When you have an intercultural marriage or live abroad, it is possible for different assumptions to be questioned. Our opinions and judgments are based upon our worldviews. Initially, these judgments will be superficial. Often, this is how we begin to formulate our own prejudice against other cultures. I would like to share some constructive comments from Today’s Zaman readers received in response to two recent pieces, “Dealing with prejudice” (May 18, 2012) and “Expats’ decisions and the turning point” (May 31, 2012).
“Dear Charlotte: I just read your column on ‘Dealing with prejudice’ and found it well written with pertinent and necessary points. I was about to leave a comment regarding the question: “Is it ever possible to marry someone from another culture...” when I read a few of the responses from readers below. It’s frightening to me to see that having moved into the 21st century and with all the technological advances throughout the world, there has been zero progress in regards to prejudice. In fact, I may not be far wrong in saying there has been a marked increase in prejudice, stemming from blatant ignorance, anger and paranoia. Many may justify their hatred on blaming the differences in religious sects, denominations, etc., but excuses will never complete the bridge to plain old human compassion. Good luck! Paul.”
“Dear Charlotte: Thank you for your article on the issue of ex-pats teaching abroad and in particular Turkey. I lived in Turkey for two years on the south coast and decided to move to İstanbul for another two years after doing a teaching course in Istanbul. My experience of teaching in that city was mixed with interesting times and some downright horrendous times that eventually forced me back to the UK. I do agree with the paragraph about how it changes you. As I was most definitely changed there in the ways you described. My teaching experiences were ones of being deliberately starved for five weeks because I took a week off ill. Being owed TL 2000 by another school; being sacked from another school because of a lie from another jealous native English teacher who wanted my hours. I think people should be warned about what actually goes on in the schools rather than those who print objective handbooks on “how to survive teaching abroad.” I was devastated when I ended up owing the emlak rent and humiliated and embarrassed having to get the school patrons to tell him the reasons why I couldn’t pay the rent. I was bullied by another Turkish head teacher and his English sidekick. It is a highly competitive, unprofessional, vicious environment with no back up or work conditions to assist the unsuspecting. Promises of work permits never materialize -- except those whose faces fit can be provided with one regardless of any teaching experience, usually through a backhander to Ankara and a change of description. I have to say in my experience the only people that made it were the ones with money behind them and/or who were in relationships with Turkish men or owned their own properties. Actually trying to live on money made from teaching is a waste of time.” From: L.O.
“Dear Charlotte: I just wanted to write and say that your article on June 1, 2012, made me smile. I spent 16 years living and working in Turkey, and your words so succinctly yet so accurately summed up my experiences of living there. Everyday I spent was exciting, enlightening, exasperating and challenging, but I became a better person for living there and experiencing it. I particularly related to your analogy to ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ it really made me smile. Thank you.” From: Claire
“Love the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ references -- one of my favorite books and truly relevant to life in a foreign country. Remember ‘jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but no jam today’! Having been here as a teacher of English for 13 years, it has certainly been a learning curve -- sometimes a gentle descent and at other times a roller-coaster ride. I am expecting four new teachers to arrive at my school this year, and I am worrying for them already. Unless you plan to only see it as an extended holiday or ‘year out’ experience, I reckon it takes at least two years to adjust to life in a foreign country and that with a lot of commitment and perseverance and a willingness to adjust to language and customs. Of course many people, including some of my colleagues who have been here longer than I, have chosen to keep themselves isolated to maintain their identity and like Alice only make occasional trips down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass into Wonderland.” From: Izmirli
Great observation! Keep your comments coming…
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org