Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dating in Turkey

Over a lovely meal last night, some friends and I were discussing dating in Turkey. Even though I've lived here for almost seven months now, some of the differences still surprise me.

The major differences? (Keep in mind most of this is more applicable to the dating scene outside of Istanbul, by far the most "western"-oriented city)

  • Dating is serious. There is little to no "casual dating."
  • First comes the "I love you." After you confess your love and prove your loyalty and devotion, then you may begin dating. Then and only then do you begin dating. Then engagements and marriage. 
  • The proving of your love part has to be serious. Large romantic gestures are expected. A fellow-Fulbrighter received an anonymous package filled with candles and flowers and romantic things, along with a DVD of people in his city holding up signs with messages for her on it. 
    • The western reaction is "that is creepy." Here, it's sweet and expected. Those are the kinds of things that are romantic, talked about, and warrant a woman giving her devotion to the guy who goes gaga for her. 
    • One of my students proudly showed me her boyfriend, a police officer, with his whole force making a huge heart shaped alignment and him standing in the middle, arms spread open. These big gestures of love are expected. And cherished. 
  • No one talks about pre-marital sex, especially between the genders. Maybe among trusted friends. Nor is it common or accepted. 
  • Living together. No way! 
An amazing journalist living here in Turkey interviewed four women about the level of happiness in their lives, in relation to their marital status and conditions for women in Turkey. Her article is highly interesting, I strongly recommend it-

While foreigners dating Turkey is not exactly the norm, it isn't a taboo either. Though, the expectation exists that one person or the other will convert. Religion here, at least outside of Istanbul and Ankara, is non-negotiable. Take it or leave it. The bottom line may not be the most important factor at first, but it is definitely a factor as things progress.

The dating couples are adorable here, sneaking glances between each other, grasping fingers quietly in class, and hugging in the booths while drinking tea. In conservative towns like Duzce though, those displays of public affection are most definitely frowned upon. Holding hands here is nothing more than a secret touch. Kissing in public is not seen, even among married couples. The key to relationships here is keeping things quiet. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a very late comment, I know, and you will probably never see it. However, as someone who has lived here in Turkey for more than 3 decades, I would say that any western girl who gets involved with a young man with the social background that you are describing, should be warned: continue at your peril. Not to be advised at any cost. It will end in tears. I know: I have seen it too many times.


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