I am looking back at my blog of a couple of days ago about that feeling of enforced hospitality. Luckily there are immediate reactions. What? A global traveller like you should be able to see through this behaviour! They are right of course, so what makes me experience this differently from the many other encounters I had? In combination with culture it’s about time I had a good look at it.
Let me start with this experience. What I feel at this hospitality are three things: camaraderie, curiosity and territorial behaviour. Nothing new, actually. The reason for experiencing this as irritating is mainly because it’s an all male environment. All those terraces filled with men, it’s intimidating! So it turns out to be just another game of the-mine-is-bigger-than-yours, Hilary reacts with a bit of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm.
I looked further into theories as well. The Serbian, Bulgarian and Turkish cultures are comparable in most aspects. Hierarchy, the collective and the need for rules are important for all. They don’t score high on competetion and need for success which is surprising at first but not when I look at the way they react on each other.
There is a difference when it comes to pessimism and cynicism, the Serbians and Bulgarians come across as quite that where the Turks are much more positive and optimistic. So far the theory.
If they are all three of them reasonably comparable, than why do I feel at ease in Serbia, OK in Bulgaria and find myself struggling in Turkey? I find that can easily relate to the merry and yes lightly cynical ‘in your face’ mentality of the Serbians. What you see is what you get. Bulgarians are not that easy going, it takes a while for people to establish contact but when they do it’s a heartfelt contact. In both cases the offer of beer is part of the ritual.
In Turkey they’re openly curious. They call out to me: come, have chai! By now I don’t accept every invitation anymore, mostly I wave and walk on. Just as with the beer in Bulgaria, by the way. When they find out that I don’t speak Turkish, most conversations end quickly though. I sense in Turkey more order, more rules, more norms maybe, but that can also be because there is more economic well being here. There was little ruling to do in the poor, basic Bulgarian countryside. There’s garbage at the roadsides as well in Turkey, albeit far less. Maybe it has to with self support? A country like Bulgaria that isn’t rich to start with and that sinks into a sort of cynical apathy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will never make it work, I frequently hear when talking to Bulgarians. This part of Turkey has a lot of water, I notice, which gives it the possibility of irrigation and more economic sustainability. I am not sure it’s because it’s logged between two seas or the weather at the moment is just very friendly. From the road signs I see there’s also snow in winter. This is the Turkey that I sense to be a bit formal, normative, that gives me a feeling of restriction and seems to want to take my independence and freedom away from me. I am unsure as to the role of religion and dress codes in that.
Thus the diversity of the world around me gives me the images, feelings and experiences that help me get to know and value myself and my place on this earth. I don’t map the world by walking, walking the world is mapping myself. Diversity is great!