Published November 22, 2006
Turkey! Where is Turkey? Most Americans know little or nothing
about this mysterious country before the Air Force sends them here.
One of the greatest benefits of an Air Force career is the opportunity
to experience new cultures. It is also true, however, that one of the
greatest challenges of an Air Force career is adjusting to new cultures.
Turkey is exotic, exciting ... and totally foreign. Like Dorothy in the
Wizard of Oz, many people quickly realize they are not in Kansas
Expect culture shift
It is normal to feel anxious when suddenly thrust into a new environment
in which everything seems strange and different. Like a fish out of
water, newcomers may not know what to expect or how to act.
People may even be a bit frightened, not knowing who to trust or
what the Turks, despite all their friendliness, really think about them.
Most people, upon first arriving in Turkey, are excited and intrigued.
They are charmed by the friendly Turkish people, love the food and are
fascinated by the truly remarkable history of this ancient place.
Unfortunately, this "honeymoon" usually ends as the difficulty of
daily life in a foreign country begins to intrude. What was first
experienced as quaint comes to be seen as inconvenient, uncomfortable
Then people experience symptoms typical of a culture shift. One is
an increased hostility toward Turkey and its people. People may find
themselves saying, "They don't do things like we do," "They should
do things like we do" or "They don't even speak English."
People may seek relief in complaining about Turkey with other
Americans, which is another common symptom of the culture shift.
Such "gripe sessions" are characterized by a tendency to label
Turks with negative and derogatory stereotypes, which may bring
temporary relief, but does nothing to increase understanding and
appreciation of Turkey and the Turks.
Other symptoms of culture shift may include:
- An excessive concern over cleanliness.
- A disproportionate irritation with delays and other minor frustrations
that would have been shrugged off back home.
- An excessive fear of being cheated by merchants.
- A resentment of the need to learn a foreign language. (often, an
outright refusal to do so)
- A terrible longing to be back home among familiar faces and
To get over this culture shift quickly and begin enjoying this
remarkable country, people must realize these difficulties are born from
their lack of understanding of the Turkish culture and language. Only
they can change that.
People can successfully adjust to Turkish culture if they adopt
Open mindedness -- Be flexible and receptive to new ideas.
Sense of humor -- Laughter will get you through many sticky spots.
Ability to cope with failure -- Because it's hard to be perfect in a
Curiosity -- Be interested in new people, places and ideas.
Tolerance of difference -- Turkey is not better or worse than America:
It's just different.
Positive and realistic expectations -- Expect wonderful things, but
don't expect everything to be wonderful.
Of course, the very best way to begin cultural adjustment is to learn
to speak some Turkish. Incirlik offers a variety of programs to help
people, no matter whether they want to learn a little or a lot.
Being able to talk to the waiter at a restaurant, to barter with a
shopkeeper or ask directions to a historic sight will help increase
people's self-confidence and enjoyment of Turkey.
But people shouldn't stay on base until they master the language.
Many Turks speak English. Get out there and meet them. Take advantage
of the many wonderful opportunities to travel around Turkey.
There are dozens of astonishing historic sights within driving
distance from Incirlik. The gorgeous Mediterranean coast is only an
hour away. The Turkish people are proud of their heritage and love to
share it. If people show a genuine interest, they can be sure of receiving
a warm welcome everywhere.
It is not unusual to meet people who are in Turkey for their second
or third tour - voluntarily. They will be happy to tell you what made
them fall in love with Turkey. People shouldn't be surprised when they
begin to feel the same way.