Written by Talya
MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology
Hello everyone. I am Talya and I am studying MSc Foundations of Clinical Psychology at BU. I wanted to write an enjoyable piece, comparing the Turkish and British life as an international student from Turkey. Let’s get started, shall we?
Coming from a collectivistic culture, it is really interesting to see the differences between Turkey and the UK. Even though I am still a minority in Turkey as coming from Armenian descent, both cultures share similar societal norms. It was therefore fascinating to be able to experience more of an individualistic culture in the UK and try to embrace it. My boyfriend is British, and when I am with his family, there are distinct but amusing differences between both cultures.
The napkin incident
One of the funniest incidents I have had was at my boyfriend’s house. We were having Christmas dinner, and I thought I might need a napkin and went to the kitchen to get one. In my culture, it would be rude not to get some more for him and his family also. I came back to the dining room and passed the folded napkins to each of them. They were all surprised and looked at me wondering what I was doing. I thought I had done something wrong and I looked at my boyfriend for reassurance. As usual, he said ‘’It’s okay, chill your beans!’’ and smiled at me. That day, I was able to see the differences between an individualistic and a collectivistic culture, and it helped me feel more comfortable in knowing there are differences, but they do not matter.
The self-deprecating sense of humour
Person A: “Oh you look lovely today, my dear.”
Person B: “Oh, no, no. I did nothing special really; this is how I woke up.”
This is one of the main differences between the Turkish and British culture. If you come across a British person and compliment about how they look, they will most likely find an excuse saying they did nothing worth mentioning. British people are more likely to avoid bragging about their accomplishments and choose to be humble. However, Turkish people like exaggerating on their challenges and experiences and enjoy making a great display.
Politeness and constant apologising
Let’s say you accidentally bumped into someone and said ‘sorry’. Even the person who is being bumped into will probably say ‘sorry’. I found this quite amusing when I first arrived and started to realise I was going to hear ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’ and ‘Sorry’ at least 50 times a day.
I also learnt how people enjoy forming orderly queues in the UK and how queue jumping is definitely frowned upon! For instance, I have seen how if someone tries to muscle their way to the front of a queue, there is likely to be someone who will ‘tut’ or point out the queuing system. However, in Turkey, any frustrations or anger around queue jumpers would be more internalised, and it is unlikely anybody would say anything.
Privacy and curiosity
One of the best things I love about the UK is that people respect your personal space and do not interfere with others’ lives. For instance, you might wear something utterly weird in public, and people walk past you without making a judgmental comment. They might have a giggle, but that’s it. However, in Turkey, you can see Grandmas in every single window spying on people in the neighbourhood while leaning on their window; they are like real-time CCTV. They notice who you went out with yesterday, what time you got home and everything!
Stay tuned for Part II!