Life In Turkey
According to the 2000 census, 67,844,000 people were living in Turkey. However, it is estimated that this figure surpassed the 72 million mark by the end of 2005. The population, which was roughly 13,600,000 in 1927, recorded a fivefold increase in 73 years. In the 1990-2000 period, the annual population increase was 18.3‰. This figure is expected to drop to 14.47‰ in the 2000-2010 period. In the meantime, Turkey’s population is estimated to reach 76.5 million people in mid-2010 when the next census is due.
According to the 1975 census, 58% of the population resided in rural and 41.8% in urban areas, while the 2000 census registered that these ratios had altered due to migrations and that 23.7 million people, i.e. 35% percent of the population, resided in rural and 44 million people, i.e. 64%, in urban areas.
Among the 81 provinces in the country, the three most rapidly growing are İstanbul with a 10 million population, Ankara with 4 million and İzmir with 3.4 million. Within the last three decades Antalya registered the greatest increase in population growth rate with 41.8‰ increase, followed by Şanlıurfa with 36.6‰ and İstanbul with 33.1‰. Tunceli, on the other hand, registered the highest rate of decline with 35.6‰ decrease in population.
Females comprise 33.6 million and the males 34.2 million of the population. Turkey is a country with a young population. The 0-14 age group forms 28.07%, the 15-64 age group 65.95% and the 65+ age group less than 6% of the overall population. Yet in the European Union countries the proportion of the 0-14 age group in the overall population is 17.2%, nearly half of that in Turkey, and the 65+ age group is almost threefold of Turkey with 15.7%.
HEALTH AND WELFARE
Turkey is a favorite destination from European countries for low-cost and high quality health care tourism. The government provides free and fully covered health care to the public and is engaged in a program to increase health-care provision. Insurance and medicine companies cannot control and manipulate health care policies defined by the government to protect the citizens’ equal right to access high quality health care. Urban facilities are generally very modern and more than adequate, but some rural facilities are not as well equipped. Various institutions (military, state-owned enterprises, and so forth) also provide health care for their personnel. It is also determined to improve the country’s record on, among other things, child immunization, prenatal care, and general health education.
The official language in Turkey is Turkish, and 90% of the population speaks Turkish. The Turkish language spoken in Turkey, a Uralo-Altaic agglutinative tongue, has differentiated in time along with the migrations and has undergone an evolution. Turkey’s Turkish is a modern form of Ottoman Turkish, which had adapted many words from Arabic and Persian. This language, together with Azerbaijani and Turkoman Turkish, is a derivative of the Oghuz dialects known since the 11th century.
Turkish, spoken by over 200 million people, is the 7th most prevalently spoken language among almost 4000 languages spoken in the world today.
The Turks used many different alphabets since the 8th century, but the most enduring ones were the Göktürk, Uigur, Arabic and finally the Latin alphabets. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, aiming to attain a contemporary level of civilization, ensured in 1928 that the Latin alphabet characters chosen to suit Turkish phonetics were adapted instead of the Arabic script.
Atatürk also pioneered the foundation of the Turkish Language Research Association in 1932 in order to purify the Turkish language from Arabic and Persian words and make it grammatically simpler and lexically purer. The association, later named the Turkish Linguistic Society, took important steps in hammering out contemporary Turkish. This society was transferred into the Atatürk Cultural, Linguistic and Historical Supreme Council in 1983. Atatürk’s language reform was highly successful and popular. Consequently, the ratio of Turkish words used in written language, 35-40% before 1932, has now reached 75-80%.
Almost 99% of the population of Turkey is Muslim, while the remainder is composed of the Jewish faith and the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Assyrian and other communities of Christianity. Everyone enjoys the freedom of religion and the right to practice his/her faith. No one can be forced to worship and participate in religious rites and ceremonies or to reveal his/her religious beliefs and convictions. In addition, one can neither be persecuted because of religious conviction, nor can he/she be prevented from worshipping.
Turks have tolerant religious concepts based on the Holy Quran which inspires that religion and convictions imply a personal choice known only by God and the individual. That means that there is nothing compulsory in religion. This tenet has led to a profound culture of tolerance and hospitality deeply rooted throughout the centuries in Turkish people. At present there are 233 churches and 31 synagogues open to worship in the country. It is possible to see, especially in İstanbul, the houses of worship of the three major religions side by side and in a manner rarely seen in any other country, owing to the multi-religious texture of the Turkish society.
GREETINGS AND GESTURES
When greeting friends or strangers, one shakes hands and says ” Nasilsiniz” (How are you?) or “Merhaba” (Hello). A typical response to Nasilsiniz is “Iyiyim”, “tesekkur ederim”(Fine, thank you). Among friends, greetings are followed by polite inquiries about one’s health, family, and work. Among close friends of the same (and sometimes the opposite) gender, Turks clasp hands and kiss on both cheeks when greeting. To show respect, an older person’s hands may be kissed and brought to touch the greeter’s forehead. The young often greet each other with “Selam” (salute). Someone entering a room, office, or tea house might say “Gunaydin” (Good morning) or ” Iyi gunler ” ( Have a nice day ). When parting, it is customary to wish for blessings from Allah “Allahaismarladik”, to which the response is “Gule gule” (Be on your way with a smile). Upon joining a small group, one greets each person individually. When addressing others formally, professional titles are used. Among peers or with younger persons, the title “Hanim” is used for women and “Bey” for men. These titles follow the given name for example, Leyla Hanim or Ismail Bey. With older people, one uses ” Abla ” for women (Fatma Abla) or “Agabey” (Ahmet Agabey) for men. These terms mean sister and brother . If there is a great difference of age, the terms aunt and uncle are used, again after the first name: “Teyze” (Fatma Teyze) for women and “Amca” (Ahmet Amca) for men. Turks generally use their hands a great deal during conversation, forming gestures that add meaning as well as emphasis. Social courtesies are valued in Turkey, and Islamic conventions are observed by many. For example, it is offensive to point the sole of the foot toward another person, and it can be seen as an insult to pass an item with the left hand; it is best to use both hands or just the right one. Deference towards older people, or those with higher status, is customary, and it is considered disrespectful for young men and women to cross their legs in front of an older or more senior person. Public displays of affection are not acceptable. The word No can be expressed by either shaking the head or lifting it up once quickly.
In rural areas especially, traditional family values prevail, and the father is the undisputed leader of the family. Members of large Turkish families, often living as an extended family , are loyal to the family unit. It is rare for a person to live alone, mostly for economic reasons, however particularly young generation prefers to do so. Polygamy , though banned in 1920s, may be illegally available in rural areas. Women gained the right to vote in 1927 and the right to divorce in 1934, when civil codes were introduced. Many women in urban areas work outside the home in the fields. An estimated 38 per cent of labor force (1995) is female. In rural areas, families usually decide on whom a person will marry, but in urban areas the choice is generally that of the couple. A marriage is not permitted for women before the age of 15, and men before the age of 17. In cities, many wait until their education, and sometimes military service, have been completed before getting married. The average age for marriage is 24 for women and 26 for men. Most Turks expect to marry and have children. Traditional wedding celebrations, although increasingly rare, last three days. They begin with the henna evening usually on Friday, called “kina gecesi” , which is an event for women only. The women decorate the hands and fingers of the bride with henna-leaf dye, and dance and sing together. On the second day, both sets of parents serve lunch and dinner to their guests. On the third day, the bride is taken to the groom’s home on a horse after folk dances are performed.
DIET AND EATING
A typical turkish breakfast, usually light, consists of tea, white cheese, bread, butter, eggs, marmalade or honey, and olives. The main meal of the day is eaten in the evening and may consist of several courses. Traditional Turkish cuisine includes meze , a tray or table of small dishes, including stuffed vine leaves, salads, and a variety of other items, as well as shish kebab grilled on a skewer. However, white beans should be considered as national food as it is eaten by almost every turk. Meat is often grilled. Fish is fairly plentiful along the Bosporus and the coast , but tends to be expensive. Vegetables are usually prepared in olive oil, and rice pilav is common. Soups are an important part of the diet. Turkish desserts include baklava (a dessert of syrup and pastry), kadayif and muhallebi (milk pudding). Turkish coffee ( kahve ), a thick brew served in small cups, is served with nearly every meal. Breakfast is usually eaten at around 7 AM , or earlier in rural areas. Lunch is at midday, and dinner, the main meal, is eaten at around 7 PM , when the family generally expects to sit down together. Eating habits vary according to the region and the food being eaten. Traditionally, many foods are eaten with the fingers, but cutlery is now widely used. To begin or end a meal, one might say Afiyet olsun ( May what you eat bring you well-being). One may compliment the cook on the meal by saying Elinize saglik (roughly, Bless your hand).
Hospitality is an integral part of Turkish culture. Friends, relatives, and neighbors often visit each other. In large cities, people usually try to telephone in advance, but in places where this is not practical they may visit without notice. The tradition of hospitality dictates that visitors are always invited in and offered something to drink, such as tea, coffee, or soda water, and sometimes something to eat, such as crackers or biscuits. It is impolite to decline the offer. Turks go to great lengths to make their guests feel comfortable and may even tolerate behavior that they consider inappropriate. However, they are naturally more responsive to guests who display a sensitivity to their customs. For example, in homes where the inhabitants remove their shoes and replace them with slippers, hosts expect their guests to do the same. Guests should avoid asking their hosts personal questions and, because a visit to someone’s home is an occasion for harmony and enjoyment, bad news or accounts of problems should be saved for another time and place. First-time visitors to a home may bring a small gift, such as confectionery, fruit, or flowers.
RECREATION AND SPORTS
Soccer is the most popular sport for both spectators and participants, but Turks also enjoy a variety of other sports, including volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and swimming. Wrestling has been the national sport for many centuries since the Ottoman times, and a traditional competition has been held in the town Edirne for over 600 years. Other principal recreational activities include family picnics, watching television, going to the cinema, and socializing in the home or in cafes and restaurants, although women are less likely to socialize in cafes and restaurants, especially in rural areas. Folk dancing and other cultural arts are also popular leisure activities.
HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS
Islamic holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and vary from year to year. A major Islamic festival is the three-day holiday called ” Ramazan Bayrami ” (Ramadan Holiday), which comes at the end of the month-long fast of Ramazan (Ramadan). A favorite treat at this time is rahat lokoum colorful gelatin cubes covered with powdered sugar, known in English as Turkish delight . A four-day Islamic holiday called ” Kurban Bayrami ” (Sacrifice Holiday) honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, at Allah’s command. It also marks the season of pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca). An animal is usually sacrificed on this day to symbolize Allah’s allowing Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son as a reward for his demonstration of obedience. Secular holidays in Turkey are calculated according to the Western calendar. Other official holidays include “New Year’s Day” (1 January); “National Sovereignty Day” (23 April, coinciding with Children’s Day), “Ataturk’s Memorial Day” and “Youth Day” (19 May); “Victory Day” (30 August); and “Republic Day” (29 October). The day before Republic Day is also a holiday in some areas. August is when most people take their annual holiday. National Sovereignty Day commemorates the Grand National Assembly’s inauguration on 23 April 1923. Since it coincides with Children’s Day, 400 students are given the chance to take seats in the national government in the nation’s capital for the day. Ataturk’s Memorial Day and Youth Day commemorates the beginning of the national movement for independence in 1919, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. On Victory Day, military parades are held, the world’s oldest military band the Mehtar band plays, and fireworks are set off. Republic Day celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the republic in 1923.
Businesses are generally open from 9 AM to 5 PM , Monday to Friday. Some are open for a half day on Saturdays. Most people buy fresh produce at open-air markets or bazaars, but get other goods from supermarkets (in large cities) or local shops. From their own harvests, people in villages make preserves, dried fruit and vegetables, and other foods for winter. Women who live in villages are more likely to knit or sew their own and their children’s clothing than women in urban areas, who purchase clothing from shops or employ tailors.
A transition from Islamic artistic traditions under the Ottoman Empire to a more secular , Western orientation has taken place in Turkey. Turkish painters today are striving to find their own art forms, free from Western influence. Sculpture is less developed, and public monuments are usually heroic representations of Ataturk and events from the war of independence. Literature is considered the most advanced of contemporary Turkish arts. Many critics regard Kemal Tahir as the greatest modern Turkish novelist. Among authors translated into English is Yasar Kemal.
A long history of influences from both Europe and Asia is reflected in the complexity and diversity of Turkish music. Turks are proud of their centuries-old musical tradition, which is similar to the music of nearby Islamic regions such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and northern India. There is also a lively tradition of folk music, with many regional styles and contributions from ethnic minorities, including the Roma (Gypsies). A cosmopolitan nation, Turkey has also adopted classical and popular music from the West, and developed genres that combine Western, Asian, and Arabic elements. One kind of unaccompanied folk singing is the long melody, consisting of heavily ornamented songs influenced by Islamic chant, sung in free rhythm.
The shattered melody style is in strict rhythm and is more suited as an accompaniment dancing. There is also a tradition of balladry and epics accompanied by the “baglama” (a lute; also called a saz ) and performed by itinerant musicians. Folk rhythms are often irregular, in a kind of limping pattern important to the coordination of group dance. Folk instruments include the “zurna”, a double-reed oboe, the “kemence”, a bowed violin, and the “kaval”, an end-blown flute similar to a Bulgarian instrument of the same name. Many of these instruments are capable of producing drones, a musical aesthetic found both in western Asia and in much of the folk music of Europe. Melody instruments include the ney, an end-blown flute; the kanun, a trapezoidal plucked zither; the ‘ud, a short-necked lute; the tanbur, a long-necked lute, similar to the folk baglama; and the rebab, a spiked-fiddle. When played in ensemble these are often accompanied by a small drum, called the def, and kettle drums, as well as vocal choruses.
Music like this is often used by the Sufi Medlevi cult for sacred ceremonies, often accompanying their famous whirling dervishes . Centuries ago the music of the Ottoman Janissary bands, which is no longer played, greatly impressed Europeans, who incorporated several Turkish instruments, such as the cymbal and kettle drum, into European music. Composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven also imitated the music in a style called alla Turca.
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
The Sultan’s Palace (Topkapi Sarayi), in Istanbul, is now a museum housing the imperial treasures and relics of the prophet Muhammad. Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilizations has outstanding Hittite, Phrygian, and other exhibits. Among the largest of Turkey’s many libraries are the National Library in Ankara and the Beyazit State Library in Istanbul.
The president is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. The president is elected by the National Assembly for a seven-year term. The National Assembly has 550 directly elected deputies, and legislative elections are held at least every four years. The voting age is 21. Turkey is made up of 79 provinces, administered by appointed governors and elected councils.
Turkey’s economy has enjoyed positive growth (5.5 per cent in 1995) in recent years, but it is still considered to need structural adjustment. The current government promises additional reforms, including more rapid privatization . However, problems associated with the reforms, including an annual average inflation rate of 66 per cent and a rising unemployment rate, are causing hardships for a growing number of people. Urban residents enjoy far higher incomes than rural people or migrants . Each year, large numbers of migrants from rural areas add to the unemployment rates and to the swelling urban population, especially in Istanbul: this affects not only urban infrastructure and the economy, but political stability as well. Agriculture is the traditional backbone of the economy, and once provided the bulk of all exports . Today it still employs about 44 per cent of labor force (1993) (most of the rural labor force ).
The manufacturing sector employs just 15 per cent of labor force (1993) but accounts for nearly 71 per cent of exports (1992). Its success is therefore vital to the economy. Chief agricultural products include cotton, tobacco, fruit, cereals, nuts, and opium (for medicine). Textiles , food processing, and mining are the largest industries . Services now account for about 50 per cent (1991) of the gross domestic product (GDP) , with tourism an increasingly important source of foreign exchange . The economy is one of the 30 largest in the world, but in terms of GDP per capita (US$ 2,627 (1991)) Turkey ranks only about 70th in the world. The currency is the Turkish lira.
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION
Around major urban areas, the roads are paved and in good condition. In rural areas, the infrastructure is generally adequate but not always well maintained. Taxis, buses, trams, dolmus (shared taxis), and ferries (in Istanbul) provide public transport. Rail and air services connect major cities. The principal airports for international scheduled flights in Istanbul and Ankara. The communication system is fairly good, although telecommunication services (both domestic and international) are best in urban areas. There are several national television and radio stations. There is a wide selection of daily newspapers, but government reaction to criticism can be harsh.
The improvement of education is a government priority and disparities between rural and urban facilities are being addressed with the building of more rural schools, and other reforms. Primary and secondary education is free and coeducational. Primary schooling lasts five years, secondary education three, and, in theory, schooling is available until the age of 17. Nearly all children complete the primary level, and an estimated 54 per cent (1992) go on to the secondary level. In Turkish secondary schools, it is the teachers (rather than the children) who go from classroom to classroom. Once children have completed secondary school, they take an exam to determine entry to university. Turkey has more than 29 government-funded universities, the oldest of which was founded in Istanbul in 1453. There are nearly 600 specialist colleges and institutions offering vocational and further training.