Social Pressure Living in Turkey

By | on 15th July 2014 | 9 Comments

We all live under some sort of Social Pressure, no matter where we live in the world and living in Turkey is no different. What I hadn’t realised was just how much social pressure we were under until our recent trip home to Scotland.

social pressure

We have been in Scotland for 1 week and while sitting chatting to my husband about life in Turkey, I commented that I felt like a weight had been lifted since coming home to Scotland, to which he agreed. This comment left me a little puzzled for a moment or two as I wasn’t really sure why I was feeling a weight had been lifted.

After a moment I realised it was the Social Pressure of living where we live, the need to conform and be seen to be the same as everyone else.

Gone were the days where I tried to be myself and not give a hoot about other people. In our area of Turkey there is a growing need to be seen to conform.

Our area is strongly religious and being anything different is seen as a negative, drinking is strongly frowned upon, dressing anything but modestly is seen as being loose and not doing as our neighbour does is gossiped about.

To me it feels like what life would be like in the 1940’s or 1950’s where everyone was worried about what the neighbour would say and worried about doing the wrong thing in case you are gossiped about or in case it affects your job.

Everyone knows everyone else’s business and in many ways its nice to be part of a strong community, when help is needed or a favour asked, people are happy to help and they look out for each other. Crime in our area is low, as everyone knows everyone and no one unless and outsider would dare doing anything wrong.

But still this pressure to conform, especially with my husband being a teacher and known in the area is strong, we like to have a drink from time to time, but if seen to do so it would be very much frowned upon and possibly lead to my husband being reported to the school for such behavior by some devout parent.

Once or twice the question as be raised by my husbands students as to why he does not attend Friday prayers and again we feel the pressure and need to conform to be seen to be doing the right thing.

There is the old adage, when in Rome do as the Romans do! But that is ok while on holiday for a few weeks, eventually this pulls at your own values and morales, your own way of thinking begins to change and your feeling of freedom becomes squashed.

Certainly life in Scotland for us at the moment, feels like a little bit of light relief, to not have to pretend to be who we are not, to not feel the neighbours eyes in your back and the curtains twitching.

You may say it’s a bit of paranoia, and previously perhaps I would agree, but I have seen the social pressure first hand and heard the gossip and the condemnation of our neighbours when see to do wrong.

What makes me worry is Turkey is a fast changing landscape and the direction in which it is heading will mean these social pressures will continue to grow rather than ease, the need to be seen to be the same and act in the correct manner will be constantly pushing in to our lives, rather than leading our own life, with our own thoughts and ways. And at times it feels like this is the path my neighbours are happy to go down.

For now however I will enjoy the freedom and not worry about the social pressures awaiting me on my return and work out during this time away just how to deal with these growing demands.

Are you living in Turkey? Do you feel like you are under any social pressures and how do you deal with them?


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9 Responses to “Social Pressure Living in Turkey”

  1. 15th July 2014

    maecyyucel Reply

    Hi Kerry,
    I had a very similar experience living in Ankara – except there, instead of religion being the motivator money is. That said there is a huge emphasis on modesty and correct behaviour. It always seemed strange to me in such a big city, but until very recently it was a collection of villages and the level of community feeling (with all its positives and negatives) was very high. I think you are right to be extremely cautious – I’ve seen people ostracised by their peer groups for “inappropriate behaviour” – for women this means they suddenly have no friends, for men this means their reputation can be completely ruined.
    Our solution was to move. As you know we are now by the coast in an expat-enclave. One of the greatest pleasures of being here is how much freer my husband can be. In Ankara I don’t think I ever saw him leave the house not in a shirt and tie (although generally in a suit,) here a shirt is optional. Oddly enough I often hear long term expats complaining about people dressing inappropriately – and sometimes they do have a point, a bikini in a supermarket really isn’t that normal – but at the same time I think maybe they should be a little less vehnement and take in the whole picture.
    Lovely to read your post,

    • 17th July 2014

      Kerry Arslan Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience Mary, the freedom feeling has also been a feeling my Husband feels here in the UK or whenever you visit the more expat areas along the coast of Turkey. Life is more relaxed, people are used to see the odd things and are also used to expats, it certainly makes life a lot easier. x

  2. 15th July 2014

    mytravelingjoys Reply

    Wow, Kerry, I’m sorry to hear about your current situation. I’ve heard from my friends in Istanbul that even there things are a-changing and not in a progressive manner. It’s hard to see my beautiful “home” for 3 years being forced into the past….way before even Ataturk’s time, it seems.

    I’ve never been one to conform to another person beliefs so I could blend in with everyone else. In fact, I think my family considers me to be a bit of black sheep because I’m so liberal and don’t want to live where I grew up and don’t believe in the same beliefs as them. I’m not satisfied with that. So I can only imagine how difficult this is for you and your husband and raising your young son!

    Enjoy your vacation with your family! And certainly enjoy having some wine or raki at home together! You deserve it! 🙂

    • 17th July 2014

      Kerry Arslan Reply

      Thanks Joy, its really hard to conform, you feel like you are constantly battling with yourself and it gets very tiring. I am normally one to just be myself but in our current situation it just seems impossible to just to be, even though being me isn’t outrageous or crazy and in general I fit in ok, but there are times where you just feel that weight on you. Hope life in Poland is treating you well xx

  3. 17th July 2014

    Alexandra Potouridi Reply

    Right on! That’s exactly one of the things I dislike in Turkey. Very well spotted. Nice article!

  4. 17th July 2014

    Ellen Reply

    Wow, there sure is a lot of variety among Turkish cities! The situation you describe in Ankara sounds absolutely stifling and bears no relation to the life I had in Antalya. True, there were many expats in my circle, but I had many Turkish friends as well. Occasionally I would meet a friend’s old-fashioned parent, who would look at me funny when hearing I’d never married, and from whom I’d refrain from sharing the fact that my brother is married to a man. Other than that, I never felt any pressure to conform.

  5. […] Social Pressure Living in Turkey […]

  6. 23rd September 2014

    Jane Ozmus Reply

    In the village we live, just outside Izmit, I do pretty much what I like. I’m no spring chicken so the question of revealing clothes doesn’t arise, but my husband likes us to look smart to go to the Friday market!
    The religious pressure your husband was under is reminiscent of that on Skye, Lewis and Harris certainly into the 90s. People would prepare Sunday lunch on Saturday and on Lewis and Harris there were certain days in the week you wouldn’t hang out washing and you couldn’t get off the island on a Sunday. Pressure from the Wee Frees had a huge influence on how people lived and I think still do live their life.

    • 25th September 2014

      Kerry Arslan Reply

      Oh Jane, you brought back my childhood to me!… When I was in Pony Club I made a friend who lived on the Isle of Lewis and I went to stay and I was so shocked on the Sunday even the animals don’t really get tended to, I never knew that life could be like that till then. It was a complete shock and new culture right in my own country. I remember getting told by my friend to be quiet as it was Sunday. But we did sneak out before sunrise on the ponies. I loved Lewis and would love to go back such a beautiful place.

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