I first became aware of some differences between Turkish and English gestures when I offered some "yeyla mooze" to the guy sitting next to me on a bus.
I call it "yeyla mooze" because that's how it sounded as shouted by the guy selling bunches of it in a small marketplace our bus stopped at for a tea-break on route to Malatya. It's a green stalk with whitish blobs on it. You break off a piece and strip away its outer layers then eat the succulent centre. The closest thing I know to it is rhubarb. It has a sour, tangy taste and is very popular in eastern Turkey.
So, I offered it to the guy next to me and he lifted his head slightly and tutted - it was the kind of thing I would do after reading a newspaper article about an English politician caught cheating on his taxes.
I was a little taken aback by this because until then he'd seemed nice enough.
Later, in my room I looked into Turkish body language and discovered that this gesture is not rude at all in Turkey but simply means "no". To shake your head here (English gesture for "no") means that you are confused.
Interested, I read on...
The most alarming difference I read about concerns the "OK" signal. Now, I have always been a "thumbs up" kind of guy (dating back to when The Fonz made it cool on TV's "Happy Days") which is fortunate because making a circle by touching index finger to thumb in Turkey signifies homosexuality.
However, since reading about this I have found myself unconsciously doing it instead of the thumbs up. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing...
Another dismaying cultural difference concerns chin stroking - a gesture I'm personally a big fan of. I stroke my chin almost every chance I get. I do it when considering a menu written in Turkish, I do it when I need a shave and I do it even more just after a shave.
Now I discover that chin stroking whilst looking at a woman is a signal of sexual intent.
God help me if I ever OK something on a Turkish menu after a long period of pontification....
|This gesture has the same meaning...|