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 campus newspaper: 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 isolating people?!).

I was interviewed a few times about my years in Turkey:

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.

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 edition.)

Pierre Flener

Last modified: Wed May 2 09:27:39 CEST 2012