Letter to the editor
This is one of those questions that just keeps popping up every so often. It’s not just because I have lived in both Turkey, and the UK (and for some time Greece). Nor is it because I know a variety of people who have lived in more than one country and at some point had to make a choice, including myself. It seems to be one of those continual questions that linger over whether one country is ‘better’ than the other, have we/I/they made the right choice? Have things changed meaning that a new choice needs to be made.
It is very rare, even amongst those I know who are very happy and settled, not to occasionally bring up the question of here or there? Some are able to frequently return to the place they are from/where they have family/where their partner comes from. Others are more restricted whether financially, through time allowed off work or school, or other constraints such as visa restrictions for partners. Whatever their reasons, wherever they may call ‘home’, however often they travel, they all occasionally and to varying degrees question there or here?
I can only speak for myself, and even though I have made my decision over 3 years ago from time to time it crops up. The difficulty is, trying to avoid it sounding like a contest on which is better. Otherwise it becomes an childish exercise in one upmanship based on ingrained ideas that we have been unwittingly taught as children. It can be very hard to admit that you find it difficult or impossible to fit into a culture you simply don’t understand. Some people find a new culture something that they can become part of quite easily, others while they may struggle at first become accustomed too it, others like me constantly feel like a square peg in a round hole. And the square pegness was something I became acutely aware of after having my boys.
Sometimes I envy those who seem to have just slid in and become part of their new culture. I question why I couldn’t have been more like that. Is it because those people are just more laid back? Is it because they landed in a place that fitted them? Were they really fitting in that smoothly or just covering it up? Was it that wherever they landed from never really sat well with them, so a new place did?
I know quite a few people who have left Turkey, and admitted they never really felt it was home even though they married and settled for a time. One person even said that after she left the headache she had felt almost constantly for 2 years had gone. Others have left and come back again, mainly because leaving was only temporary, something to enable them to return later and live a more comfortable life in a place they had dreamed of. Some found that a move away within the country was what was needed, rather than a complete change of country.
In many ways I can relate to all of them. After leaving Turkey and returning to see a friend after a couple of years, who had moved within the country, I was told I had my smile back. I found that a more significant statement in answering the question of here or there, than any other anyone had said to me. This person had known me for quite a few years, we didn’t see each other daily when living close because in Ankara living close doesn’t mean you can easily get to one another without a car. But God! I must have been miserable for her to notice that as the first thing she saw in me when we met a few years later.
In Turkey I had lost my smile. It wasn’t about one country being better, but about where my smile was.
Recently someone I know posted an article where the authors questioned whether she wanted to live in Turkey. The article was quite harsh, and the person posting related to it quite deeply in terms of the stress she felt just doing the simplest things. It made her long for home herself and question whether it should be a trip or a permanent move. Was she simply moving through difficult period? was she looking at ‘home’ with rose tinted glasses? would a larger move live up to all that this article had made her think about?
And then there’s the kids. Once you have them it becomes an eternal question of would one country be better for them than the other. Are you doing the right thing? Are they being brought up with enough of an understanding of their other language/culture/family/customs/traditions/faith? as if there isn’t enough parental guilt out there already.
Whenever the question is posed, no matter how it is phrased, and sometimes when it isn’t a question but more of an insight into another person’s life or choices, it always makes me wonder. Could I ever make it work in Turkey? Is there a place here where I wouldn’t be a square peg? The questions arise again because this time, for the first time, returning felt easy. However, not just because of the moron, it quickly dawns on me that no, not yet at least. While I may be smiling while I am here, which I didn’t apparently do in Ankara, I don’t think I would if it were anything other than temporary.
Whether it’s an article on whether a person should live in Turkey, a discussion on where you would go if visa regulations were no object, an article comparing the cost of living, interviews with women who have made the move, or just photos friends are posting, the answer doesn’t lie there. Nor does it lie in Daily Mail or Hurriyet articles about how each country is ‘going to the dogs’. It would appear the answer lies in a far more simple basic question:
Are you smiling? Really really smiling, from within?