Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #8 - Working in Turkey

13 Curiositities about working in Turkey
Before I had kids I spent a lot of time in Turkey working on several jobs, including bidding on (and winning!) the largest one of my career. Spending many months in Ankara, Turkey's capitol city but not it's cultural epicenter by any stretch of the imagination, gave me the opportunity to get an insider's look at everyday life there that the average tourist misses. Of course, I also missed all of the tourist stuff, something I will have to rectify eventually. These are 13 things about living and working in Turkey which stick out in my mind:

1. 6 day week - all offices are open half-days on Saturday. They generally close up shop at about 1pm, leaving you with a weekend that is only 1.5 days long (not enough time to leave town and go touring if you're a business traveler like me!)
2. All movie theaters I went to had point and shoot toilets (squatty potties) only. Other venues didn't, but for some reason movie theaters did. This was about 7 years though, so maybe they've updated the plumbing since then.

3. Pide for lunch on Saturdays. Monday to Friday we'd get a hot catered lunch (soup, meat and starch dish, and some kind of dessert) that would arrive in giant 3-tiered metal lunchbox. On Saturdays though there was no catered meal. Instead, the boss would bring in pide, which are sort of like long, skinny, greasy foccaccia with either meat or cheese inside.

4. CHEAP massages at the hotel spa. Turkey is the land of cheap massages. For $7 I used to get an awesome deep muscle massage, and at that price I could afford to go regularly! Almost made up for all those hours spent hunched over a keyboard.

5. Tea boys and drivers. Labor costs are low in Turkey, particularly for unskilled labor. Every office had a "tea boy" (often old enough to be my father, it was very disconcerting to hear them called "boys") and a driver (also always a man).

6. Horrific drivers. I've done a fair amount of traveling and have seen some pretty awful driving (heck, even in Israel drivers are terrible), but Turkey takes the cake. I met up with my husband in Istanbul one weekend, where we took the most frightening taxi ride of our lives. This driver was in such a hurry that he passed a bus as it was letting passengers on by driving between the bus and the bustop! He just cut right through, swerving around all the passengers trying to get on and off! Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

7. Abundance of (cheap!) internet cafes. When I first started going to Turkey the hotels didn't offer any way to connect in the room (neither did my laptop for that matter). Luckily there were internet cafes on just about every corner to get me my fix.

8. Freezing my ass off in the Hotel Metropol. During my first project in Turkey they'd always put me in this little fleabag hotel near the project office. Winter in Ankara is COLD and this hotel didn't have proper heating. I used to literally boil myself in the tub to get warm enough to go to sleep (thank heavens the next project I was put in a normal modern hotel). Actually, there was poor climate control in pretty much every building - it was always too hot or too cold. Spring was beautiful, but winter and summer were sometimes rough.
9. Pervasive odor of cigarette smoke. It was EVERYWHERE. So much so that it even stunk up clothes I hadn't even worn!

10. Many homes displayed silver mirrors on the wall - with the mirror side turned to the wall. Muslim tradition dictates that you can't pray where there are graven images, so to avoid this people would turn their mirrors to the wall. Over time, they began to decorate the reverse side, and then that developed into a tradition all its own. I even bought one to display in my own home. This one is typical:








11. Secular Christmas celebrations. Turkey (or at least Ankara) has adopted the secular trappings of Christmas - just decorations and sales, no religion involved (pretty fun for a Jew actually).
12. Ataturk's cult of personality. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk single-handedly turned Turkey from a third-world backwater into a modern Western republic, and ensured that it embraced the values of modern secularism instead of becoming another Iran. That said, the Turks take their hero worship VERY seriously. They've even got his pajamas on display at his mausoleum. And every office in the country displays his portrait.
13. Belief that Greeks rigged the voting for Time Magazine's Man of the Century to make sure Attaturk didn't win (yes, really, there were even letters to the editor about this when I was there).




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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



28 comments:

whenn said...

It's always interesting to learn about other countries! The one about the mirror I found particularly interesting!

Gattina said...

Thanks for telling me that you wrote about Turkey ! Of course I only saw the touristic side, but our guide was an ancient french and history teacher and told us a lot about the way of living in Turkey, he even showed us his appartment in Antalya.
Turkey today made me think about Italy in the 60/70, exactly the same, only instead of churches there are Moskees. Driving, screaming, swearing, toilets, haggling, everything seemed the same to me ! The tour I made was mostly countryside and landscapes. But in May I will do another round trip and this time the big cities and museums, culture etc. I found the people very friendly.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Whoa! Cool stuff!

I am very envious that you've lived all over the place, and I'm stuck here in the States. Yeah, we have benefits you guys don't have (cheap gas comes to mind), but... I think you guys are better off for being able to travel the world and experience things.

Happy TT!

Carol said...

Very interesting - especially about the mirrors. And I love the "island" of your title!

Rashenbo said...

That's a really interesting list. The part about the mirrors is great. I've not thought about Turkey much so I've never really learned anything about their culture or country. Thank you for sharing and for visiting my blog.

Jane said...

That was very interesting. My hubby and I actually docked in Turkey on a cruise. We were in Kushadashi and took a bus to see Ephesus. It was awesome. We had a wonderful seafood meal near the dock.
My T13 is up.

Janet said...

What a fascinating Thursday Thirteen! I love the bit about the mirrors, yours is beautiful!

Mags said...

Hmmm...very interesting about the mirrors. I wonder though why put them up if they can't display them? Why not just have a pretty front with a normal backing?

Dane Bramage said...

I love to hear about other people in other countries. I am not sure I would want to work outside the U.S. but I find it interesting when other people do. And thanks for stopping by my Thursday Thirteen #34 The 13 Things You Wish You Could Say At Work Edition.

Robin said...

That one's not actually my mirror, but it's very similar. Mine is hung too high to get a good picture, so I found this one online.

Mags, I think keeping the mirror on the back side is just a nod to tradition.

Wylie Kinson said...

I've always wanted to visit Turkey! Thanks for the interesting and informative post...

Carmen said...

ooh, I'll have to visit for the cheap massages alone!

Jamie said...

This was a particularly wonderful T13. A trip to another country without a passport. Thank you.

Christine~AreWeThereYet said...

Wow! I wish we had cheap massages. Thanks for sharing with us about Turkey and about it's traditions. Especially about the mirrors! I love the entricate detail.

Amy Ruttan said...

I've always wanted to go to Turkey. Very interesting information. Great TT.

Happy TT, thanks for dropping by mine.

Lazy Daisy said...

Oh Wow, this was fasinating. Thanks for the insights. I especially found the mirrors interesting.

Himself said...

Oh. Cheap deep muscle massages. I need some of that.

Very interesting list. Back when I had the wanderlust, Turkey was right up there on my list (after India). Now that I'm old and have two young kids, it'll just have to wait.

Amelia Elias said...

Wow, very interesting! I didn't know that about the mirrors. That's cool!

Rene said...

Wow, that was a fascinating list! I've heard that Turkey is where to go to see ancient ruins. I'd love to go someday.

Meg - Bad Homeschool Mom said...

point and shoot????? ewwww but I guess better than sitting on a dirty toilet seat, eh?

Lady G~ said...

I love learning about other countries and their culture. Awesome list!

The backside of the mirror you displayed is absolutely beautiful.

While we lived in Europe, we saw lots of "pointing and shooting" right out in the open. First time I encountered it I couldn't believe my eyes. LOL!

Mitchypoo said...

Your TT was very interesting, I love learning about other cultures. My TT is up!

Thomma Lyn said...

What a fascinating list! I read it out loud to hubby, and we both enjoyed it.

Happy TT, and thanks for visiting my blog!

Tink said...

There are a lot of Turks living over here in The Netherlands and most of them speak very highly of their home country. I've never been there, but I'd like to!
My TT lists cars we've owned before our current one.

Duchess said...

It so great to learn about information on the TT's. I am amazed about how different people live.

Thanks for sharing!

spyscribbler said...

Oh wow! That's fascinating! That's a really cool experience to have had.

And I SO want $7 massages. I'd get one every other day! I could really use one.

Happy TT!

Joan said...

Very interesting! I have never been to Turkey, but I sure would like to. Those $7 massages sound incredible! Thanks for coming by my blog.

she said...

I think your cab driver in Turkey was related to my driver in India. He drove on the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians onto the streets.