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July 06, 2012, Friday

Questions and comments from readers

A few readers shared these thoughts about my piece “How to survive and thrive in the Turkish work culture” (Jan. 12, 2012).

Dear Charlotte: “Thank you for the write-up. When I travel to Antalya, İzmir, Ankara and İstanbul I realize a vast divide in culture and values. For us it is great to find [a] few English-speaking people so as to communicate. How do expats handle business, or is it mandatory to learn Turkish to put your point across? Also, are Turks liberal to women empowerment and handling leading [professions] or is there gender bias in any way? Which part is liberal, non-hostile to business women?” From: Rubia Farooqui

Necati, who seems to be a regular reader and posts comments often, wrote: “I agree with you that an increasing number of people [come to Turkey] not only from Europe but also from all over the world. Some are illegal, though. There are around 100,000 Armenian[s] illegally working in Turkey. They fleed [sic] anti-democratic, ex-soviet Armenia and came to Turkey. Meanwhile, only a smile is enough for Turks to gain their heart... Don’t try to insult Turks. They can react in an unpredictable way.”

Bea Vanni shares this: “I always liked the way people showed their concern if you were sick or something had happened in your life or to your country. At the same time, I’d become frustrated at not being able to get things done that depended on others for full accomplishment.”

Regarding another piece, “A different language is a different vision of life” (Jan. 3, 2012), Gulşah Tiren, a university student who wants to improve her English, wrote this about life in Turkey: “It has changed so much and it is going on changing. We are getting similar to the western world culturally. Education has gained much more importance than before (almost all the primary school [students] go to the courses); a lot of things can be added to this list.”

In response to my piece “Health and travel in Turkey” (June 22, 2012), here are a couple of comments from Westerners who have spent time in Turkey:

A note from Linda Organ, who is British, compares the local transport, which comes in all shapes and sizes, to that in Britain and writes: “The transport system in İstanbul puts the UK system here to shame. ... I miss just being able to go anywhere any time without standing for 20 minutes [to] half an hour here in the UK.”

Here is another comment from an American who has visited a number of times.

Dear Charlotte: “Yes, I can attest to watching what one eats/drinks. I have, at one occasion, ‘secured’ some nasty parasites!!! I have also visited both private and state hospitals in Turkey. My friends called the state hospital in Antalya ... “Debbie’s hospital”!!! I have [sic] gone there because I was passing a kidney stone!!! But, in reality, for the over 12 times traveling/living in Turkey, most of my visits have been good and helpful!!! From: Debbie Anderson

In my piece “Build your vocabulary and observe” (July 6, 2012), I shared my memory of our first “kapıcı.” I received the following valid question. “Based on how the living standards are changing, I wonder if there will always be a job as a kapıcı, as this position has given millions of Turks employment and [a] roof over their heads. What will those made redundant do?”

It is true some of the kapıcı’s responsibilities do not exist anymore (i.e., thanks to Internet banking, residents pay their individual utility bills themselves; there are fewer coal furnaces in need of stoking; etc.).

The kapıcı does many menial tasks. One of them is shopping for tenants. He usually buys basic items at the local corner shop (bakkal). It seems like a luxury to have freshly baked bread delivered to you every morning. You could rely on your kapıcı to come with his large basket full of bread and deliver your loaves to you. Growing up, I never ate much bread at breakfast but, in Turkey, that habit changed. The loaves are fatter and shorter than what I was accustomed to, but the bread is absolutely delicious. The downside to Turkish bread is that you must eat it in a day as it will go dry and hard by the end of the day. If you have old bread, you should not throw it in a trashcan. It should be placed on a wall or hung in a bag on a tree limb for those who are less fortunate to find or for the animals to eat.

Another job of the kapıcı is to keep the grounds clean and collect trash. Every evening, the kapıcı comes around to each apartment and collects trash (or, as the British say, rubbish). In an apartment, it is the next best thing to a trash chute.

I ask our readers to share what they think about the future of the kapıcı.

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey, 2005.” Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]

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