Text: Elena Smirnova-Ulusoy
Three years ago I moved to Istanbul and wrote about this adventure. Now I am still in Istanbul and still happy: I continue to do marketing, travel a lot and got married. Yes, I am married to a Turk - the time has come to “rip off the veils” from this topic.
Exception and rules
When I told my husband that I was writing this text, he was surprised: “What can you tell? I am not a typical Turk, and our marriage is not indicative. " Sounds like the truth. My husband is a musician, DJ and producer. He is a social anthropologist by education with a diploma from Ankara University. He has traveled a lot around the world and speaks excellent English. Finally, it even looks completely atypical: blond with white skin and an outstanding red beard.
This is probably why we never look at our union through the prism of nationalities. We have no difference in education, understanding of sexuality and language barrier. We met in a completely "old-fashioned" way: I went in for coffee, he turned out to be the owner of a coffee shop, we got to talking - and two days later we went on an "official" date. Since then, in fact, have not parted. He offered to get married in about two weeks, and it was so natural and simple that I agreed. For half a year we waited for the end of my tourist residence permit, then for two months we collected documents and, as a result, quietly registered on March 8th. I basically put on a trouser suit, my husband was in black, and the guests were his family and two of my friends. We entered into a marriage exclusively for ourselves and our states - so that no political cataclysms would interfere.
I met Evren's family on the day of registration. It was scary, but from the very first second I was surrounded by such sincere love and acceptance that I burst into tears from an excess of feelings after the wedding. My husband has a calm loving family, my parents have never tried to comment on our life or plans for the future. Although when they come to visit, I see that we are like from another planet for them: we do not have four sofas in the living room, as in a typical Turkish house, in the kitchen there are no twelve identical plates for guests, but on the bookshelf there is Araki's album with the girl on the cover spread her legs.
Family non-interference and our not-so-Turkish way of life help. We live in the most European district of Istanbul, and the atmosphere here is different - this is what allows us to live relatively outside the attitudes that determine gender and family relations in Turkey.
Minibus drivers and Russian wives
If we are an exception, then there must be rules. But it is extremely difficult to generalize the experience of foreign women living with the Turks: I know many opposite stories. In one acquaintance, the mother-in-law does not like the soul - while the other staged a boycott that lasts more than three years. One friend complains that her husband has had impotence since the age of thirty and their sex life is at zero - for the other, everything is exactly the opposite. Someone cannot master the language and make friends, while someone instantly adapts. In general, there are as many situations as there are people, and any of them can hardly be called 100% indicative.
Nonetheless, stereotypes about Russian women and Turkish men are flourishing. One of the most common is that girls go to Antalya and there allegedly marry animators and minibus drivers. Romance with animators and other service workers is a common story: there are dozens of vacation romances for the week, hundreds of stories of relationships like this last for years - every year on vacation. But I do not know of a single mixed family that was formed in this way - probably, they will be found, but they are not the majority. Romance under the stars usually ends quickly, especially when Romeo and Juliet can't speak the same language.
Most of the mixed marriages are quite prosaic stories: they studied together, worked together, met on a trip, and so on. In order not to be unfounded, I conducted a small survey in local groups on Facebook: “Russians in Istanbul”, “Russians in Antalya” and “Turkey. Friends". A sample of eighty people got the following results: 25% of the respondents had husbands - engineers, another 20% - intellectual workers (teachers, translators, lawyers), 15% - owners of small and medium-sized businesses (not in construction or tourism). And only after that, with a share of 10%, will the workers of the tourism sector. Approximately the same indicator for hired workers (not in tourism and construction). And about 7% each for representatives of creative professions and civil servants. Of course, this is a limited sample, but it also shows that Turkish husbands have quite a variety of professions.
The country is divided into two camps. The first see the family “traditionally”: a woman is covered with a headscarf, leads a solitary life and depends on a man. The second are liberals in matters of family and marriage, they recognize the equality of partners
Another common opinion is that only a woman “without moral principles,” whose chances of finding a couple in Russia are supposedly small, can marry a Turk. One friend of mine admitted that when she came to Russia, she simply did not tell the men that she lived in Turkey: “They have such a face as if I personally insulted them and everything is clear with me”. It's a familiar move: devalue your appearance, intelligence, and moral character. I already wrote that the Turks are basically absolutely ordinary men - the same story is with women from Russia.
Many people think that a Russian wife is the ultimate dream of any Turk. Despite all the stories about the magical power of the Slavs over local men, supported by the story of Sultan Suleiman and Roksolana, this is a myth. Of my Turkish friends, two are married to Finns, one to a Croatian, one to a French, and one to a Nigerian. And this is not counting those who are married or in a relationship (amazing thing!) With Turkish women. Statistics only confirm this: among Turkish brides in 2017, only 3.7% are foreign women, and Russian women are only in fifth place - 1147 registrations per year. So much for you and "I'll give everything for a Russian wife!"
Another stereotype is that Turkish men are "sex machines" and "animal passion". I'm afraid to disappoint, but they are the same as the rest: they have different libido, different sexuality and a different approach to sex. Yes, there are those who often want sex, but there are also many who have problems in the sexual sphere: Turks are terrible workaholics, plus they are prone to depression, which cannot but affect all spheres of life.
Contrasts and workaholism
Turks are very different. Greeks, Armenians, Arabs, Georgians, Kurds, Balkan Slavs, even French, Germans and British - all mixed here. Depending on the roots, the Turks can have completely different looks, mentality and views. Plus, the country is divided according to political views. Some are supporters of the traditional way of life, religious and conservative (they are represented by the ruling AKP party and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan). The other half are the so-called Kemalists, supporters of the ideas of Ataturk, the father of the modern Turkish Democratic Republic. They stand for a secular state, emancipation, for integrating into the world community. The first, accordingly, see the family “traditionally”: a woman is covered with a headscarf, leads a solitary life and depends on a man. The second are liberals in matters of family and marriage, they recognize the equality of partners. They live side by side, and it's like two parallel Turkey. It is necessary to carefully look at the background of the chosen one, so as not to get "to the wrong address".
Turkish men are terrible workaholics. A six-day working week is the norm: this applies to most private companies and some government agencies. The working day begins at eight or nine in the morning and lasts not eight hours, but all the way. On Saturday, a shortened day - up to three or four hours. And Turks who come under contract to Russia to construction companies often have one day off every two weeks. Those who own a hotel, shop or any office office tend to spend days (and nights) there, and although the intensity of their work often raises questions, the fact remains that they have no free time.
This does not seem to be a problem until constant loneliness and endless waiting becomes a habitual state. There was a wonderful man in my life, and for almost a year I waited for the completion of his contract in Algeria, where he designed a large factory. The contract was renewed every time, every time he agreed, motivating it with good money, he told me this, coming for three days between the stages of construction, I cried and waited. After the third time, roaring all day, I decided it was impossible.
A Turkish man is not necessarily an eternal holiday, and "sunny Turkey" cannot magically make a partner more stress-resistant and cheerful
At the same time, the Turks themselves are prone to melancholy and depression. My friend, who has lived here for five years, kept repeating the "Turkish depression" as an axiom. I brushed it off, but a year passed, and I came to the conclusion that she was right. This is confirmed by dry statistics: for example, from 2005 to 2010, the use of antidepressants increased by 65%.
The family is partly to blame. On the one hand, any Turkish man is a former Turkish child, cuddled and beloved. On the other hand, he feels a huge responsibility for his own family and children. The combination in practice is deadly: “I have to, everyone can rely only on me” should get along with “I think I don't live my life” and “I live only for others”. I think that many men and women face this kind of internal conflict, and nationality is not decisive here. But it is important to understand: a Turkish man is not necessarily an eternal holiday and "sunny Turkey" cannot magically make a partner more stress-resistant and cheerful.
Turkish men are very whimsical in everyday life. This does not mean that they communicate with women in a fetch-fetch manner. But, for example, there is a real cult of purity here. As my friend wrote on Facebook, “becoming a Turkish woman is when you realize that you have not just washed the windows, but washed them three times, moreover, with distilled water”. This is how everything is done here. My husband cleans the house himself, and every day - apparently, he doesn't trust me with my negligent attitude.
The Turks are also picky about food. If someone believes that a Turk can be fed with borscht and dumplings and he will fall into ecstasy - alas, no. Most will not eat food prepared by a foreigner, especially if it is not Turkish food, but something from foreign cuisine. There are legends about Russian-Ukrainian cuisine that we add pork fat everywhere (even to chocolates!). There are two options: either put up with it and just order food (there are no problems with delivery), or master Turkish cuisine.
As far as alcohol is concerned, apart from traditionally religious people, the Turks do not mind drinking. True, even here they are conservative and believe that mankind has not invented anything better than crayfish - aniseed brandy. Therefore, at least the smell of anise will take some getting used to.
Relationships and children
Turks believe in romantic love. Yes, it may sound naive, but it really makes them very different from, say, most Europeans. My friends living in Europe unanimously affirm: relationships and even more so marriage here is, first of all, a social partnership. And only in the second, and even in the fifth - romance, passion and all the accompanying entourage. In Turkey, the idea of love in its classical sense is in the air, people dream of it, they cherish it, and love is considered an indispensable and necessary part of life. Good or bad - judge for yourself. On the one hand, marrying for love seems to be more pleasant than simply agreeing that it is more convenient to live this way; on the other, love comes and goes, but the marriage contract remains.
At the same time, the Turks are very fond of children. I would like to say that the family as a whole is sacred for them, but, alas, not always. But the children - for sure. My friend Lisa Birger wrote about this in detail: “In contrast to the Russian 'model fathers', this, of course, touches and captivates. And if you clearly understand that you cannot imagine a happy family life without children, then a Turkish father is perhaps the best choice. " Attention, sincere joy, money at last - the Turkish dad will not skimp on it. And Turkish workaholism is also partly a consequence of this hyperresponsibility. But children can just as easily become a tool for manipulation in relationships if family life does not work out. Scary stories about how Turkish fathers take or steal children should be divided by one hundred (laws work well in Turkey, and in most cases they are on the mother's side), but the fact that children are used to blackmail hassle is quite a common approach.
For a Turkish man, life in the virtual space is often more intense and interesting than offline events. Sometimes it seems that real relationships - meetings, conversations, everyday life, and even sex - interest them much less than correspondence in instant messengers. Who liked whom, who added whom to friends, is of much greater importance than real actions or events. For example, even my calm husband gave me a tirade when he found out that out of three hundred likes to our wedding photo, one was put by my ex-boyfriend. I still didn't understand what angered him so much, but the story is quite typical - probably because Turkish society is still quite squeezed. A man owes something to everyone - to the employer, parents, neighbors, future generations - so he escapes into the virtual world, creating a new personality. By the way, Turks love to meet on the Internet and can be in a virtual relationship for years - in the case of foreign women, this is generally a win-win option (it's a pity that it is often parallel to a real family). Yes, sometimes such unions end in marriage, but you should not harbor unnecessary illusions.
Where to run and what to do
I would like to tell you about my very first romance with a Turk. Then I didn’t even think about moving, I didn’t know anything about modern Turkey and therefore unexpectedly for myself “fell into love”. He was incredibly sweet, decent, caring and generous and literally put Istanbul at my feet. I already dreamed of a happy life, when I suddenly encountered his family - as traditional as possible. Three brothers, six sisters - all women cover their heads, and each, despite the fact that they are under twenty-five, already has at least two children. And then I realized that I would never, under any circumstances, be able to become a part of this world and live such a life. Not because she is bad, but because she is not mine. And my chosen one, for the same reason, will never truly understand me, my friends and my way of life. We still tried to be together, then we parted - it was terribly painful, but I'm glad that everything was decided that way.
In a relationship with any foreign man, you need to force yourself to look at the situation soberly. Asking direct questions about religious and political beliefs, attitudes towards family life, source of income, education and profession. If you cannot fully communicate in one language, it is difficult for you to discuss the film or the events of the day, and his social circle is bewildering - it is better to take a break and think hard about the prospects.
If everything suits you and you are even ready to move, then ask yourself the question, what will you do in Turkey (or any other country), regardless of your husband or boyfriend. Will you be able to find a job, pursue a hobby, fulfill plans and dreams that do not concern relationships and family? Do you have even minimal interest in your new country? Do you have the enthusiasm and energy to cope with difficulties, make new acquaintances and start life from scratch? My opinion is that no man is worth moving and changing his whole life just for his sake. Relationships and family are important, but far from the only part of life.
If you cannot fully communicate in one language, it is difficult for you to discuss the film or the events of the day, and his social circle is bewildering - it is better to take a break and think hard about the prospects
Finally, if you have decided everything for sure and have already moved, remember: in a foreign country you are always in a vulnerable position. The foreign bureaucratic system doesn't care much about you (in a bad sense), nor does the domestic one. It is difficult to find a job in a new country because you are a foreigner, at home because you have moved. Finally, there are no loved ones or families nearby to help. In this situation, of course, it is very tempting to become a "weak woman" and entrust all the care of yourself to a foreign husband. But in my opinion, this is the worst you can choose abroad. It is such stories that can end in extreme cases with domestic tyranny and abuse, and in the usual - simply boredom, apathy and unfulfillment. Follow simple rules: at a basic level, understand the migration legislation of the country (to know for sure that you are here legally), always keep your documents with you or know where they are (in your husband's safe at work, and you have not seen them for a year - bad option), follow and control migration procedures, and do not rely on your husband for this (renewal or replacement of a residence permit, visa processing, etc.) and finally find your own source of money - if you do not work, let it be a banal stash or account in the bank of your home country. The scary stories about oriental tyrant husbands that are circulated by the press are an exception to the rule, but it is wise to always have a way to go.
Last but not least, think five hundred times before you have a baby. If you feel uncomfortable, if you are haunted by the idea that this is not your life, and even more so if there is violence or abuse, a child can make you a hostage of the situation for many years to come.
All my observations are applicable, as it seems to me, to any relationship - no matter what nationality the partner is. It's just that marriage with a foreigner and life in a foreign country make things clearer. Bureaucratic problems, foreign culture, lack of a common language, the usual circle of communication and occupations reveal and exacerbate existing problems. On the other hand, if a relationship is built on mutual respect and like-mindedness, pressure can, on the contrary, unite and help everyone open up. And, of course, cultural enrichment has not been canceled.
As I wrote this text, I asked Russian women from local Facebook groups to share their stories. I expected the whole palette - from enthusiasm to “don't go, girls, get married”. And I was very surprised that more than a dozen happy stories were sent to me. From different cities, from religious and non-religious families, with different "adventures" on the way to marriage and from women of different ages. And now I understand for sure that Tolstoy was right when he said that happy families are equally happy. This also applies to interethnic families.