of Turkish onto the attacker, who responded with much arm waving and shouting.

‘It’s OK, Sally. This is my grandmother. She thought you were a thief,’ he explained, putting his arm around her shoulders, trying to comfort her.

Sally backed away from him, not trusting what he would do. ‘I thought this was your house!’ she said indignantly.

‘Well, technically it is our grandmother’s house but we live here too,’ Ali responded. ‘We like to make sure she’s okay.

In the summer sIron bedstead in the yardhe sleeps here outside,’ he added, pointing to an old iron bedstead piled high cushions and a dusky pink cover thrown over it. ‘It’s too hot inside so she sleeps here where it’s cooler.’

Now considerable calmer, Sally looked over at the bed and then at the old lady who was now making her way back to her bed, still muttering to herself. ‘I can’t believe she managed to have such a strong hold on me,’ Sally sighed.

Turkish grandmotherShe’s spent her whole life working with sheep and goats so she’s very strong,’ Ali confirmed. Making sure that his grandmother was back in bed, he led Sally back through the house and out onto the terrace, where Jo and Nuri were happily chatting.

‘You’ve been a long time,’ Jo said, winking at her friend. ‘Been having fun?’

‘Hardly! Sally replied. ‘I was attacked by someone who thought I was an intruder!’

‘What?’ Jo exclaimed, sitting up from her slouched position. ‘Are you alright?’

Sally, now being able to see the funny side of the encounter, explained, ‘Ali’s grandmother was asleep outside and when she heard me walking back from the toilet, jumped me. Fancy being attacked by a granny!’

Ali, eager to make amends for Sally’s fright, invited the girls into the kitchen. ‘Would you like an ice cream? he asked, lifting the lid of a large chest freezer full of boxes of Magnums, Cornettoes and ice lollies of every description.

‘Wow!’ Sally cried, ‘So this is where you store all your ice creams. I’ll have a Cornetto, please.’

As the four friends sat licking their ices, a hazy sun was beginning to rise over the hill in front of them. Ali told them to listen carefully. They sat with bated breath and then they heard a faint whistling sound in the distance.

‘What’s that?’ Sally inquired.

Turkish shepherd‘It’s the shepherds signalling to each other. They stay out all night protecting their flocks and have a special system of whistles to communicate with each other. If you listen, you will hear one calling and then another replying.’

Fascinated, Sally sat motionless, concentrating on the high pitched tones she could hear in the distance. ‘Do you understand what they’re saying?’ she asked Ali.

‘No, but they’re probably arranging to meet up or telling each other where they’re going to take their sheep to graze for the day.’

Donkey brayingThe stillness of the dawn was rudely interrupted by the strident braying of a neighbour’s donkey, which made the girls laugh. ‘This has certainly been an interesting experience,’ Jo giggled. ‘We’ve seen something of the real Turkey tonight. Who’d have thought all this was going on just up the road from where we sit on the beach!’

‘We’d better be getting back to our hotel,’ Sally sighed, not really wanting to leave but knowing that she would feel terrible the next day if she didn’t get to bed soon.

‘We’ll drive you back,’ Ali offered.

Walking towards the car, Sally was aware of Ali’s arm around her shoulders and smiled as he gently kissed her cheek. ‘I like you, Sally,’ he whispered into her ear.

‘I like you too,’ she countered, finding his lips.

‘Can I see you again tonight?’ Ali asked.

‘I’d like that but I’ll have to see what Jo thinks,’ Sally replied, looking ahead to where Nuri was kissing Jo. ‘But I have a feeling that she will agree. That’s if we manage to get back through the forest in one piece! Hopefully, now it’s lighter, you’ll be able to see the way better.’

Ali laughed. ‘Don’t worry. I’ll drive very slowly. Then I can spend more time with you. I’ll be counting the minutes until tonight.’

Cupid

When Ali Met Sally (Part 1)

Olu Deniz

 

Under a searing August sun, Ali’s ice cream boat puttered around the bays near Ölü Deniz.  It was mid-morning and he was still feeling the after effects of a heavy drinking session the night before. Guzzling from a bottle of water, he made his way to a tourist boat, loaded with holiday makers who were enjoying a swimming stop. Guiding his small boat alongside the larger boat, he shouted,

‘Ice cream! Ice cream!’

Several people came to look over the side of their boat and Ali smiled as he spotted a tanned blonde girl fishing in her purse for some loose change. He held up a selection of Magnums and Cornettoes for her to choose.

‘I’ll have the Almond Magnum, please,’ the blonde shouted.

‘Here you are!’ Ali responded, reaching up to pass the ice cream to her and taking the money.

‘You’re beautiful!’ he added cheekily, blowing her a kiss.

Laughing shyly, she thanked him and disappeared into the boat.

That night, Ali and his brother Nuri were strolling along the main street in Ölü Deniz.  Both men were primped to perfection, with gelled hair, liberal splashings of aftershave and both in tight jeans and skinny T-shirts. They were on their way to a bar owned by a friend where they regularly hung out.

Looking left, to where a British family were noisily celebrating a birthday, his attention was immediately drawn to the blonde ringlets of a girl sitting quietly behind the family. It was the girl from the boat!

Not quite believing his luck, he pulled Nuri into the restaurant and made his way over to the girl.

‘Hi!’ he said excitedly.

The girl looking up from her phone, blinked in surprise and replied, ‘Hi!’

‘Don’t you remember me?’ Ali asked.

‘No. Who are you?’

‘The ice cream boat?’ Ali prompted.

‘Oh, sorry! I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on!’ she responded, reddening after realising what she had just said, remembering his naked chest, rippling with taut muscle.

‘This is my brother, Nuri. Can we join you?’ he inquired without waiting for an invitation and pushing his way past a chair to sit down. He offered his hand and introduced himself.

‘Pleased to meet you. I’m Sally and this is my friend, Jo,’ Sally replied, scooting her chair along to make room for the two men.

‘Can we get you a drink?’ Ali offered.

‘Lovely! I’ll have a vodka and coke,’ Sally said, looking expectantly at Jo.

‘I’ll have the same,’ Jo said, smiling, not quite understanding why Sally was suddenly animated.

As the Ali ordered the drinks from a passing waiter, Sally whispered to Jo that this was the man she’d told her about on the boat. ‘Isn’t he gorgeous?’ she asked, hoping for confirmation from her friend.

‘Yes, but I prefer his brother,’ Jo whispered back, ‘He’s more my type – rugged, heavier set and taller.’

‘Perfect!’ Sally responded.

After lots of chatting, giggling at linguistic misunderstandings and another round of drinks, Ali asked the girls if they would like to go to his village. They had commented that they hadn’t seen much of the area as they spent their days at the beach. ‘It’s very beautiful. It only takes twenty minutes by car.’

‘But it’s late!’ Sally said, tempted, but wondering how safe it would be to go gallivanting around the countryside with two virile Turkish men.

‘It’s only eleven o’ clock. It is early!’ Nuri grinned. ‘Come on! It’ll be fun!’

Sally looked at Jo, hoping she would refuse Ali’s offer but she just shrugged her shoulders so it was left to Sally to make the decision.

Ali could see the girls looking dubiously at each other so assured them that they would be safe.

Settled in the back of an old Fiat, with seatbelts that didn’t fasten, Sally and Jo held onto each other as the car swerved around sharp corners along a rutted track which climbed steeply up into deep forest, with only the light from a waning moon and the dirty headlights guiding the way.

‘We must be crazy! Jo shouted above the din of the Fiat’s noisy exhaust, her hair being whipped against her cheek by the blast of air from the open car windows.  ‘Where the Hell are we going?’ Then, she tapped Ali on the shoulder, ‘Are you sure you can drive? Have you got a licence?’

Laughing, Ali replied, that he had one but these roads were challenging to drive on as they were only farm tracks. ‘Don’t worry! I’m a good driver. We’re nearly there,’ he shouted, taking a left turn onto an even bumpier track, careering wildly to avoid massive potholes. His driving became more erratic, buoyed by the shrieks of the girls in the back.

Finally, they arrived at a single storey, whitewashed house which stood next to a pile of bricks and builder’s rubble. A rusty cement mixer perched on top of a hardened heap of cement.

Clambering out of the car, weak with relief, the girls followed Ali into the house. The stifling interior consisted of one long room, sparsely furnished, with a battered old sofa pushed against the wall, an old television perched on a rickety table in the corner and a basic kitchen at the far end. Ali went to the fridge, taking out bottles of Efes beer which he offered to the girls and gestured for them to follow him. Opening a sliding glass door, he stepped outside onto a terrace.   ‘It’ll be cooler out here,’ he said, dragging tatty floor cushions against the wall for them to sit on.

Stiff from the car journey and enjoying the cool breeze, Sally stood at the edge of the terrace and as her eyes adjusted to the inky blackness, exclaimed, ‘Wow! Look at that view! That must be Ölü Deniz down there,’ seeing the cluster of twinkling lights with the sea beyond.

‘Yes it is,’ Nuri confirmed.

‘Is this your house?’ Sally asked.

‘Yes, this is our family’s house. It’s old but we are making it new’, Ali replied, which explained the building materials outside.

‘So are your parents here?’ Jo asked.

‘No, they live in another house just over there’, pointing vaguely over to the left.

‘So, you both live here?’ Jo inquired, realising that the house was isolated and miles from anywhere.

‘Yes, we do,’ Ali said, taking a swig of his beer.

The cold beer was working through Sally and she asked where the toilet was.

‘I’ll take you,’ Ali offered, leading her back into the house, across the living room, to a blue painted wooden door which he heaved open.

Sally found herself in a yard on the opposite side of the house in front of a small shed. Ali shoved open the door of the shed and beckoned for her to enter. Thanking Ali and watching him retreat back inside the house, Sally closed the shed door. She was thankful it was a western toilet but, overwhelmed by the reek of urine, held her breath as she relieved herself, fumbling around to find some toilet tissue.

As she stepped back out into the yard, careful not to trip over the uneven paving stones, hands grabbed her throat from behind and she was forced to her knees. ‘Aaagh!’ she gurgled, struggling to release the tight grip on her neck.

 

To be continued………………..

 

 

 

Arranged Marriage Anyone?

Marriage wedding champagne toast love

Having had a partner who had an arranged marriage at very early age and listened to his tale of woe about how it had ruined his life, dashed his dreams of a career in medicine, had a huge impact on his psychology and his view of the world, this is something that I have mixed thoughts about.

It has surprised me that a number of my Turkish friends who seem very Western in their outlook, having dated foreigners, having studied abroad and having established themselves in successful careers, have bowed to tradition and accepted their family’s choice of spouse for them. Arranged marriage in Turkey is nowhere near as popular as it was in our parents’ generation or even twenty years ago and many young Turks are marrying the person of their own choosing. However, there is still the expectation, particularly in rural areas, that young people will only marry a person who has been approved of by the respective families.

turkish bride

Burcu (not her real name), a secondary school Head of Department in Ankara was a party girl. She flaunted her taut, skinny body in figure hugging clothes, revealing eye-popping amounts of cleavage. Her outrageously short skirts, skyscraper heels attracted much male attention and she was never without a handsome man on her arm. She drank like a fish, bitched like a fishwife and stropped around using her feminine charms to land herself some rather dishy men. She had several long term relationships with Turkish men but to her surprise, a ring never materialised.

I was shocked to be invited to her wedding to someone I’d never heard of, knowing that only a few months earlier she had been dumped by her latest beau. How had she met someone so quickly? Who was he? What I discovered left me open-mouthed. Her husband-to-be was someone she had been at primary school with and his family were neighbours of her parents. He was an accountant and his family were wealthy. This was an arranged marriage.

Marriage wedding love rings

When the happy couple appeared at their wedding ceremony, there were audible gasps from her female colleagues who were seeing him for the first time. Burcu’s previous partners had all been tall, handsome, some sporting beards and tattoos, some suave in designer suits and Gucci shoes and she had always been so eager to show them off at staff dos. This man was short, bald, weighed about twenty stone and, although I hesitate to use the word, nothing else will suffice…..he was ugly! Ugly almost to the extent of being repulsive.

Now I know I shouldn’t judge people by their looks but it wouldn’t have mattered if it was anyone else other than Burcu. She had once asked me why I didn’t lose weight and that I’d be so much prettier if I wasn’t fat! So for her to marry someone who was less than perfect was gobsmacking. I spent much of the reception, wondering why she was marrying this man. It definitely wasn’t for love.

Looking longingly across the roomThat’s the issue I can’t get my head around. I used to believe that people got married for love. However, after I had my lightning bolt from the blue when I met my ex, I was amazed to discover that many of my friends and colleagues married for a variety of reasons and hardly any of them had ‘fallen head over heels’ for their husbands. They envied me having experienced the butterflies in the tummy when kissing, the heart pounding excitement of being together, the walking on cloud nine feeling of finding ‘The One’, the hours spent dreaming of future happiness and the obsessive desire to be together every minute of every day. They had married ‘because it seemed the right thing to do after going out together for a few years’, or ‘I didn’t want to do the dating thing again’ or ‘I’m never going to find anyone else’ or ‘He’s a nice man and he’ll look after me’.

I had an interesting conversation a few months ago with a local man, who having been married twice, was searching for his third wife. He was adamant that he wanted a foreign wife as Turkish women were too demanding (his words not mine!). I pointed out that having two previous foreign wives had not worked for him so maybe he was looking in the wrong place. I pointed out that you can’t choose who you fall in love with. He laughed and replied that love was not important. It would grow over time. His priorities were different.

Marriage clean up flatulence surrender

He openly said that he wanted a young woman who he could mould to his ways; be able to give him children, keep the home clean and tidy, cook his meals, wash his feet after a hard day at work (!), respect him, adore him and support him emotionally. Hiding my bewilderment, I told him that no foreign woman would fit that model. What he needed to do was find a village girl who was grateful to be married off and who found the idea of moving to a beautiful place like Dalyan and being the wife of a successful restaurant owner exciting. He poo pooed the idea but I heard this week that that is exactly what he has done! There was no courtship, no romance, no dating, just an agreement between their fathers. A date was set and the wedding took place a week later. They had met once prior to the marriage. He liked the look of her. Did she have a choice? Probably not.

Hand kissing respect Turkish tradition

I hope he’ll be happy but what if somewhere down the line he realises he doesn’t like her? Or she can’t have children? Will he send her back to the village in shame and then begin the search for wife Number Four? Or will he put up with her foibles and find solace in the arms of another woman? If she bears him children, but she doesn’t fulfill his physical needs, he certainly will not divorce her, for the sake of the children, but will have his jollies with the plethora of foreign female holiday makers who will fall for his flattery and silky charm.

What if she’s not happy? Will she just accept her fate and feel content that she is a wife, maybe a mother and will almost certainly be enjoying a better lifestyle than she would if she had stayed in the village. But what about her family support? It is unlikely that she would be able to visit them more than once a year and they are too poor to come here. Isn’t one of the important factors in arranged marriages that it is a union of the two families and that they are there for financial support, child minding duties and in times of hardship and stress?

Don’t men who settle for an arranged marriage miss the thrill of the chase? Don’t women yearn for the wooing, the flirting and the anticipation of requited love? It all seems so clinical. Like going to a shop and buying the first thing that fits the bill. Where’s the fun in that? Half the fun is looking forward to a shopping spree with something in mind and then, after hours of looking, finding just what you’re looking for. Impulse buys tend to be major disappointments when you get the items home and try them on. What were you thinking? You can’t return a wife and get your money back!

Marriage poetry prose chapter written

So, if you don’t have that ‘I can’t live without him’ feeling, how do you sustain the everyday humdrum of life? What motivates you to wash his socks, mop his fevered brow when he’s ill or be bothered to carry on when you can’t bear the sight of him? I ask these questions from the genuine curiosity of someone who’s never been married and with fear that I might never find someone who I can share my space with. I know marriage is hard work but could I settle with someone who I wasn’t totally in love with? Having experienced the perfect romantic meeting and obsessive feelings of love, can I settle for anything less now?

red roses heart loveI suppose if you haven’t been brought up to expect all the romantic trimmings: the red roses, the champagne, the being swept off to beautiful places, the meaningful gifts, etc. you don’t miss them. Personally, I would want the whole kit and caboodle, the happy ever after fairy tale ending as well as someone to share the responsibilities of life, a lover, an emotional support, a constant companion. However, knowing what an emotional rollercoaster falling in love can be, maybe I’d be better off with a carer!

 

The Language of Love

language of love

Have you ever wondered why so many British women fall for Turkish men?

Of course it’s partly due to the fact that they are so devilishly handsome but I think part of the reason is that we are overwhelmed by the declarations of love and affectionate language with which we are bombarded from the very first meeting. Turkish is a poetic language and the passionate nature of Turks make it easy for them to use words which to us more reserved Brits seem to take a relationship to a serious level before we’ve even decided to have one!

love definition roses

Generally, we Brits are not used to being flattered or being referred to in affectionate terms. Although I have noticed an increase of ‘hun’ tagged onto social media posts. Maybe I’m from an emotionally repressed family but the only word of affection I remember from my childhood was being called ‘pet’ by my Geordie grandparents. I am always suspicious when people I hardly know call me ‘sweetie’ or ‘darling’. If they use these words so often it smacks of insincerity. If I use terms of affection I mean them and have made a conscious choice to use them appropriately.

After looking up the meanings in a Turkish/English dictionary, I remember initially being sceptical when my Turkish ex-partner called me ‘birtanem’ (my only one), ‘canım (my life) and ‘hayatım’ (my life), but as the relationship developed, glowing in the use of them as they provided the affirmation I needed that my partner really valued me. I was later to discover when hearing my teaching partner refer to our pupils in the same terms and wondering how she could call a child ‘her life’ realised that the literal translation gives them a much more serious tone than the everyday usage meaning ‘my dear’ or ‘sweetheart’. A deflating discovery.

When we hear the three little words, ‘I love you’ from a man it’s a big deal – a much awaited declaration that his feelings are real. A Turkish man often says ‘seni seviyorum’ on a first date. He means ‘I like you’ but the British woman is either falling off her chair laughing at such a ridiculous pronouncement of love after just a few hours or she is totally sucked in and believes that her new beau has had a ‘coup de foudre’ and has fallen head over heels in love with her. It takes a while before she understands the subtleties of using the verb ‘sevmek’ which can mean ‘to love/like’.

In a cross cultural relationship between a British woman and a Turkish man, language plays a huge part. It is highly unlikely that she know any Turkish and, if his English is not good, body language becomes the main form of communication. A frantic game of ‘Pictionary’, drawing on paper serviettes or beer macharades mimingts ensues in a struggle to find out basic information about each other or even worse, ‘Charades’, where she is flinging her arms around trying to demonstrate what she does for a job or doing a jig hoping he will guess she needs the toilet.

The most obvious form of body language is sex. Turkish men are masters of flirting and seduction techniques, whispering sweet nothings in our ears, stroking our faces and hair and by the time we reach the bedroom we are putty in their hands. All that skin-to-skin stroking floods us with feel-good endorphins that do magical things for our mood and sense of well-being.  Then comes the massage.

Turkish massage

I have yet to meet a Turk, male or female, who doesn’t know how to give a good massage. It’s as natural to them as washing their hair. I remember the tea lady at school starting to give me a neck massage while I was eating my lunch one day. I nearly choked on the olive I was trying to destone in my mouth! She knew I’d had a stressful morning showing a group of particularly fussy prospective parents around and wanted to relax me. After the initial shock, I succumbed and was grateful for her kneading fingers and overcame my uptight reaction to being manhandled in front of sixty four year olds. But I digress.

Turkish men understand the importance of seduction and will go to great lengths to woo their chosen lady. The threat of competition from any other man takes things to another level. I have overheard some hilarious conversations between local waiters who are all vying for the spoils of a certain female and enter a sparring war to try to win her affections. Despite the array of promised boat trips, moonlight walks, gifts of varying expense and free meals, it is still a source of mystery to them that the man with the best command of English and the ability to sweep the lady off her feet with his funny anecdotes and honeyed words nearly always wins fair lady. Language matters.love funny silence

I, for one, will never again enter a relationship where I am conversing in a foreign language for the majority of the time. It’s too hard and no matter how fluent you become, you can never quite convey the subtleties of what you want to say or share the literature and music of your mother tongue, which are an integral part of the language of love.

It’s not that I want to be able to quote Shakespeare in Turkish or anything so grand but I have spent hours trying to translate song lyrics that were meaningful to me into Turkish and similarly trying to interpret a poem or song that my ex-partner wanted to convey to me from the original Turkish. I didn’t even know where to begin when they were in Kurdish! We take for granted our ability to talk about books we’ve read or interesting articles that we’ve seen on social media until the person we want to discuss them with doesn’t have the sufficient level of language we communicate in.swearing language Although I have to say that not sharing the same mother tongue does have one benefit: being able to vent, scream and swear during an impassioned argument in your native language. Knowing that your partner doesn’t understand a word is very satisfying and means there are no recriminations or repercussions about the horrid names you have called him!

 

Are you a British woman who is married to or has had a relationship with a Turkish man? I would love to hear your stories.