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11 Things That Happen When You Move to Turkey

by Julia Kitlinski-Hong Sep 27, 2016

1. You become a kebab snob.

Whether it’s Beyti, Adana, or Iskender (just to name a few), you have to learn the differences between each one and develop a personal favorite. You’ll realize that the street kebabs that you ate back at home were just a sad excuse for the real thing and that kebabs come in all shapes and sizes — not just wraps.

2. You learn to find comfort in the ubiquitous cay.

A cup of tea (or three) is present at breakfast, with an afternoon snack of borek (savory pastry) or after dinner with baklava. For those not accustomed to the taste, it quickly grows on you as you associate it with hospitality and tradition. A few cubes of sugar are added if you have a sweet tooth. Most importantly, you will have your preferred choice of preparation, from koyu (strong) to acik (weak).

3. You get used to eating vegetables for breakfast.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and arugula are usually present at a typical weekend breakfast spread. At first, it took a bit of an adjustment to have salad fixings next to your eggs, but now you embrace this healthy contribution to an otherwise hearty meal.

4. Cheek kissing becomes second nature.

You have traded hugs for the traditional two kisses on the cheek when you meet up with friends. That does not mean there have not been awkward near misses, where you both have gone right instead of opposite directions.

5. You start to say ‘no’ by simply clicking your tongue.

Instead of saying ‘no’ or ‘hayir,’ you have adopted the simple Turkish expression of clicking your tongue once. When you first heard it you were confused that it was a sign of exasperation, but quickly learned that the actual meaning was just stating a negative response.

6. You constantly smell like lemon cologne.

After dinner or when you enter someone’s home, a strong lemon-scented alcohol substance is usually offered to cleanse yourself. As you have discovered, it is one of the best ways to refresh yourself, especially if the weather is extra hot or the smell of grilled meat is lingering on your hands.

<h2<7. You know that plans are always made last minute.

You know better than to schedule social events ahead of time. Usually, plans come together the night of, often just an hour before. You also know that a meeting time is a loose suggestion and that people will usually show up half an hour to an hour later.

8. Lambs intestine sandwiches seem like a perfectly reasonable late night snack.

To cure the midnight munchies, kokorec has become one of your go-to snacks. Cooked on a skewer and dripping with oil, it doesn’t take much for your mouth to start salivating when you smell the telltale aroma. You even have your favorite truck, where the vendor instantly recognizes you.

9. You realize that Turkey does not fit neatly into a certain continent.

Geographically, Turkey is sometimes referred to as being in the Middle East, and sometimes it is considered to be in Europe. You realize that there are similarities between religion and politics that can make it seem Middle Eastern. Yet there are places on the coast like liberal and cosmopolitan Izmir, that seem as if they belong in continental Europe.

10. You learn how to pace yourself with a night involving raki.

You would prefer not to remember your first time with raki, but now you know the trick is to sip it slowly throughout the night. Also, mezes are your best friend in this situation, where the little dishes of hot and cold appetizers act as a buffer against the anise-flavored hard liquor.

11. You automatically take off your shoes at the front door of every home you enter.

Like a natural reflex, you make sure to take off your shoes immediately after coming into a house — whether it is your home or someone else’s. You also readily accept a pair of slippers when you are visiting someone’s home without question, and do the same for guests who come into your home.

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