A Turkish/Turkish Cypriot Perspective
A Meeting with Musa, Enver and Ela
When Musa arrived in November, 1980 in the UK, he was 21 and had just completed National Service. He was looking for a fast food restaurant anywhere outside London and in a county 70 miles outside London he found the Happy Friar, which he took over.
Life was challenging, he knew only one Turkish family. He arrived in November and what surprised him?
Snow – the winters can be quite cold and his first sight of snow was exciting. The snow in the UK generally lasts one or two days but as we are never prepared for any extreme weather, its enough to bring the country to a halt.
Coming from a Muslim country, he had also never come across Christmas, He was surprised when people kept saying ‘Merry Christmas’. Now he likes the festival and looks forward to it. His restaurant is full of Christmas decorations.
All three of them combine the best of both cultures, they celebrate Turkish and British festivals and Enver and Ela’s wedding is living proof of this, they held it in a British manor house, using a traditional horse and carriage and served Turkish food.
Enver describes that coming from a small island where everyone knows everyone, your ability to express your opinion or your feelings are more limited than in the UK. Here, we know we have rights and we know what they are and you are not afraid to say what you think or feel. He also points out that we have lots of choice: in what you buy and how you are entertained. In the UK, when you shop, you can check prices online and check that what you are getting is value for money.
They notice that in the UK, people follow the rules so if you are employed to work from 9-5, this is what you do, you don’t sneak off early. They also observe that the government treats you the same,no matter who you are or who you know. (This is backed up by the British Social Attitudes Survey which has found the British believe in their institutions and believe the rules are fair and should be followed).
What surprised them about the UK?
That the English drink alcohol at funerals. In Turkey, you would not drink for 40 days as a mark of respect
A lot of socialising is based on the pub and drinking alcohol (n.b. when you go to the pub you should offer to buy all your friends a drink, this is called ‘a round’ and everyone should buy a round in an evening at the pub). Pubs were new to them when they arrived in the UK
What do we have in common?
Turks and the English both like drinking tea and horses
What is different?
In Turkey, you wouldn’t expect to leave home when you are 18 and even if you are 40, you could still go home and live with your mum and dad.
You have less living space than you do in Turkey, houses are smaller.
So many old people don’t live near their family in the UK and are lonely, this wouldn’t happen in Turkey, where the family would take care of you.
What advice would they give newcomers to the UK?
Adapt to the country – don’t isolate yourself in your own community.
Go to pubs and quickly get used to them
Work hard and as soon as you can, start saving for your future