When a reader of another publication I contribute to recently added an online comment in the sense of that ‘Klaus has probably gone native’ my initial reaction was that someone either wanted to poke fun at me – or criticize me which is of course perfectly acceptable – about an issue related to Turkish politics and the economy. At closer inspection though it made me reflect about the meaning of ‘to go native’ and as a matter of fact I feel rather cool about having gone native if that is what is at stake. So let me give you a number of ‘non political’ tell-tale signs which describe those of us Kusadasian’s who manage to change some of their habits either because they want to or out of necessity and live life according to ‘When in Rome…’
The water cooler
Honestly, I never ever drank so much still water as I would here in Kusadası and Turkey in general. Of course we have our bottled varieties of either still (some leading hotels have their own still water drinks list!) or sparkling water, respectively, which come handy as our drink of choice during working luncheons or at home to quench our initial thirst but back home I would not come across either a hand pumped or the electric version of a water dispenser except for in hospitals, public libraries, offices, hotels or perhaps our town hall. Initially I thought water is big business in this country because of the fine weather and because it is healthy. Eventually I realized that it is much more – it is a way of life.
What is an essential item in most likely almost all Turkish households is a ‘jumbo bottle’ of still water arriving at our doorsteps by means of friendly, muscular delivery men. Jumbo is what it says – 1 9 liters to be precise and large canister or container are probably more apt words to describe its size. The moment you stop buying individual one liter bottles but have a sticker on your fridge instead which shows name and number of your preferred water delivery company and to go one step further, the second your mobile phone number is stored against your name and address with that very water business you are en route to ‘going native.’
Glass, not cup
And so it is teatime! Not just at Five o’clock, but anytime regardless of day or night and whatever the circumstances. Turkish people love drinking tea, and actually, so did we; past tense as some argue since the way me make filter coffee (or simply use Nescafé instead) has dramatically improved more and more British people prefer a cup of coffee over a tea with milk, milk of course poured first! Tea in Turkey is served in glasses, ‘bardak’. The first Turkish tea is something of a tricky affair as the tea is hot and so is the glass that holds it. I t requires quite a technique to master the art of picking up the glass with two fingers of your hand and begin sipping that delicious brew without burning your finger. After some more bardak you will know exactly how much time to wait if any before picking up the glass, how to hold it whilst drinking and how many cubes of sugar you wish to add. Tea comes strong but you can ask for ‘light’. It tastes great and mostly hails from the country’s a-plenty Black Sea coastline tea plantations. It is affordable, too.
New international arrivals are often served their tea in a ‘European’ style cup or glass twice the size of what a Turkish customer would get. The longer they know you in a particular café or restaurant or the moment you ask ‘bardak, lütfen’, you have taken another important step towards ‘going native.’
Local market, not just hypermarket
They are busy, noisy. Yet they are everywhere at least once a week or more often; colorful, full of local produce and the alternative to supermarkets or corner shops. We need all three, I agree. But once you have mastered to navigate a Turkish local daily or weekly market you will have learned many things about life in this great place.
First, never buy at the stalls located next to the various entrances. Their goods are invariably more expensive as they hope passers-by without neither the time nor the intention to venture further inside buy there and then. Second, do not go shopping early in the morning when all stalls sell their produce at the highest price possible. Go there two hours before closing time and the produce is as fresh as it would have been sitting in your kitchen but will come at a nice reduction in price. Do not fell shy to do just that – the vendor will be happy as he clears his stock and you will be happy because you had a bargain.
Third, ideally buy all dairy products from an open air market or food hall. Eggs, cheeses, yoghurt… there is most likely more choice when compared with a supermarket and all cheeses are cut according to your specifications and not pre-packaged. Of course you must try a little bit here, and there! Finally, do not call the market supervisor when you see a shopper plucking a grape from a bunch and eats it without paying – you are allowed to do so unless in very posh markets. Take one not ten of course but it resembles the good old days when our local butcher would even without asking give a slice of sausage to us children whilst the parents went through their weekly meat shopping list. And yes indeed, if you do all of the above you are pretty close to being labeled a native in the most positive meaning of the word. There are of course many more issues I would be all too happy to discuss; perhaps you drop us a line about your experiences?
Enjoy Kusadası !