We were in Şanlıurfa. We had just finished feeding the sacred carp and taking pictures of the shrine at Gölbaşı, in the courtyard of the mosque of Halil-ur-Rahman. We retired to one of the courtyard tea gardens. It was shaded and secluded, a place where we could drink tea and eat a snack without feeling awkward and weird on a Ramadan day.
I actually felt kind of guilty after that, as if I'd been bullying her and I realized it only after the fact. Then I regained my senses and told myself that, no, I had nothing to feel bad about. And I had the bulk of Western culture to back me up. Still, from J's point of view I should have just accepted the transparently false explanation and dropped the issue, for the sake of interpersonal harmony.This cultural difference isn't going to start any wars (we're not talking Samuel Huntington-level stuff here), but I do think it keeps escalating minor differences into major ones. And while I can't speak for anyone else, I am never able to spot it while it's happening. Only in retrospect, once it's too late to alter my behavior.Incidentally, I don't intend people to read this and take away from it something as simple and insulting as 'Westerners are straight-talking, Easterners employ social lying'. We in the West employ all sorts of white lies and statements of doubtful literal veracity, many of which we're not even consciously aware of because we're too deeply immersed in the culture. Turkey's still great.
The incident that inspired this post got sparked because the staff at a Turkish tea garden though they could overcharge us without us noticing, but I don't want to harp on them too much. Unscrupulous people are everywhere. They're not especially common here.
This was the only instance of people in Turkey being anything other than friendly and honest with us. Make no mistake, in touristy areas we've been charged touristy prices. My wife's haggled gloriously on occasion (she's much better at that than I am). But this is a culture of haggling, and you're expected to do it with a smile on your face. And there was the enterprising youngster at a remote roadside stand in Cappadocia who sold us thirsty hikers cans of low-quality iced tea at preposterous prices. But that was our fault for not asking how much before we drank the stuff. Lesson learned. All we can do is laugh at his audacity. (More seriously, we've been hit by theft, but that's impersonal, it happens all over the world and it isn't something to dwell on here.)
But most Turks we've met have been friendly and honest, even when linguistic difficulties made the encounter less efficient than it would have been otherwise. The unscrupulous tea garden in Şanlıurfa inspired this post because of the cultural differences highlighted, not because I wanted to rant about them.