The 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!
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 mats 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.
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.
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. 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.