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Characteristics


Whether from a rural or urban background most Turks have certain characteristics in common. It is on the grounds of this mixture that one can talk about what differentiates a Turk from other nationals. Some of these characteristics are listed below:

PATRIOTISM
To start with. Turks are extremely patriotic. The first thing every child does at school in the morning is to chant: "I am a Turk, I am correct and hard-working. I am ready to sacrifice my existence for the existence of Turkey."

These patriotic feelings can be easily aroused - a feature which is as asset provided that they are regulated by clever leaders, as was the case in the War of Independence. However, they may also lead to comical situations if aroused too quickly. In the late sixties when the stories of hardships suffered by the Cypriot Turks at the hands of their Greek compatriots had been reaching mainland Turkey, there was an open air meeting in Mersin, a southern port. Apparently the speaker, having made several references to those unfortunate events, concluded his speech by saying, "Come on brothers, let us go and put a stop to this nonsense!". No sooner had it been said, than a group from the excited audience dived into the sea and started swimming in the direction of the island, about 64 kilometres away. After half and hour's struggle with the gigantic waves, the swimmers realised that Cyprus was not as near as its lights at night had suggested, and all returned to shore, their mission unaccomplished.

The country and its symbol, the flag, are of prime importance. The Turkish national anthem opens with the lines: "Don't despair, until the last stove in this country is extinguished, this red flag will fly in the sky." Having such a respect for their own flag, they have difficultly in understanding how some other nationals can make their carrier bags, lighters, ashtrays, T-shirts and even shorts and underpants decorated with the pattern of the flags.

The Turk - Philanthropist and Lover
The Turks have a romantic nature. They can fall in love at first sight and propose marriage at the second meeting. They like melancholic attachments too. Most of their songs and poems are about unfulfilled, unrequited love. They give easily, whether of their affections or worldly goods. A complete stranger sitting next to you on a bus or a train my offer you half of his modest ration, wrapped up in a newspaper. "I like you" (seni sevdim) is a common type of evaluation that a first time encounter usually finishes with, unless you do something really drastic to prevent it.

To be or not to be angry
The Turks usually put on a serious face. Especially in official contexts, transactions are carried out in the utmost solemnity, which some find discouraging. It has to be appreciated, however, that seriousness is associated with the truth and when there is a need to underline the actuality of something the Turks are deadly serious. In official contexts seriousness is the expected demeanour and creates confidence in the transaction.

Some foreigners who have been to Turkey would describe the Turks as quick-tempered and hot-headed. This is because one minute peace may prevail and the next, voices and fists may be raised for no apparent reason. It is true that some individuals are quick to adopt a warlike posture, but reason, of course, is a relative matter and what does not seem to be a good cause in one culture may be extremely offensive in another.

Luckily, they forgive and forget easily too. In fact, given their quick-tempered nature, it is surprising how tolerant they can be in situations which may be intolerable in most other cultures. More often than not, they interpret things positively. Even a clock which is out of action will at least show the correct time twice a day, they say.