10 Aralık 2013 Salı

Turkish Hospitality: A Non-Muslim’s Discovery .

By Amy Lysen

Freelance Writer- The US

Sunday, 06 October 2013 00:00

As soon as I met the people of Istanbul I immediately felt at home.

Different language, different religion, different sights, smells and tastes! Nothing could be more opposite to my small hometown near Seattle.  Turkey was nothing that I expected or I could have ever imagined; but as soon as I met the people of Istanbul I immediately felt at home.
I had an interesting entrance into Istanbul.  It could have been the worst hitchhiking experience, but it turned out to be my best.  I had caught a lift with a Turkish truck driver from the Romanian-Bulgarian border a day and a half earlier and while we didn’t share a common language, he showed me amazing hospitality and gave me instant respect, which I later found to be the case with every Turkish person I met in my six weeks as a guest in their country.

When my lift dropped me off in the middle of a residential area in the outskirts of Istanbul, some kind men took it upon themselves to help me get to the center.  They took me to their English-speaking friend. He attentively listened to my story: how I came to be there with no Turkish Lira, no nearby ATM, no knowledge of the Turkish language, and no idea what part of Istanbul I was in- or if I even really was in Istanbul.

The kind man could have pointed in any direction and told me to get on a bus or ask someone else.  Instead, he made me tea, then coffee, and a sandwich, and invited me to sit down, relax and be his guest for a while.  After about an hour, he wrote direction for me, flagged down a minibus, told the driver my situation, paid him and gave me 10 Lira. He told me it would be plenty to get me where I needed to be and further, but he thought it was better to give me too much rather than too little, just in case something went wrong.  He then hopped out and waved goodbye before I had time to properly thank him.  I looked in the rear window as he ran back into his shop with a smile on his face.

I was stunned by the amazing compassion he had for me, a woman he had just met and would probably never see again.  His utter selflessness and care for others brought me peace and happiness the rest of my time in Turkey.  It was a wonderful introduction to Turkish hospitality and a great representation of my time there.

While staying with various friends in Istanbul, some Turkish, some not, I was able to see this hospitality in different forms.  One morning, a Turkish friend’s mother was cooking a breakfast feast for me and even though she didn’t understand English and I didn’t speak Turkish, she was happy to understand I enjoyed the food.

One afternoon, I was helped by a Turkish man in a coffee shop to connect my computer to the internet which was followed by a long conversation about my travels and how I liked Turkey.  Many times, I was offered tea by shop owners whether or not I was buying something from them.

I was lucky to meet people who cared about me and never expected anything back.  Their warmth and compassion welcomed me, a total stranger.  I was just one of thousands of tourists passing through, but they made me feel like it was their personal duty to take care of me.

The History of “Hospitality”

The word ‘hospitality’ comes from the Latin ‘hospes’, meaning a stranger, guest, sojourner, visitor or foreigner.  The ancient Greek idea of hospitality meant taking care of the guest, protecting them from harm and guiding them safely to their next destination.

To ancient Greeks and Romans, hospitality was a divine right. No matter how little a host had, it was given to any visitor.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan helping a stranger on the side of the road, we are taught to have love for our neighbors, even those we have not met yet.  When Abraham unknowingly cares for a group of angels, thinking they are travelers, he is gifted by the news they bring that his wife, Sarah, is pregnant.

Showing hospitality to strangers is the same as welcoming God in our lives.  In this way of respecting the divine in each other, we are giving something to a person without expecting anything back.

Contemporary hospitality usually involves proper etiquette, showing respect, providing for the guest’s needs, treating them as equals, and ensuring their comfort during their stay.  It tends to revolve around the goal of beginning a friendship with the strangers we show hospitality.

We are trying to get something out of the hospitality we give.  There are many people who are hospitable to their family and friends or to people they wish to have a personal connection with, but if they don’t have any desire for friendship with someone, they are not treated the same.  At some point in history, we have strayed from the idea of giving without expecting anything in return and have thus become somewhat selfish in our hospitality.  That hospitality is still good, but not as pure as it was.

Pay It Forward

The Turkish have perfected the art of hospitality in so many ways.  They give a lot to their visitors and even though they don’t expect anything in return, I hope they are rewarded for their good acts.  Never once did I feel like I owed anyone for the hospitality they gave me.  Their selflessness has encouraged me to act as hospitable as I can to people in my everyday life.

What better way to welcome someone into your country, culture or home than to show them compassion.  Whether it’s leading them through the public transportation of your city, showing a sincere interest in them or serving a wonderful homemade meal, it can only make their life better.

It doesn’t have to stop at visitors- hospitality can be shown to people in your own community.  Helping someone with their bags at the market, picking up a motorist stuck on the side of the road or giving a homeless person something to eat is just as effective.

Hospitality within your community can help make your culture more welcoming and hospitable to future visitors.

What better way to welcome someone into your country, culture or home than to show them compassion. 
Whether it’s leading them through the public transportation of your city, showing a sincere interest in them or serving a wonderful homemade meal, it can only make their life better.

The Turkish have perfected the art of hospitality in so many ways.  They give a lot to their visitors and even though they don’t expect anything in return. I hope they are rewarded for their good acts.

By , December 3, 2012 12:52 pm
Turkey is different from Western European and North American countries in a lot of ways. That’s why it’s been so fun for us to visit. Here’s just three examples from Istanbul of how we were treated to a level of hospitality far greater than what we’ve grown to expect more westernized places.

1. The Bookstore

We came to Turkey wanting to walk the Lycian Way, but we knew little to nothing about it. Naturally we were quite intent on finding a guidebook and reading up on what to expect a little before we got started. For most of one morning, Ashley and I strolled through the outdoor stores, and several English bookstores looking for an English copy of the guidebook. We weren’t having any luck.
Sometime around 12:00 pm we wandered into a small store located down a flight of stairs on a side street just off Istiklal Caddesi. At a quick glance we could tell that this was actually a Turkish Bookshop, not an English one. We were about to back ourselves up the stairs when the owner piped up and asked if he could help us. We explained what we were looking for, and he informed us that he didn’t have it. Then he made us an offer. He said that he would speak to all of the other bookstore owners who were his friends and find us a copy of the book if we would come back in 6 hours to purchase it. It seemed like a good deal, so we thanked him and said we’d be back.
Six hours later we returned to the same underground bookstore. The population of the store had increased slightly from earlier in the day. A small crowd of men were gathered around the desk. Some were in chairs, some were standing. All were involved in a discussion that neither of us could understand. There in the middle of it all was our man. The moment he saw us we could tell – by his expression and the way he started to blame everyone in the room – that he had forgotten all about our book.
He quickly apologized and offered us some tea. We began to tell them a bit about ourselves, and they told us a bit about themselves. When our tea was done our host asked if we wanted another. We politely declined at which time he responded by serving us coffee and stating, “I could tell your no was really a yes.”
At some point, the discussion turned towards street food and our host asked, “Are you hungry now?” By this time it was already 8:00 and we were a bit famished. He sent one of the other men out to the corner shop to bring back some traditional Turkish food for everyone, or so we assumed.
When the food arrived, we saw that they had only bought enough for us. Chickpeas and rice, bread, a tomato and bean soup, and a salty cucumber yogurt drink. After serving us, everyone got up and left so they wouldn’t be staring at us while we ate our meal.
“Now we just need to serve you a Turkish Coffee, and our mission will be complete.”
Before parting ways some 5 hours after arriving, we had learned a great deal about Turkey and what it’s like to live there. We had a tea, coffee, a meal, and a Turkish coffee all for free. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and were told that if we had any trouble, or needed anything while we were in Istanbul, we should not hesitate to give get a hold of them. Considering we didn’t spend a penny, I’d say that was some darn good hospitality.

2. A Man on the Asia Side

We took the ferry across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Turkey. After stepping off the ferry, we unfurled our map to get a bearing on where we were. Then we heard the all too familiar “Excuse me, Excuse me,” from what we assumed to be a crafty undercover salesman. You know the kind. First they make small talk, ask you where you’re from, then tell you about some store or tour you absolutely have to see.
But what he said next shocked us, “Can I help you with anything?” That was it. He genuinely just wanted to help us out. He had nothing to sell us, and was only being kind. He helped us figure out where we were, and gave us some tips on what we could see nearby.

3. Fast Food Bathroom Attendant

Here’s one of our dirty little secrets. In both Central America and Europe, public bathrooms generally cost money. Washrooms at fast food chains however are generally free for paying customers. We however have no scruples against sneaking into a chain restaurant’s bathroom and sneaking out without spending a dime. But it doesn’t always work. If you get caught, you are either denied entrance to the bathroom or forced to make a purchase.
It looked like things were headed that way for us when Ashley was stopped by one of the employees on the second floor of a fast food doner shop. He knew that we weren’t customers, and we knew that he knew. The moment was tense for just a split second until finally he said, “Toilet. Upstairs,”  and pointed us to the stairs.  We did our business and left. No questions asked.
These are just a few examples of the different hospitality we’ve noticed in Turkey that we have not seen anywhere else. The Turkish people are doing a very good job making us like them and their country.

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