A Turk in America Says... Americans in Turkey Really 'Go Turkish'

A Turk in America Says... Americans in Turkey Really 'Go Turkish' 
Winston-Salem Journal, s. 12C 
Rahşan Ecevit Arşivi 
A Turk in America Says...

Americans in Turkey Really 'Go Turkish’

Mr. Ecevit, a Turkish newspaperman, has joined the Journal and Sentinel staff as guest writer under a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department and leading American newspapers. He will be here three months. He is foreign news editor of Halkci, a morning paper in Ankara.

By Bulend Ecevit

I THOUGHT I was going to feel like a stranger in this country, but I don’t.

Apart from the occasional trouble that I still have with the vending machines, I feel quite at home, partly because of the friendliness and hospitality of the people here, and partly because we have so many Americans at my hometown, Ankara, the capital of Turkey.

I believe we have about 3,000 American families there, some of them in the Joint Military Aid Mission, some in the Embassy and the Foreign Operations Administration, and some in business. We also have several professors who come under various grants.

In fact, it is such a large colony that we even hear, now and then, about prospects for building a district for the Americans in Ankara. But fortunately that does not seem likely to happen. We like having them with us, sharing our way of life and our hardships, and I suppose they also enjoy mixing with the Turks.

Americans began coming to Turkey in large groups soon after World War II, and their number seems to increase as our relations with the U.S. get closer.

WITH SO MANY Americans in our midst, who still retain the pioneering spirit of their forefathers, life was bound to change a little in Ankara.

First came the inevitable changes—neatly packaged chewing gums replaced in large part the natural gums that we used to chew; many teenage girls put away their skirts for the more practical blue jeans. We soon realized that it was much wiser to go out with only a shirt and slacks on during the hot days of summer rather than to wear formal clothes as we used to.

And we acquired a taste for hot dogs, peanuts and grapefruits.

Our shopkeepers, taxi drivers and barbers have learned quite a few English words and American expressions, while the American housewife learned enough Turkish to do some bargaining in the market which is held once a week in each district.

But then we have had some unexpected changes too.

AFTER THE Republican regime took over in Turkey in 1923, nearly all aspects of life, especially in cities and towns, was completely westernized. We did not want in our homes any articles that reminded us of the life under the Imperial regime. It was a natural reaction to the old regime and the old way of life which had been mainly responsible for checking our progress for centuries.

But all this was a great disappointment for the American families who came to Turkey after the war.

To so many of them the name Turkey implied an exotic oriental country, with low divans covered with oriental rugs, hookahs, large braziers with burning charcoal in the middle of the rooms, round brass trays on low stands with shining brass pitchers on them containing the attar of roses, walls decorated with tiles and miniatures, women wearing long pants in the harem style, and so forth.

Well, we did not have any of these any more. Nor did we have the long trails of camels passing through the streets that most Americans wanted to see.

Our friends from the New World would not stand so much disappointment. Something should be done about it. With no help coming from the Turks, they took the initiative, in the true pioneering spirit.

They cleared the old bazaars of all the articles left on the shelves from the old days. They bought old rugs, hookahs, brass pitchers, braziers and trays. They toured the whole country to buy the clothes that women used to wear during the Imperial period. They bought tiles and miniatures.

They could do nothing about camels though. However, some clever businessmen saw great opportunities in manufacturing rough and old looking bells similar to those that used to hang on the necks of the camels when we had them passing through our towns. There was indeed a great demand for them. In the absence of live camels, Americans consoled themselves with these souvenirs.

Recently several curio shops have opened in Ankara selling these and similar "Turkish" articles to Americans, so they do not have to go to Istanbul anymore to search for them in the old bazaars.

Now when a Turk wants to show his son the way his forefathers furnished and decorated their homes, he takes him to some of his American friends in Ankara. And if he wants to see the old Turkish shadow play with its quaint characters, he tries to get invited to one of the shows arranged by Americans.

Some of the functions held by the American clubs and societies in Ankara also give him a chance to see how his grandmothers were dressed when they went to weddings in their teens.

In short, we have been having more Turkish than American influence in our country since the Americans started coming to Turkey after World War II.

Most American families, however, get over their disillusionment after a short while and get used to the idea that there is nothing exotic or strange about life in Turkey after all.

And, I believe, in the end they find it even more agreeable to feel themselves just as much at home in Turkey as the Turks do in America. 





“A Turk in America Says... Americans in Turkey Really 'Go Turkish',” Bülent Ecevit Yazıları 1950-1961, 24 Mayıs 2019, http://ecevityazilari.org/items/show/136 ulaşıldı.