5 things I’ve gotten used to in Turkey

First two months of my European Voluntary Service project are done! And it’s been three months since I arrived in Turkey. You know what’s crazy? It’s March 28th… My project will end on November 22nd.

I want to share with you five things I’ve gotten used to here in Turkey:

1. Going with the flow 

During the past two months I have kept busy despite not planning too many things ahead (I said busy… let’s speak about productivity another time ;D). I have been doing things and not been bored, that’s for sure. I’ve been at the office Monday to Friday and to a village school on three Saturdays so far. I’ve taken weekend trips to Izmir and Eskişehir, spent a week in Istanbul attending EVS volunteers’ On-Arrival Training and my friends have visited me here in Bursa. I’ve spent fun times with my fellow-EVS’ers and their friends, hanging at our home, cafes and attending music events. Most plans are made kind of last minute, and that’s how we roll here!


At the training in Istanbul. I’m the one who is hiding behind everyone else…


2. Being surrounded by people

I’ve gotten used to having people around me most of the time and doing things together. So much so that the other weekend when I got on the bus to Izmir and realized I was going to spend the five hour journey by myself, I felt strange about being alone. Silly, huh! Back in Finland I was quite used to and content with solitude. Of course, there should be a balance. Others act as your mirror and that’s good for us. It’s great that my flatmate and I get along as well as we do. I could have also been placed in a Turkish host family, but I’m quite pleased with this arrangement and my Spanish, wine-loving, guitar-playing, lovely flatmate!

Izmir clock tower

3. Blending in… more or less

In the beginning when I was freshly arrived, I felt like I was sticking out in the crowd as if I had glowing phosphorous skin or something. I had a lot of awareness about myself. I quickly realized that mostly nobody cares and most people will hardly bat an eye at one funny-looking foreigner in their midst. Still, I couldn’t help but remember that feeling when I had my pixie cut trimmed last weekend. Maybe all the customers staring at me in that men’s barber shop had something to do with it?

4. The language

I think I’m getting there! I’m bugged by this feeling that I’m not doing enough self-study or not trying hard enough to speak more Turkish with people. I could do more of that… I wanna be fluent! It’s easy to avoid speaking Turkish since English is our common language at the office and home, but that’s just an excuse.

With each successful conversation I get more confidence in my speaking abilities. With a helpful person, I can chat away for an hour about this and that (okay, maybe for like 45 minutes). Just yesterday I was making conversation practice with my Turkish tutor and we ended up talking about the pecking order in a flock of chickens… My performance may have been poor, but at least I’m not shying away from trying to explain all kinds of things ;D

At the village school in Keles

5. The soundscape

The ezan, the sellers at the Wednesday vegetable bazar, the waiters enticing people into restaurants (Buyurun, buyurun, buyurun!).

The dark, mustache-sporting man at the Üniversite metro station managing the departures and arrivals of the dolmuş (Hadi Görukle’ye gidiyor! Hadi hemen gidiyor!).

The guy collecting metal and trash. That one makes a very peculiar sound indeed.

The guy selling boza on winter evenings in the streets of Istanbul.

These sounds or shouts are more like chants. I love it! If you want to hear what I’m talking about, you should watch Al Jazeera’s documentary film “Istanbul Streets: I Hear Music”. Can’t seem to be able to embed it here but you can find it on YouTube. It’s the story of Istanbul’s street vendors and their struggle to survive and keep up the tradition amid the city’s gentrification and laws banning their livelihood. Simply fascinating.

My friends waiting for their gözleme at the bazar

Let me know, if there is something specific you would like to hear about in my blog! Until next time, take care.