And how are things in Istanbul?

Thankfully, I didn’t experience much of a culture shock when I moved to Istanbul. After all, I’d already gone through that phase five years ago when I moved from a small South Holland town to Eindhoven, the city where everyone has a ‘soft G’, is twenty minutes late all the time, takes the week off to celebrate carnaval, enjoys sausage rolls, and prides themselves on their agricultural roots.

All things considered, Istanbul may be a continuation of North Brabant: people here speak unintelligibly -although my Turkish vocabulary is now somewhat larger than “one doner kebab, please”- they show up even later, take a day a week off to protest against something or other, have a very different cuisine (better, that is) from what we’re used to in the Netherlands, and Turkish people are patriotic to a degree that could embarrass US citizens.

Still, the one thing that erases any feeling of discomfort with Turkey and its people is the ever-present hospitality of pretty much everyone you meet. From university professors you seek out for a question about homework, and end up having tea with while they let you in on their wild student days, to Grand Bazaar merchants who try to trick you into buying dandelions saying it’s saffron, but eventually offer you a cup of tea and help you improve your Turkish grammar.

People in the street will always take the time to show you directions if you’re lost. If you’re invited to dinner, don’t expect a simple pasta but rather prepare for a five-course meal. And every Turk – bar none – has a kettle of tea brewing to share with (unexpected) guests.

All this has been making my semester at Boğaziçi Üniversitesi much more pleasant so far. Because although the courses I’m taking here are rather more mathematical and challenging -more difficult, some might say- than most Eindhoven courses, the urge to return is surprisingly absent.

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