45 Photos That Explore The Beauty Of The Turkish LifestyleBy Kimiko I
There are many things to appreciate about Turkey, from its breathtaking landscapes to its old-world charm. It would come as a shock to some that the Turkish people still practice a lot of old customs that have stayed intact through the centuries. Even more interesting, some aspects of the Turkish lifestyle have not been seen anywhere else in the world. On top of the sustained culture, it’s important to mention that Turkey is one of the earliest regions that was permanently settled. That could certainly be why its culture is so rich and strong. Even if we aren’t able to visit anytime soon, let’s take a look at what we can learn about the wonderful ways of Turkish living.
Maid or Maintenance?
We know that Turkish families love to keep their homes spotless, but what about the apartment facilities? In Western countries, building maintenance is included in the contract of the tenant’s lease. Turkish residents pay an additional $25 for an apartment service to cover the cleanliness and maintenance of the apartment grounds.
This includes trash removal, yard care, normal wear-and-tear within the unit, and maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of the equipment with the common amenities like the pools, gyms, and saunas. Please tell us how we can bring this to our country?
Privacy. What is that?
The Turkish people must be really set on allowing the natural light to enter their homes because they are perfectly fine with living in window-to-window apartments. While foreigners are self-conscious about neighbors being able to look into their homes, the Turkish don’t see anything wrong with it.
Privacy is an important concept to some. After learning so much about their culture, it is obvious that Turks understand how to respect and value one another in a positive way. So many people around the world could really take a page from their book.
It’s not an emergency; it’s a choice.
The United States is known for having more painkillers than cures to diseases, and physicians still believe that a woman should give birth naturally, except in cases of emergency. Insurance companies will not even cover the cost of a C-section unless the doctor ordered it.
In Turkey, however, women can choose whether to have a C-section or give natural birth. Out of fear of pain during delivery, more than half of the country chooses to have a C-section. Turkish men are supportive of their wives’ decisions and are not afraid to watch the whole birth.
Is this a spa, or a bath?
Can anyone believe that bathhouses are not just a thing of the past? Rather than just going to a jacuzzi or the sauna at one’s local gym after a long workout, Istanbul has kept the old-world traditions alive by maintaining bathhouses all around the city.
They are equipped with steam rooms, saunas, and baths that are centuries old. Many of them are kept up so well, they have maintained the same appearance for the last few hundreds of years, with some modern touches, we imagine.
I caught a cold…in my stomach
Doctors in Turkey refer to colds and the flu as a “cold in the stomach.” In the Western World, we have these colds with antibiotics and fever reducers like penicillin and Tylenol. But Turkey has proven time and time again the value of the old-school way of doing things.
Taking a cold shower is still the doctor’s preferred method to lower the body’s temperature in the patient rather than trying to solve a problem with a pill, and it continues to be most effective—another lesson to be learned.
Did you call first?
Back when people appreciated friends and family, a visit from an unexpected guest was welcomed. For the Turkish, it still is. While others think that it is inappropriate for someone to visit without calling first or asking if it is okay, the Turkish still appreciate it.
What could possibly make a person feel more special than to know that someone was thinking about them enough to want to stop by while they were in the neighborhood? These kinds of friendships should still be valued in the 21st century.
Special occasions are always better when you have kids
In the US, there are many important birthdays. 16 is old enough to get a driver’s license, 18 marks the day one officially becomes an adult, 21 is the legal drinking age, etc. People like to get together to celebrate these huge milestones with a party that usually includes food, cake, gifts, and a lot of booze.
Unfortunately for Turks, once you are no longer a kid, the birthday fun stops. One should feel lucky to get a text message, much less a birthday card. If a get-together is planned, it is a nice quiet conversation at the dinner table over tea and cake.
Move aside tiny homes
While the tiny home trend has kicked off around the world, the smallest home that you can find in Turkey is a 1 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment. One-bedroom apartments are nice and spacious and include a nice little kitchen.
This is the smallest option for any person living alone or for a couple. The country does not have studio apartments available for people who are looking to fill a smaller space. We can only imagine homes for large families!
It’s Starbucks – No, it’s Dunkin Donuts – No it’s…Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi?
We’ve seen the lines at the Starbucks drive-thru that go around the corner and down the road, but nothing compares to this must-have cultural staple. Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi has a much longer history than any large coffee chain in the United States.
Since 1871 this coffee company has been roasting coffee beans. People line up to buy bags of ground coffee to take home. Employees make sure their customers stay happy and caffeinated. If one were to ever visit one of these establishments, they would only need to look in the window to find employees packing bag after bag to sell.
That’s my bae
Who doesn’t love a little representation in the world? In 2017 Nusret Gokce, otherwise known as Salt Bae, rose to social media fame as the hot Turkish chef who cut his steak ever-so-precisely before sprinkling a dash of salt on it.
He brought style to the kitchen in a way we have never seen. He almost made it look like the hottest place to be (no pun intended). Most importantly, he made his country proud as a desired chef and businessman.
There goes the baker with his tray, like always.
Every culture has that one special staple dish that no one has to look for. It is right outside of every door. For Turkish culture, that staple dish is called a Simit. While walking the streets of the city, passersby will notice a man with a large tray on his head carrying simit bread yelling into the distance for people to come and get one.
The simit bread looks like a long French bread topped with sesame seeds. This is similar to the ice cream man in the United States or the elotero (corn man) in Mexico. This must mean it is super delicious.
A little passion never hurt anybody.
Passion can be a good thing. There are many cultures and societies that are known for being extremely expressive. People who fall into this category will sound like they are yelling when they’re just having a casual conversation. it is not unusual to see them use a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions when speaking.
Turkish culture falls into this category, and not only are people passionate on a day-to-day basis, but if one were to ever meet this wonderful group of people at a soccer game, that person would be in for a thrill.
No GMOs here
Other countries are busy eating genetically modified fruits and vegetables while Turkey is keeping it real. Not only does this country have some unbelievably delicious honey and greens picked fresh daily, but its pride and joy are its juicy tomatoes.
The country boasts having some of the tastiest tomatoes ever, and we are inclined to believe them. It is also well-known for exporting its dried fruits and nuts. We can only imagine how delicious these fresh, completely natural fruits and vegetables must be!
Talk About Fresh Catch of the Day
While hot dogs are being sold on the streets of New York City, if you visit the streets of Turkey, you will find that mussels are the food of choice by street vendors. Soaked in lemon juice and topped off with a little spice, these are not hard to come by because they are so easily found in the sea.
Mussels are known as the “fruit of the sea,” and many will not deny that they are much healthier and tastier than the average hot dog in New York any day. There is an abundance of them to fill up on.
Rock-A-Bye Baby on the Leg Top
One of the best ways to rock a baby to sleep is in your arms. It’s perfectly natural for a parent to want to hold their baby in their arms and kiss them on the cheek or the forehead as they rock the baby to sleep.
But in Turkey, babies are rocked to sleep on their parents’ legs. They place the baby in the middle of a large pillow and use their feet to rock the pillows side to side in the same motion as a crib would go. This puts the baby fast to sleep.
Stand Back, New York! Our subways run under the ocean.
The city of Istanbul borders the European and Asian continents. It is separated by a large body of water, known as the Bosphorus Strait. So, engineers got creative and found a way to run the subway tunnel underwater to get passengers from one end of the city to the other.
If taking the subway seems scary, travelers can still take a taxi across the bridge that connects both sides of the city. We are marveling at the engineering here and would love to ride on this under the sea subway.
Step back, Italy. We’ll show you how pizza is made.
The Turkish have developed their own non-dairy version of pizza called “lahmacun.” Even though tourists can still purchase a traditional pizza like the ones found in Italian restaurants, locals prefer a more meat-hearty dish that is not baked with any cheese.
This is a perfect alternative for some lactose-intolerant friends we may have. Unlike a traditional pizza that is most often cut into triangles and eaten flat or folded, lahmacun is usually eaten while rolled up. It also has a lot more flavor than regular pizza sauce.
Road Rules? There are none.
Turkey must have the most common-sense way of driving to have virtually no rules regarding the right-of-way and where blinkers are nothing more than decorations. The traffic is insane (even though nothing could beat Los Angeles and New York).
Right of way is more about whoever can make it first. Reversing to go around the congestion is normal. In Driver’s Ed, the instructors always said, “there are the laws of the state and the laws of Traffic.” Turkey definitely follows the laws of traffic, which have nothing to do with state laws.
May I please have my change? – Sure. Let me add it up for you.
If you’ve ever been to a store and purchased something for $3, but you gave the clerk a $20 bill, the clerk would give you your change. Instead of subtracting $20 – $3 = $17, The Turkish will “add” the change, like so: $3 + $2 = $5. $5 + $15 = $20. $2 + $15 = $17 in change owed.
It may seem like a long process, but it seems like a nice “positive” approach to math. Much like when teachers grade in purple or blue ink, it’s nice when things are taken in the positive. Math skills must be coveted.
What is for dinner? – I think I’ll have breakfast.
At the end of the day, food is food. We have meat, fruit, vegetables, grains, and dairy. These are the major food groups. Around the world, we tend to think that only certain combinations of these food groups should be reserved for breakfast, then lunch, then dinner.
But the Turkish have a common sense about them that is not so common. It is normal for them to eat dishes that would normally be reserved for breakfast, for dinner. They call it their “evening breakfast.” Makes sense to us.
Hospitality we don’t see anymore
Turkey has some of the nicest people anyone could encounter. Their understanding of hospitality is unlike any other culture. One should never have to ask for something to eat when a guest in someone’s home. People understand kindness and common courtesy.
One internet blogger wrote about his encounters: “Once, I told my friend’s mother that I was amazed by how much she cared about me…Her answer amazed me even more, ‘My second son is also abroad now, so I care about you, and some other mother will care about him.’” That level of kindness and consideration should not be as rare as it is.
A fountain dedicated to my love
The drinking fountains in Turkey are like none other seen around the world. It will be made of beautiful stone designed with incredibly detailed carvings. One stone is the most significant, with the name of a lost loved one carved into it.
Fountains are memorials for family members who have since passed on. When someone drinks from the fountain, it is expected that they pray over the soul of the person whose name is carved into the stone. This is so beautiful.
Would you like some yogurt to drink with that?
Whenever visiting a restaurant, the first thing the server usually asks is, “what would you like to drink?” Everyone has their preferred drink that they order often or always. The most preferred drink in Turkey is a yogurt-like drink called “ayran.”
Instead of just having a glass of milk to settle the stomach, the Turkish take it a step further and prefer to drink this yogurt with every meal. They claim that it helps with digestion. The Turkish also claim that they invented yogurt over a thousand years ago.
Deodorizing Hand Sanitizer
When leaving restaurants, customers usually see a bowl of mints at the exit. This is to make one’s breath smell good after eating and encouraged after someone has eaten anything made with garlic or onion. Now it’s quite common to see hand sanitizer at every entrance, exit, and cash register of restaurants and stores.
Turkey was well-prepared and always offered a hand sanitizer to spray on customers at their restaurants. This was meant to disinfect the hand and remove any odors that may have been left from the food eaten.
Meow, this is the police!
Cats have an unusual amount of authority in Turkish culture. They are almost seen as divine spirits. If one can recall the scene in The Mummy when the Medjai said that cats are seen as the guardians of the underworld, it’s almost something like that.
A great many of them can be seen around mosques such as the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Some have said they even serve as police cats. We would immediately surrender to their cuteness; you can count on that.
Pollo con Leche?
Two extremely popular dishes around the world, especially in Latin American culture, are rice with chicken (arroz con pollo) or rice with milk (or pudding) called arroz con leche. However, an extremely popular Turkish dessert is more like chicken with milk.
An unusual delicacy, called Tavuk Gogsu, is shredded chicken covered in milk pudding. It is a signature dish of the culture that the Ottoman Sultans once ate. The sound of it doesn’t seem attractive, but as the saying goes “don’t knock it ‘til you try it.”
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
It is important to keep a home clean and sanitary, but some people believe that the cleanliness of a person’s home also determines the level of a person’s self-respect. The Turkish take cleanliness to a whole other level and highly value it.
They have gained a reputation for keeping a home spic and span and spotless. A Russian woman who is married to a Turkish man once said, “I had been considering myself neat until the moment I started being shown the traces of water drops on a bathroom faucet.”
Sneeze off into heaven – no please, stay here.
It has been said that every time a person sneezes, a little bit of their soul flies away. The appropriate response to a sneeze varies in every culture. The Turkish say “cok yasa,” which means “live a long life.” This is in response to the idea that every time you sneeze, a little bit of your life goes away. The Turks are known to be a very superstitious culture.
Some will even practice fortune-telling by interpreting the shapes of coffee grounds in their cups and their meanings. This is not hugely different from Wiccans and others who practice fortune-telling by interpreting the shapes of tea leaves in a cup.
Men need to be pampered too.
The day a man goes in for a Turkish shave can be compared to the day a woman takes a spa day. A Turkish shave is not an ordinary shave. A man gets to sit back, drink his tea, and then the barber begins to shave his face.
Afterward, the barber delicately dunks the man’s head in a sink full of water before giving him a full luxurious face massage. This treatment costs quite a pretty penny or lira in this case, but it is well worth it.
Can I get a glazed donut? – Best I can do is a Lady’s Navel.
A Lady’s Navel is a sweet treat served in Turkey. For Americans, it is going to look a lot like a glazed donut. But the Turkish are known for their creative names for some of their sweet treats and delicacies.
These names include: “the lips of beauty,” “your aunt,” “bulletproof cutlets,” “a boat of pleasure” and “a woman’s hip.” With names like these it seems like the Turkish see a woman as a sweet treat or a delicacy herself. How complimentary.
Hello Martha! – But my name is Babe
Women can agree that we love it when our spouses use terms of endearment to address us. In Turkey, this is an expected practice. Using first names is reserved for addressing friends, family, and acquaintances. So it is so important to find a cute pet name.
When addressing one’s spouse, one will hear, güneşim (my sun), aşkım (my love), meleğim (my angel), and canım (my soul). Not too different from terms like “sweetheart,” “darling,” “baby,” or “love” often used in English-speaking societies. But they probably sound musical.
Shoes off at the door
A not-so-strange practice in Turkey is to leave one’s shoes outside of the door before entering the house. Americans are often criticized for wearing shoes indoors and walking barefoot outdoors, as many cultures believe that it is cleaner and more sanitary to leave one’s shoes outside before going inside.
This practice prevents the germs and bacteria on the outside from getting into the home. But the Turkish are not concerned with keeping up with Air Jordans and Louboutins. Shoes can be seen piled high on top of each other in front of mosques and homes.
What did you say about the tea?
Coffee fanatics are going to have to sit down for this one. If there is anything the Turkish care more about than coffee, it’s tea. Tea, or “cay,” as it is called in Turkish, is a large part of the culture itself. People gather around to have tea while socializing.
And tea is often the drink of choice served during business meetings at a corporate office. This may come to a surprise to people who are accustomed to drinking coffee, but we all know those select few colleagues who prefer to drink tea at the meetings.
Bathrooms are Functional, for sure.
Before the era of indoor plumbing, people would use outhouses or dig holes in the ground to do their business. In a more traditional Turkish bathroom, the hole in the ground is given a more luxurious appearance. The restroom will be decked out with modern stone tile flooring, and completed with a beautiful, but simple, plate over the hole where a toilet would go normally.
A faucet is placed next to this hole to help thoroughly cleanse the area rather than a roll of toilet paper. More modern Turkish restrooms will have a traditional toilet with a bidet installed. But the older model is definitely better than an outhouse.
Man’s best friend could be his worst nightmare.
In America and other western countries, dogs are seen as man’s best friend. They are used as emotional support animals for therapy, service animals for the blind, trained policemen, or they are simply part of the family. They get good treatment in the right homes.
But in Turkey, people are so afraid of dogs, that people will cross the street if they see a dog walking towards them. If a tourist takes a dog with them on their travels, they will find themselves walking their dog to the vet because buses and taxis will not allow the dogs on board.
I’d like a Hamburger. – “One Wet Burger Coming right up!” – Wait, What?
Hamburgers are known to be a staple food in American culture, but the Turkish have put a nice spin on it. Rather than just grilling the burger patty, the Taksim Islak burger, otherwise known as the “Wet Burger,” have their own method.
It is seasoned and marinated with garlic and tomato sauce before being kept in a steamer until it is ready to be purchased. People line up to eat these tasty, juicy burgers that melt in your mouth after every bite. Who would not love to bite into a burger made with a sauce from Turkey’s signature juicy tomatoes?
I want to dance! – Yes, but can you feel the spirit?
In Turkey, they have a dance called Sufi Whirling. A group of men known as a “Semazen, the Whirling Dervishes” hit the dance floor in their traditional robes at special occasions and entertain guests with a beautiful display of a blend of spirituality and their cultural dance.
People dance in front of members of the congregation and their guests. For the Baptist denomination, members of the church may be so moved by the spirit that they begin to “shout,” which is a dance that involves quick foot movement.
TAXI! – No, it’s “TAKSI” and Stop Yelling!
We have all seen the movies showing New Yorkers raise their hand and yell out to get the attention of a cab driver. In Turkey, one simply must push a button at a nearby post, and a taxi will arrive at that location.
This may seem strange to the new generation who is now accustomed to using Rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft. To those of us who remember what it was like to request a ride before we became too dependent on technology, this manual system is like a breath of fresh air.
Ugh, I have so much work to do – Let’s sit and chat over tea.
One of the best beauties of Turkish culture is that socializing is encouraged, even during business hours. When so many of us feel so rushed throughout the day, with too many things to do and not enough time, the Turkish are appreciating the little things in life.
Not feeling obligated to take this time out of your day to do this could be seen as an insult. Some of us who are overworked and exhausted could learn a thing or two about this work-life balance that has not been seen for ages in some countries it seems like.
Flowers My Love? – Why? I’m not Dead!
Many of us buy flowers to show that we love and care for someone. Stores stay stocked with bouquets of flowers for holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day because they are the perfect gift of choice to show we appreciate our spouse or our mothers.
Buying flowers is also an appropriate random act of kindness towards a loved one. But in Turkey, floral arrangements are specifically used for special occasions, like graduations and funerals. Wreaths are purchased in the event of a family function, not bouquets.
All these headbands and no one is running
Generally, when a person is wearing a headband it is because they intend to sweat as a result of working out. The headband will catch the sweat dripping from a person’s head. In Turkey, some men begin balding at a younger age.
We all know how our hair can have an impact on our confidence, so men who realize they are balding will go to Istanbul to receive hair transplants. These headbands are used to cover up the scars of the procedure.
I’ll take the whole thing. Wait, what kind of portion size is this?
It is no secret that the US has a completely different understanding of the metric system than the rest of the world. This “difference” plays a huge role in the country’s understanding of portion sizes, as well. But we can all agree that when we pay for a box of something, we expect the box to be filled to the top.
In Turkey, portion sizes are so small buyers from any country may not feel like they are getting what they pay for. This has led to a negative stereotype that Turkish vendors cheat their customers, which isn’t true or fair.
Greetings Your Highness – I mean “Hello, Grandma”
It’s safe to say that a universal practice around the world is to have respect for one’s elders. The Turkish have a special tradition they practice when greeting elder members of their family or their community – a kiss on the hand.
Westerners usually practice this gesture when a man is using his charm while greeting a woman. We may see examples of commoners greeting royalty in this fashion in movies and shows. But the young men and women in Turkish culture would find such a gesture humiliating if used on them.
Here Comes the Bride – Now Who’s Next?
A common tradition at the end of a wedding is for the bride to throw a bouquet over her shoulder to a group of her single friends standing behind her. The idea is that the woman who catches the bouquet is the next to get married.
However, in Turkey, the bride will write all of the names of her single friends on the bottom of her wedding shoes. Whoever’s name gets rubbed off is supposedly the next one to tie the knot. After a long night of walking and dancing, it would be a surprise if all of her friends didn’t get married in bulk after that wedding.
Safety Precautions are Just a Suggestion
While some countries may pride themselves on their advanced legal system and the laws regarding public health and safety, Turkey is not so strict. It’s not uncommon to see people do things that haven’t been seen since our grandparents were young. Things like jumping onto a slow-moving cable car used to be fun in San Francisco, CA.
Now you will be scolded for not patiently waiting at one of its designated stops and paying a fee before using the tram services. But in Istanbul, children can be seen still thoroughly enjoying this experience of running onto a moving tram.