Life in a Turkish Family

My Tribe

My Tribe

Life in a Turkish Family is certainly different to what I am used to.  After a recent visit to my In Laws I felt like I had been in the BBC TV series Tribal wives, were 6 women are taken from their daily lives and taken to stay with a tribal family to learn their ways.

Many of these women in a sense found themselves while they staid with these families and enjoyed the slower more old fashioned way of life.  I am not sure if they would want to live like that forever but it certainly gave them an insight into their own lives.

During a recent stay with my Turkish family I took a step back and watched as an outsider may have watched and looked at  life in my Turkish/Kurdish family and I found it  is certainly more like life with a tribe than life in a Western family.

Life in my family certainly looks and feels old fashioned, the women stay home and the men go out to work.   The women take care of all the household and family issues and the men worry about bringing home the money and the food.

For me coming from a world where a women is not really valued unless she works and has a career, where you are taught that it is your right to work and that you need to have a career to feel like you have achieved something in life. When looking at my Turkish family their world can feel a bit frustrating and demeaning towards women.

If you sit still in my Sister in Laws house you could be mistaken into thinking you are living in a well run hotel.  My nieces prepare the breakfast and everyone sits down together around the cloth laid on the floor.  Once everyone has eaten this is cleared away and the housework begins, dishes are washed, floors are cleaned, clothes are washed and so on.  Then the dinner is prepared and then finally around mid afternoon, they finish and have a few hours off, these are normally spent watching tv, praying or hanging out in their rooms.   Then the meal is served in the evening followed by tea and fruit and then bed.  All organised and ordered by my Sister in Law.

How the work is spread out depends on your age and standing within the family circle. For instance I am older than my Nieces and I am also their Teyze (Aunt) therefore they are required to do the washing up before I am.  My Sister in Law is older than my husband and I and therefore I would do the washing up before her.  If I am staying at my Mother in Laws home and visitors even family visitors come as I am the youngest living in my Mother in Laws house,  its me who will prepare the tea and do the work.

When there is a large family gathering more often than not proper protocol is observed, the women sit most often in the  kitchen or smaller living area and the men sit in the large or good living room.  The women will ferry in plenty tea and snacks to the men.  While the separate groups chat and gossip about various topics.  No one feels insecure or hard done by with this separation and its often nice to get rid of the men when you want to talk about weight loss and spanxs (underwear) yes we have had that conversation.

On quieter family gatherings we all sit together and drink tea and chat about this one and that one, about the days politics or latest news.  When the conversation dies then the attention may turn to the TV and the latest Soap or TV game show or reality TV.  These evenings are more relaxed and you will find the women have as much to say as the men and often a good debated gets started which often gets a little heated.

While I am staying with my family I do not get to sit and escape the work, I make tea and wash the dishes and often help with and or prepare meals.  I also help with the cleaning and anything else that needs doing.  Though I do enjoy the days when we visitor my husbands brothers and sisters for meals or tea as those are the days I get to sit back and relax.

Though appearances can be mistaken, this old fashioned family, is not so old fashioned and stuck in the past, they are moving forward with the times.  One of my nieces has finished her degree and has started out on what looks like a successful career.  Another niece is starting out in University and working towards becoming nurse.  Both fully supported by the family.  I have two more nieces and they are yet to decide what they want in life.

On the flip side of the coin my Nephews new wife chose to be a housewife and even chose to have an arranged marriage with my Nephew.  It was a strange process for me to observe at the time.  Having spoke with her she is happy with her choice and way of life, she has no regrets about University and career.

After taking this step back to watch my family I realised I love this way of life.  I love being a housewife and looking after my home and family.  Why? Why don’t I crave a career or my name in flashing lights?  Will I not look back and say I wasted my life.  No, Being a housewife is no less inferior to being a lawyer, doctor or teacher.  Many want to stay at home and raise their children, live the slower pace of life.  Many hate their boring jobs and 9-5 lifestyle.  They want to live this way.

At the end of the day when it is all said and done, you can have all the money and things in the world but nothing is more important than family and in western society we seem to have forgotten this and we don’t live for the family yet we crave to have it.  Here in Turkey in my family, life is about family and not about things and careers.  In Turkey they have it the right way around and I am happy to be a housewife and raising my own little tribe……

© 2013 – 2015, Kerry Arslan. All rights reserved.

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11 Responses to “Life in a Turkish Family”

  1. 26th February 2013

    Nilgun Gulagiz Thomas Reply

    Hello, thnk you fr sharing yr observations w us.
    I was born and raised in Turkey but thought that.
    the life style you described existed only in the.
    films so found yr article quite fascinating to read.
    Iam guessing yr in laws are a traditional Kurdish.
    family from south eastern Turkey somewhere?
    I believe life must be harder there fr women in.
    particular but I am sure it has got its pleasures , too.
    Best wishes to them and to you and yr little family…
    Take care x.

  2. 26th February 2013

    Aimee Yazici Reply

    Great perspective! Really enjoyed this!

  3. 26th February 2013

    Ranee Bicakci Reply

    I love the stuff you write about! You look at situations in such a positive way. You take the fear and suspicion that alot of people have about Turkey out of the equation and relate it perfectly!
    My husband comes from a small town of about 20,000 people which changes depending on the season. His family is not very ‘turkish’ in my opinion but his town is. There is no holding hands in public or things like that. I find myself completely confused with meal times and visitors though. My husband has never really told me the way it works so thank you for giving me a littl insight into what I should be doing when people come over! LOL
    The question I find I get asked constantly is about arranged marriages.My non turkish friends seem quite obsessed with it. At first I didn’t understand it, but after knowing close friends of my husbands who have asked for an arranged marriage my view has changed dramatically. What could be better than a man openly saying he is ready for marriage? and asking for someone to take that step with him. There is alot of research and background checks that go into making a match in my husbands town. No one is ‘married off’ if they are not happy with the potential husband/wife. Sure there are people that marry younger women, but that is not necessarily a bad match. From what I have witnessed, the girls family are very picky about who she marries. Friends of my husbands have changed jobs and had to clean up their act so to speak in order to get the match they want. It can take quite a while to find the right person good enough for their daughters.
    Sorry for such a long post, but your stories always relate to me so much.
    Thank you!

    • 27th February 2013

      Kerry Arslan Reply

      Thank you so much @[714668764:2048:Ranee Bicakci] I am glad that you like what I write and it is helpful as well. If you ever need help or advice on anything please do ask I will try and help.

      I wrote an article recently about my nephews arranged marriage and it was the first I had been part of but not the first I had heard of or know people who have gone through the process. And it is really about two people ready to marry coming together as life partners. My husband calls our marriage a love match. The girl my nephew married put in some things she wanted to happen, one was he had to pray 5 times a day which he hadn’t been doing but does now and of course the furnished home and so on. But in the article I mention there are forced marriages and that is what people outside of Turkey first think of some poor girl forced to marry a man she doesn’t want to be with or sold to a family. Sadly it still happens here and normally to very young girls. But the in the main its is arrange marriages, not all work out but my nephew and his wife only married last summer but they seem very happy and I think falling in love with each other which is lovely.

      Here is the link to that article in case you missed it maybe our views match.

      Thank you again for your lovely complements and I hope you will continue to enjoy the blog.

  4. 11th March 2013

    HALIL Reply

    woman doesnt have to make money, unless the expenses increase. as the expenses increase, woman has to make money instead of spending time for family, spends time for some others. while she is making money, she has to pay for others who take care of her children and home and cleaning and so on. UNFORTUNATELY MY WIFE WORKS

  5. 16th March 2014

    lisakarabas Reply

    I find it totally un comprehendible way some Turkish families live compared to my life in the UK
    I had been married to my Turkish husband for 8 years in the UK but his family in Turkey have never recognised me, their choice was a cousin for him to marry and they have finally got their way and bullied my husband into returning to his origins in Turkey to marry within his own culture. None of the so called family have given a toss about me or the two step children he has helped raise over 8 years. They are selfish self centred people with a very narrow view of life in the outside world. I have no respect for any of them, my poor husband or should I say ex husband as suffered a breakdown due to their twisted aspect on what family is about for them, and I hope they all rot in their selfishness.

    • 26th March 2014

      Kerry Arslan Reply

      Lisa, sorry for the late reply to your post. I feel for you so much, you must be completely heart broken. I know from experience what pressure especially psychological pressure Turkish families put on each other and its programmed in when they are young, this feeling of guilt and need to please the family and the elders. Also this feeling of owing them. Along with that, if a man or woman doesn’t marry someone agree by the family it is a great disgrace and unfortunately the old ways are still very strong here.

      I am angry on your behalf reading this and can’t begin to understand how you feel. Just know you can always message me if you need to vent, always happy to listen.

  6. 15th May 2014

    yasir abbasi Reply

    I want to marrige turkey gril

  7. 2nd March 2016

    cheeks78 Reply

    It’s nice to hear about your Turkish/Kurdish family! They seem lovely people and I’m like you ID be happy with their way of life!

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