Interview with Sue from Istanbul, Turkey
Which country do you consider to be your country?
Can I choose countries all over the world?
I don´t know – the world is so big. I have too many countries that I have never visited before. But from the one I have I would choose Costa Rica. Costa Rica is me.
So what did you especially like about Costa Rica?
Nature. Everything is natural. Everything is pure. If you cut a tree on the road, for example, the government can punish you for that. Even if you just cut a little tree. And the people living there also don´t respect it if you destroy something in nature. But, actually, the main reason I like it is happiness. Because happiness is building the culture, you are learning how to be respectful to every single culture even if the are different. So yeah, I think it is Costa Rica.
How long did you live in Costa Rica?
Two and a half months, but it was – everything. I loved spending my time there.
So, you were born and raised in Turkey. How do you feel about this country?
The thing is, I had no chance to choose the place where I was born, but I have a chance to decide where I want to live. I really love my Turkey, but every country has a different mentality. Even if the country is seen as a really good country, we humans are making the country a country. So, it´s about the people. There are so many different people in Turkey – from all around the world. Even if they are Turkish, we have a lot of different types of Turkish people.
How do you feel about the people in your country?
I love people. I don´t have anything against anyone. Even if someone would do something really bad to me I´d say “Ok, they choose to do that, it´s their thing.” But I will not break down because of something like that. I love Turkish people, I love Turkish hospitality, I love Turkish smiles and I love Turkish food. But yeah, I just love people.
Do you plan on living in Turkey or do you want to keep travelling?
I want to spend my time in different countries as much as I can. From all around the world. I don´t want to limit myself to be honest. Because, yes, I was born in Turkey and my parents are Turkish, but there´s a whole planet that we are living on. So we need to see everything. Because we are maybe just living once. So we need to see everything, every culture, we need to exchange cultures.
Can you see yourself living in Costa Rica one day?
I will. I will. It´s my biggest goal in life. After my forties or after my thirty-fives I will definitely find a way. Even if I couldn´t fulfill my dreams I will live there for sure. It´s like…the purpose of my life right now.
What do you think Turkish people are known for?
Every Turkish has morals. And we have good hospitality. Even if you are in a different region of Turkey, even if you visit a different culture in Turkey. If you really know the local Turkish people, the main thing about our culture is hospitality. You can just ask for food of someone, you can ask for a stay with someone and ask for help. And they are helpful. They are really helpful.
Could you tell me a general misconception people usually have about Turkish people?
Wow, I don´t even know where to start. People think, for example, we are living in the desert in the middle of nowhere. Turkey has a really beautiful geographical place in the world. Our landscape is really diverse.
One time I was in the States, I took an Uber and the Uber driver was really shocked when I told him that I am from Turkey.
He asked me “Really? Seriously? Can I ask you something? Can you have a boyfriend in Turkey?”
“Yes, why not?!”
“Oh, I thought that you were all wearing a hijab and you have really strict rules because of your dictatorship.”
“No, of course not”.
Once time, when I was in Costa Rica, they asked me if I was riding Camels in Turkey. They are always asking me why I am not wearing the hijab.
When I ask him “Hey, do you know where Turkey is?”
They reply “It´s in the middle east.”
No, it´s Asia, Europe and Middle-East. Mostly they are asking me “Do you have winter? Do you have seasons or do you have just one season or something?” So, I´ve already gotten a lot of weird questions.
Do you also get questions about your religion?
Yes and most people don´t know what Islam is. For example, I am a Muslim. I´m really happy to be a Muslim. But I am living my religion on my own, I don´t have to show it to anyone. I don´t have to talk to anyone, I don´t have to convince people that I am Muslim.
What´s the general reaction of people when you say “I´m Muslim”?
Oh, the first question always is “Pork?”.
So when I´m telling them I´m vegetarian, they are like “Ah, that´s why you´re vegetarian. You are not eating pork, it´s not halal.”
And I´m like “No, it´s my choice.”
People normally ask me about pork, hijab and praying five times per day. They are
asking why I´m drinking alcohol, why I am going out, why I am dressing the way I dress if I believe in Islam. For example, a couple of days ago I met a Turkish guy in a club who is living in Germany. He never visited Turkey before. And he thought that I couldn´t dress like I dress if I am living there. He was like “Are you Muslim? And why are you dressed like this?” It´s not your business. And in Islam, it is written that you cannot judge people. Even if they are doing something bad we cannot judge people, because of their religion, because of their believes. If you start to judge them you are out of Islam. It´s a rule, you cannot judge people.
One big topic right now is the political situation of your country. What do you think about it?
Right now, because I am far away for two and a half months, I couldn´t follow it too much. But it has been many years that we are living in this situation. Because now, once euro is 8 Turkish liras which is really good money in Turkey.
And then I always hate radicals. Like I told you before, if you believe in something, believe it by your own. Just start to think if it makes sense for you, for the people, for the community. If you think, then it´s okay. You cannot just believe something without thinking.
Now Turkey, has the same problem. Because half of the population are smiling and say “Yes, we are not supporting this. We are supporting human rights, animal rights, everything.” But, in the backyards when you hurt an animal, you just pay little amount of money in the court and you are free. But actually it doesn´t matter if it´s an animal or a human. We are the same Torturing is the same thing. And we are living in the 21st century. If you ignore this law that much, you´re not a good politician, you´re not a good leader. If you just let the people rape women, just let people kill, threat, torture. Now they started to have new rules, new laws. Before not. Because when people started to shout “It´s enough!”
For example, I don´t want to judge anyone about it, but in Germany we have a lot of Turkish people. And we are getting a lot of votes for the government from people who live there. But they are earning in euros. They are spending euros there, yes. But they are earning in euros. They can have both citizenships. When Turkish people from Turkey go abroad, they are spending Turkish lira, not euros and it´s too much.
Tourists are coming to Turkey a lot, but local people can´t go a lot out of Turkey. Because it´s expensive, because of the economy. For many years now. So, the political issues are there. This is a really a deep question. If we really start to talk about everything, it´s not going to end for one week to be honest. Because if you stared to live in Turkey, then you would understand. You cannot describe these things to people from outside. And the people I was talking about, Turkish people in other countries. They are not living in Turkey. They are not in the same situation as we are.
So do you think foreigner living abroad should be able to vote?
They should be able to vote. Of course. But they need to think. It´s really simple. They need to think. Also about the people not only about themselves only. Because it´s selfish, but it´s karma. It will return anyways. I don´t know I hate it when people are deciding something for our country even if they are not living there. They vote. I´m supporting them being able to vote. If they can think and if they can state their opinion cleverly I can accept it. I can talk about it. But they normally can´t.
Do you get a lot of questions about politics from people you meet as well?
Oh yes, today it´s my fourth time that I am talking about our political situation with someone. Some guest asked me first, and I talked with another intern from the hostel and I talked with my friend and now I´m talking to you. It´s the fourth times today. Every single day.
What´s your favorite thing about your country?
It´s cliché maybe, but whenever I go it will be my home. The smell of my country. Really, it´s different. The taste of everything is different. My family. My friends.
When I wake up I like to see green outside my window or when I walk in the street I like to say “Hey, how is it going?” to the vendors in the market halls.
Because they are always “Hey, thank you, thank you, good morning”
We have a phase in Turkey that we always say to each other. It´s not so easy to translate it to English but it´s like this: “I whish that your work will be much easier for you today.”
We always keep on saying that to each other. I think I miss people’s helpful behavior. There´s a lot of things I miss. I really miss water. Water is really tasty in Turkey.
You´ve been living in Spain for a while now. What would you say is the biggest difference between Spain and Turkey?
Turkey is safer. It is. It is really safer than Barcelona. In Barcelona it was the first time that I was scared walking on the streets or at the beach in the whole world, from the places I visited. Istanbul is much safer. Barcelona is something different. When I went inside first I hated that country, and this city. Then I started to love it, because you´re getting used to it, you´re adapting. Because it´s different.
So you live in Istanbul?
Yes, but I went to most of the cities in Turkey.
Which one was your favorite?
So many. On the Asian side the beaches are perfect. The Mediterranean side is perfect. Black sea is perfect. Every part is different. When you go to the east, when you start to walk and they recognize that you´re foreign they are like
“Hey, come eat with, come stay with us you must be hungry. And sleep here.”
They are really inviting you into their home. Ii love every place in my country. I love my country. Really. I love Costa Rica too though. It´s my second home.
Do you still have some things you would like to clarify about Turkey?
Just I want people to stop believing what they are reading or seeing on television and the internet. And they are just reading that. If they come at least once to Turkey, they will understand what I mean. You cannot understand Turkey if you haven´t visited it at least once. Twice is much better. Third time is much better. But at least you need to live that experience and then you can start to say anything.
Is there something else you would like to add?
I miss bars in Istanbul. Really. They are open until the morning. My country is gorgeous. Visit Istanbul, visit Turkey. And if you´re from Europe it´s going to be cheap for you.
This interview left me with the strong urge of wanting to go to Turkey and experiencing this culture for myself. Especially about Turkey, I am sure a lot of people have a pre- made image in their minds. We are influenced by the things we see in the news, on social media and and sometimes we are not even considering how people living in Turkey must be feeling. That´s what I am trying to illustrate here. Growing a deep understanding of where a person really comes from is something really beautiful. Of course, all these interviews are personal, of course they do not reflect all Turkish people. Still, it gives you more insight than any news channel might do. It´s amazing how even talking to one person can shift one´s pre-made assumptions. I am a very open-minded person, but I am not unaffected by my culture and by how I´ve been conditioned. I am very aware of that. That´s why I am trying to break these habits of thinking – and inviting everyone to join and try as well!
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