‘Tales from the Expat Harem’

I am just reading a brilliant book about some extraordinary women’s adventures. All of them is strongly connected to Turkey somehow. Some of them spent a few years in Turkey at a certain stage of their lives working and discovering, then returned home, others  married to Turkish men and stayed for good. What is common in these women is their passion and love for the country and its culture, and their openness about their own struggles and victories. The stories are unbelievably honest and not once heart-breaking. The book can be about any other cultures though, these tales and its lessons are universal.

When you come into contact with a culture different to yours, you inevitably transform to a bigger or lesser extent. When I say coming into contact with an other culture I mean a deeper level of interaction than what you might experience when you go into a restaurant and taste local cuisine. A one-week holiday can give you an impression of a country and its people but this way you will rarely experience reality. Even if you spend years in a country you can easily escape without being touched by its people. It’s all up to your receptivity and curiosity.

The authors of the mentioned book, thankfully, were curious enough to immerse themselves in everyday Turkish life, let it be rural or urban. Starting anew like a new born baby they learnt how to navigate in their new world and reassessed themselves too. From a new perspective they gained a better understanding of their homeland’s values, the stereotypes we all hold and even nurse throughout our lives.

As I said, the stories are universal. Regardless of the culture you are fortunate to experience, it is always a privilege to get the opportunity to peep into it. It is not only extremely exciting but an honour too. We all draw our own lessons from a book but to me it’s about how ridiculously scared we still are to step back from our own ways of thinking and to see and feel something new.

I recommend this book not only to those interested in Turkey but most of all to those who doubt that people from different backgrounds can live at peace and marriage alike. As someone recently kindly advised me ‘let’s just leave the pre-filled boxes out of the story, boxes are to be held on the shelves’. That is my advise too. Just let things happen, leave your preconceptions behind.


Anastasia M. Ashan, Jennifer Eaton Gökmen (Eds)

Tales from the Expat Harem, Foreign Women in Modern Turkey

Seal Press, 2006



2 thoughts on “‘Tales from the Expat Harem’

  1. Lovely article Adrienn

    New mantra:

    Approach each new experience through the eyes of a baby- curious open and playful

    Just imagine how uncluttered and free people would feel if they left all their ‘boxes’ on the shelf!

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