I can hear the bells: Turkish wedding, Part I

Wanting to fully and quickly immerse myself in Turkish culture, I attended a Turkish wedding this past weekend. The wedding was for a college friend of my roommate’s and she was nice enough to invit me as well.  I’ve only attended American weddings until this point and was excited to see how things were different.

We went to the henna night on Friday, which my roommate explained is similar to a Bachelorette party, though slightly less risque. It was in an upstairs event room of a swanky hotel about 15 minutes from us. Though I’d never met any of the people before, everyone was incredibly nice and welcoming. I tried my limited Turkish and if I didn’t speak too much, most people assumed I was Turkish. The first, and most major difference, I noticed, was that while there were mostly just women there (friends and family members), the groom and the bride’s father were there as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me rewind.

We took the minibus to a nearby neighborhood and were one of the first ones to arrive. After greeting the groom, the bride, and the bride’s sister, we picked a table and sat down while other guests trickled in. And though I shook most people’s hands when first meeting them, I had to get used to kissing them on each cheek. My British grandmother always does this, but it’s not something I’ve grown to expect from strangers.  Kiss, kiss, “Merhaba.” Yes, nice to meet you too. Handshake, kiss, kiss, “Merhaba.”

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Six things I’ve learned about Turkey so far

Today is the last day of my first week of work in Turkey and below are some things I’ve noticed in my week here:

1. Cats are the new squirrels

I haven’t seen a single squirrel roaming the sidewalks since I’ve been here, but I feel like T.S. Eliot because there are cats everywhere. You’ll find them on the sidewalks, lounging by buildings or under trees, playing on the side fo the street. And often, people will leave open jugs of water and food for them–almost like feeding the brids. They’re the city pets.

By the school where I work, I’ve also seen many stray dogs. I’ve learned that the ones with tags in their ears have seen the vet and had their immunizations. Personally, I’m more partial to the dogs, but unfortunately, the cats seem more abundant. I have yet to pet either.

2. Tea is essential to making it through the day

There is a tea room on almost every floor, in every building at my school. People drink tea in the morning, they drink it at breakfast, they drink it after meals and before bed. You’d think there would be a bigger British influence here with all the tea they drink, but perhaps the Turks started that trend before the Brits…

3. Traffic laws are arbitrary

I learned to drive outside of DC, which isn’t an easy task within itself, but I also learned to drive in DC in a Durango. If you know anything of DC driving, you know that you have to drive like you’re always running late and no one else on the road matters. If you don’t, you are run over by assholes who are running late and think they’re the only ones on the whole Beltway who matter. And you must go at least 10 miles over the speed limit when you aren’t stuck in a traffic jam.

Thank God I learned to drive in that environment so that I’m not completely scared riding the bus to and from work every day, because these people don’t care anything about traffic laws. A one lane road may contain a few lanes of traffic, and brakes are not necessary unless you are one foot from the driver in front of you or about one foot from hitting a pedestrian. Also, though seatbelts are a fantastic idea in this country, you hardly ever see people wearing them. And I’ve often seen children or babies just sitting on parent’s laps, without a seatbelt. It’s an eye opener, for sure.

Oh, and red lights? Those don’t necessarily mean stop. When I hit the crossing button and it says I can walk, I always make sure to check twice, because while most cars will stop at a red light, some will simply drive around the line and straight through the light. Other things such as turn signals and automatic transmissions are also not commonly used or found here. But horns, well those are used plenty.

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