Now that I have been in the U.S. for six months and will be going back to Turkey soon I have been thinking about my experiences when I first went there. I knew after a fair amount of time here I will have to reassimilate and reacculturate a bit. I think one of the most obvious, but least problematic issues is the communal culture. In Turkey, what is one person’s is the family’s, and what is the family’s is the communities. This communal life structure takes time to adjust to.
Because everything is more communal, people will also make comments that would be considered rude in the US. Goodhearted remarks on clothes, weight, body shape, etc. are considered completely appropriate. For example, “That doesn’t look good on you.” “Are you gaining weight? You look bigger.” “Is that a pimple or a bug bite?” Or my personal favorite, after you have been ill, “How is your diarrhea?”
I was introduced to this communal culture when I became Turkey’s “Bride.” When I moved there I was engaged (I went from girlfriend to fiancé on the trip over.) That made me a “gelin” or bride. Usually the woman entering the family is called a gelin, and is called the gelin until she is no longer the youngest or more recently married woman in the family. It is an affectionate term. My husband introduced me as his gelin. His mother and father also called me their gelin. They would introduce me as “Our gelin.” Then close friends of the family would introduce me to others, “Oh, our new gelin is American…” My husband was complemented and told that he had brought such a nice. gelin for Turkey. I agreed to marry one man and found myself the bride of a nation.
So while I have been here I have been a sister, a daughter and a wife, in Turkey, I will be all of those things as well as everyone’s “bride” when I go back.