Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cultural Curves

Yesterday, Linda and I decided to do some shopping! Some of Shane & Linda's HHG have still not arrived! (Our's arrived in August -- just to give you some perspective.) Because they are way past due date, the moving company will now allow her to purchase a few things on the company's dime. Since it is getting cooler here, she needed a few fall-like outfits. So before lunch, we headed out to the M1 (Mbir) together.

After a quick stop at the Sunday market (Linda's first market experience since moving here), we got to the mall. While I have visited the mall in Turkey before, I had never really shopped with the Turkish people before. We'd bought a few things at the grocery store or "WalMart" but not clothing. First we had lunch at Popeyes! This was a nice taste of home. The chicken was delightful, and while I still am not sure what the sauces they gave me were or why the ketchup was so salty, it really felt nice to eat something a bit more "familiar."

Sunday is the Muslim family day. (In conrast to a Saturday in America.) I knew this but think I sort of forgot. It was also the last of the weekend before one of the biggest Muslim holiday's: Eid al-Adha (which is why Hatice is not working this week and I am having to clean my house!)

I say this because it was the crowds that taught me quite a bit about the culture. And not only did I learn a lot about Turkish culture, but I also learned a lot about American culture as well. I realized that there are many things that are socially unacceptable in American culture that are "unwritten." We may not even realize they are seen as acceptable or unacceptable in "our world." But they are. And you don't realize that until you see other people who do it totally different.

An example. Has anyone ever taught you the right and wrong way to look at clothes on the rack? I don't think my mother ever showed me these skills. But yet as I shopped around people raised differently than me, I realized that there is a way of doing things in the USA.

And this was not it.

Say there is a rack of sweaters. If I were in the U.S. and looking at the rack, it would be acceptable for someone to come and begin looking toward the back of the rack while I looked in the front. Acceptable, but many times the person will still wait until I am done with that rack before stepping in.

Out shopping yesterday, I was taken aback by the people who simply started looking at the same piece I was looking at. They would come right up next to me and share in my browsing. In fact, as I was holding up one shirt to look at it, a woman came by and began to turn it from side-to-side to get a better view for herself.

I quickly realized that what she was doing was not wrong. What I was thinking was not wrong. It was just different. I also realized that somehow I had learned a way to do things. Who taught me? Did I learn by observing? Did I do it wrong and get a stern look? I am not sure. But somehow I learned it.

And now I needed to unlearn it. Temporarily at least.

Another difference is lines. In general, lines are much more "foggy" here in Turkey than they are in our culture. When Americans make a line, we make it a fairly concrete line. The Turks just kind of wander in and out of the line and forward and backward. There is a general line but it is not concrete. I am not sure how they would react to someone actually "cutting" but I got the impression it wouldn't really bother them. It was almost expected that you wait in line with the plan to get a turn close to the spot you got in at.

In addition, if there were seven dressing room "stalls" in a women's dressing room and there was a line to use them, wouldn't it make sense to have one line and the next person goes to the next available stall? At least that's how I've always done it. The same thing is true in bathrooms. At least that's how I've always done it. But not here. I continued to observe both at cash registers, in dressing rooms, and in bathrooms, people waiting in their own line. It took Linda and I a bit to figure out how this would work. We had to pick a dressing room and "claim it." A bathroom stall and "claim it." We then had to wait for that particular person to get done. If they took a long time, that was our bad luck. Surprisingly, the Turkish women did not seem bothered that Linda was trying on multiple things. They seemed to have a lot of patience.

Another thing that is different for Americans.

In a bathroom, it is the same. I would walk into the bathroom and stand off to the side. A stall would open up. There are two other women in the bathroom. I nod my head at the door as if to ask them if they are going to go inside. They nod their head back at me to go inside. I guess the stall is mine. I was nearest it. They have claimed their own stall. I think this puts a lot of pressure on the person in the stall you are waiting for.

We finished off the day with some Turkish ice cream. It tastes like American ice cream but has the consistency of taffy. Very yummy. I have had it one or two other times. A small cultural difference here was the scoop amount. Linda asked for a cone with one scoop. One scoop was a very small scoop. We both were almost shocked when the man started to hand her the cone with the one scoop on top. Since I am the Turkish speaker between the two of us, she turned to me and asked me to request two scoops instead. Even two scoops was smaller than an American scoop but Linda stopped there.

Loved hanging out with Linda. Loved learning more about the culture. Loved practicing my Turkish. And loved eating the ice cream on the way home.


Anonymous said...

this was fun to read...i remember the sense of me wondering why the Indonesians invaded my space and walked in front of me cutting me off, and close to me when shopping...'n then there was getting each item written up, then going to pay from all the papers and going back to each section of the store to get my stuff...I thought it was to give people work as there were usually two or three writing my paper up and two or three at the cash register -but it was to keep stealing from happening they said, and also keep the employees honest...Eddie's teacher called me in to pre-school -she could not get Eddie to stand in a line -he just went to the front -i told her about shoving our hand in first at the PO -whoever's hand got in there might get waited on...the nice thing is I got called in for Eddie thinking he was a little king or something and everyone should give him the toy he wanted --that's cuz he was treated like a little prince in Indonesia --whatever that cute little blondie wanted he got! :) Have fun Tante Jan

Jenny said...

This would never fly in Germany! They are VERY concrete on things, and if you aren't doing it the "right" way they will be sure to let you know! You can see how this might be a bit of a cultural clash as there are so many Turkish people moving to Germany.

TAV said...

no lines observed in india, either