Torn Between Two Countries

While I was in Turkey for the Christmas break, everyone back home tried to convince me to move back. Now that my brother has moved back also, I have no family left in the US. I sometimes wonder if I should go back. But, my relationship with both countries is like the Turkish lyrics from a love song: “Neither with you, nor without” can I do…

I personally think; Turkey is a country that is more similar to the US than most countries in the world. Conservatives, Liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Southerners, Northerners… There is an equivalent of all of those people in Turkey.

Just in my previous Turkish post, I was talking about how the differences between the North and South of the US are similar to the differences between the West and East of Turkey. Just like the South; the East of Turkey is also more conservative. Families are closer to each other. People talk to their elders with phrases similar to “Sir” or “Ma’am”. In the West, they make fun of that, just like they do up North, here. In Turkey, the West is more modern and European, while the East listens to country songs and speaks with an Eastern accent. In my Turkish post, I was talking about the fact that I couldn’t even experience a decent culture shock when I landed in the South, the first time I came to America. Because, although I grew up in the East, I spent 6 years of my life in Izmir -a coastal town in the West- which is like the California of Turkey… Before coming here, I had prepared myself more for a “90210”, “Baywatch” or even “The Young and The Restless” kind of America. But, instead, I got:  “The Little House on the Praire”… (which we all loved watching in Turkey when I was little.) When I didn’t even see a campus infested by couples kissing each other at every corner – as was the case in Izmir-  I thought I had come home to the East, instead of Auburn, Alabama! (I shouldn’t lie, I did see one kissing couple once but the guy was Turkish!) All of these similarities are part of the reasons I love the South so much.

Even the fact that we have no idea about how similar we are is similar. Once, back in Auburn, I used a Turkish expression to make fun of a friends’ very old camera. I said “that camera must be from the time of Prophet Noah”. He was so surprised. He said: “you guys believe in Noah?” I was actually surprised that he was surprised. I told that to a friend in Turkey. He asked with astonishment: “Americans believe in Noah??”

The ignorance might be mutual but of course nobody in Turkey makes ignorant comments at an international level, as was the case with Rick Perry! The past couple of weeks, he’s been making the headlines in Turkish news. Someone made a comment about him, saying: “America must really be the land of opportunities, if a guy like this could become a governor.” Indeed, it is. In Turkey, he would probably be unemployed… a janitor, tops…

But… Enough with Rick Perry and the similarities…

I made a list of things I miss about both countries when I am away  (not counting friends and family of course)!

Here are the things in Turkey that we don’t have an equivalent of in the US and I wish we did:

1. As opposed to everything being frozen, canned or loaded with chemicals in the US, you can buy everything fresh in Turkey. E.g. here is how it looked like when we went out to buy fish one day:

2. My favorite chocolates and snacks:

3. Turkish waffle: This is no ordinary waffle. It’s loaded with white or dark chocolate spread and topped with fresh fruits and nuts of your choice; such as strawberries, kiwis, bananas, chestnuts and pistachios. It’s heavenly!

4. Simit: This is similar to a bagel but oh… so, warm and yummy…

But, don’t worry. All I think about is not food. (I think!?)

5. Public transportation: Taxies, ferries, buses, minibuses, sea buses, trams, trains, etc… From wherever you are to wherever you’d like to go, there is a way… And they are even cheaper than driving your own car.

6. Health care: This is the one thing that makes me the saddest about Americans who can not afford to get their treatments or who have to walk around with terrible teeth because dental care is too expensive in the US. When I watched the documentary “Sicko”, it made me cry. The system here is based on making money, not based on curing people. In Turkey, even if you don’t have health insurance, what you pay for most hospital expenses is the fraction of the price you pay here. And most Turkish people pay absolutely nothing for hospital visits, for dental care or even for prescription glasses.

This is a hint for all Americans who have medical issues they cannot afford. Get a plane ticket, go to Turkey and get your stuff taken care of there. Not only will you get a vacation, but also you will still save a lot of money. I got two fillings and a dental implant (which my insurance won’t cover in the US) and it cost me less than $1000 total with absolutely no insurance coverage in Turkey. Add to that the $800 plane ticket and compare it to $3000 (national average for dental implants alone, in the US). I still saved a lot of money. Not to mention, the technology was cutting-edge…

However…  There are also a lot of things in the US, which you can not have in Turkey:

1. Being closer to nature (as opposed to being closer to concrete in Turkish cities, where I would end up living if I moved back.)

2. I can afford to buy a horse in the US. (In Turkey, they cost more than a Porsche!)

3. I am a great cook in American standards (as opposed to people not letting me cook in Turkey!!)

4. People don’t smoke so much in the US (in Turkey, they get offended, when you ask them not to smoke in your house!).

5. We drive cars in the US (as opposed to roller coasters in the insane Turkish traffic, where you could be dead for obeying traffic rules…or for not obeying them. You are dead either way!).

6. In the US, you don’t have to dress up to go to the grocery store (as opposed to streets looking like a runway show in Turkey).

And finally…

7. Microwave popcorn.


So, as you can see…. I’m torn!

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