Diary of a Foreigner Living in Turkey (1993-1998)
History of this Diary
Merhaba! From September 1993 to August 1998, I lived in Ankara,
Turkey. Early on, I started receiving a lot of email from
friends and former colleagues, both worried and curious, asking what
life was like in Turkey. They had the wildest prejudices about
Turkey, imagining that I roasted in desert heat on some sand dunes,
that I rode on camel back to my office, that I had trouble learning
Arabic and reading/writing the arabic alphabet, and that all my woman
students were fully veiled. But that Ankara lies 1,000m high on
the Anatolian plateau and has continental climate, that Turkey
features almost any geographical landscape you can imagine
except deserts, that camels are not native animals
there, that Turks speak, well, Turkish, an Altaic language that has
nothing to do with Arabic and is written in the Latin
alphabet, and that the majority of Turkish women do not even wear
headscarves, all these facts had to be established. After
responding to these enquiries individually for a while, I realised
that I had to repeat myself a lot. I thus started grouping my
answers into longer messages, called Impressions from Turkey,
which I broadcasted privately. But then I started receiving fan
mail from people I had never heard of, and they had my messages from
people I also did not know, etc, all this proving that my writings
were actually circulating on the internet! So I put the existing
impressions onto my personal homepage, after merging some and renaming
the series into Diary of a Foreigner Living in Turkey.
Disclaimer on this Diary
As a diary should do, it reflects an evolution of its writer, his
integration into and better understanding of the host culture, and
hence there may be inconsistencies. There are now many things in the
earlier parts that I no longer agree with, and that I would thus
rewrite now! I could settle all those inconsistencies, and present my
current, deeper understanding of matters, but I can of course not
modify a diary (but see below for a solution to this dilemma). This
diary shows Turkey as initially seen through a
foreigner's eyes, and it is an opinionated text, hence I
cannot put all readers on my side.
Also, I saw this diary as a dialogue, not only with myself to put
my thoughts in order, but also with my readers, who often helped to
put my understanding on the "right" path, or challenged my position.
Contents of this Diary
There are 7 parts to my diary:
All this, and my
Turkey: A Travel Guide,
made me sometimes a bit too visible, so I wrote the following satire:
I also wrote the following (here slightly modified) contribution to my
All this material is copyright © Pierre Flener. All rights
are reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute it in any form
without my written permission.
Interviews, Feedback, and Reprints
The series is wildly successful, as I am receiving hundreds of
encouraging letters, and even some hate mail, plus some offers for
homestays, invitations to pastry shops, ... I had wonderful
discussions with some readers, with both sides learning a lot in the
process. My readers are mostly Turks living abroad, foreigners
who have also lived in Turkey, and foreigners about to live or travel
in Turkey. I have even met some of my readers and made some
wonderful friends that way (what bozo said that the internet was
I was interviewed a few times about my years in Turkey:
- The Turkish daily Cumhuriyet published on 8
April 2012 an interview entitled Pierre
Flener'in Türkiye güncesi (Pierre Flener's Turkey Diaries).
- The Luxembourg weekly Télécran published on 23 March
1996 an interview of me at my job at Bilkent University, entitled
(in translation) A Luxembourger in Ankara.
I have lost track of all the pages on the internet that link to this
diary, or sometimes even carry illegal local copies thereof. I have
granted permission to reprint (translations of) excerpts at various places:
You can also tell me your opinions
about my diary, though please keep in mind my disclaimer above.
- Turkish Travel, since 2005
- Turkey Central, since 2002
- The Turkish daily newspaper (Yeni)
translation of passages from parts 1, 2, and 6
in its Pazar supplement of Sunday 11 October 1998.
- Walkabout - A Mixed Bag of Travel reprinted selected passages of
parts 1 and 2 in November/December 1995.
- Some Danish newsletter once featured some excerpts, but I have lost the details.
- The Travel Library was
the first to archive this diary (and my other travel-related writings).
The Future of this Diary: A Book?
The 7th part was the last installment, as I have now left
Turkey... But my mind is full of unreported trips, untold
anecdotes, and unanalysed (by me) features of Turkey. I have
picedk up an oft repeated suggestion by readers, namely that I prepare
it all up into book form (initially in English, later on in a Turkish
translation), but progress is slow due to two births (2001 and 2004)
here. If you are or know a potential publisher (preferably in
Turkey, so that the book remains affordable to all), please let me know. If you are a
potential buyer of such a book, please tell me your buying intention
(no formal promises needed, no money needed), so that I can show
evidence as to the size of the readers market to potential publishers.
In the meantime, I highly recommend the two following books:
as they tackle many of the topics that I am addressing, with a similar
mindset. (Disclaimer: A link to a specific language version, a
specific publisher's edition, and a specific bookshop is here only
given because there are many reviews of that edition in that language
of the book at that link. I do not mean to imply that you should
purchase your copy at that shop: use a comparison shopping engine or
your favourite bookshop to buy the book in your preferred language and
Last modified: Wed May 2 09:27:39 CEST 2012