Friday 4 July 2008

Not Enjoying the Silence

There's been something in the air these past few days. Perhaps it's the heat but everyone seems to have the arse with each other. The Turks do this well and they have a special word for it: 'kusmek' (it's even got its own hand gesture, look out for it in 'single hand gestures pt 2'). Appropriate translations would be "mardy", "to be in a huff", "a woosy", "to have an arse on", "to be in a mood with..." or "sulking".

I've come to realise that the Turkish culture has a multitude of social rules and etiquette that are known but usually unspoken. They come naturally to most but, as a foreigner, I have to learn by example or, more usually, by getting it wrong.

'Kusmek' usually materialises in the form of being sent to Coventry (FYI I spent 3 years in Coventry and I wouldn't wish it on anyone). Silence is weapon of choice. You don't speak to the person you're 'kus' with and you do everything in your power to avoid social gatherings where your paths might cross.

The process can last years; the Turks are stubborn to a fault when it comes to seeing the process of 'kusmek' through. My father and my uncle didn't speak for over 5 years. My father and my aunt about the same. It's not uncommon and I know many people who are 'kus'.

So what leads to this break down in communication? Well, as I said, breaking one of the many social rules is the usual way. Here are some I've picked up along the way:
  1. Your relative arrives in town and you don't call him to welcome him = Kus
  2. Your relative arrives (he's younger than you) and he doesn't call you to tell you he's arrived = Kus
  3. Your relative is leaving town and you don't call him to say good bye = Kus
  4. Your relative is leaving town (he's younger than you) and he doesn't call you to say good bye = Kus
  5. You're not invited to an engagement/wedding = Kus
  6. You're invited but you don't go = Kus
  7. Your elders come to your engagement/wedding but you don't visit them in the following week to kiss their hands = Kus
  8. Anything to do with money = Kus
  9. Disrespect of any kind = Kus
  10. Forgetting to use the appropriate title (big brother, big sister, uncle, auntie, sen/siz (Turkish equivalent of the French Tu/Vous)) = Kus
  11. Not calling elders on holidays/birthdays = Kus
  12. Breaking rules that are aren't really official or known but plucked out of the air for the sake of making a rule = Kus
The list is endless.

Never underestimate the power of silence. I'm usually given the benefit of the doubt being an ignorant foreigner but I have been on the end of 'kus' and it's a killer. I've also noticed that I'm starting to dish it out more and more (it's necessary in the graduation to fully fledged Turk).

This playground-style huffing may appear comical but it's deadly. Watch your back. Kiss appropriate hands and make those calls. Be careful out there people. Hell hath no fury like a Turk scorned.