1 EMUNI Research Souk 2009 (EMUNI ReS 2009)
The Euro-Mediterranean Student Research Multi-conference
Unity and Diversity of Euro-Mediterranean Identities
9 June 2009
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE
CULTURES OF TURKEY AND GREECE
VASSILISSIS OLGAS STR. 95, EFKSINOS LESHI, THESSALONIKI, GREECE
The exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in 1923 brought another
layer of exchange between these two countries. These people, who had to move from their
lands, took their ways of living with them. That caused the exchange of culture and
languages between the two nations. Generally the citizens of these two countries has a
prejudice against each other but when they live together, they see that there is no enmity
between them, it is sympathy and hospitality that they find. Depending on my own
experiences, I can say that more than we differ from Greece, we have common things
The things that we share are foods even sometimes the names of the foods,
land(there are still Turks living in Greece and Greeks living in Turkey), physical appearances,
family names, traditional dances, music, bazaars, bargaining for goods in bazaars and
markets and even some of our swearwords is same. As we lived together for almost 400
years during the reign of Ottoman Empire it is just religions which differ between us. For me,
as a Muslim girl with headscarf it is not a problem to study in Greece but it is a problem in
Turkey, which is very ironic. The reason is you are totally free in universities in Greece while in
Turkey you have to obey rules. The point which Turkey differs from Greece is, the government
does not allow people to live their religions freely. Ottoman Empire did not force Greeks to
be Muslims but now Turkey restricts its own people's religious ways of living. Another point
which we differ is the beverages that are used very often. In Turkey it is Turkish tea while in
Greece it is Frappe. But we are again similar in constant use of something. Another difference
is the working hours of people in each country which affects the daily life of people in each
country. While in Greece it is very loose, in Turkey it is very strict.
As we see, the things that we differ are just a few but main, like religion, while we
share most of our culture. It is essential that people should be aware of this sharing and they
should leave aside their prejudices. The history is left behind we should look for ways of
living together without any prejudices against each other.
SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE CULTURES OF
TURKEY AND GREECE
Turkey and Greece, being neighbor countries, share a great deal of their cultures as a
result of the history. They lived together for over 400 years. The two nations have a lot of
things in common. Traditional clothes, traditional dances and music, food culture, language
even the physical appearances of the people are so much alike that it is hard to distinguish
one from the other. Unfortunately, the citizens of these two countries are prejudiced against
each other. It is always imposed on people that “the other” is “the enemy”, but when they
live together they see that there is no enmity between them, it is sympathy and hospitality
that they find. Relying on my own experiences, I can say that more than differences from
Greeks, we, the Turks have things in common.
The relationship between the two nations dates back to 14th century when Ottoman
Empire started to reign over Greece. The reign of Ottomans continued till 1821. Between
these periods, the two nations lived together on the same lands. 400 years of living together
resulted in being almost the same in cultural aspect. They continued to live integrated till
1923. The exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in 1923 brought another
layer of exchange between these two countries. People who used to live integrated had to
move away from their lands. According to the Lausanne Treaty the population exchange
between Greece and Turkey excluded the Muslim population of West Thrace and the
Christian population of Istanbul and the islands Imbros (Gökçeada) and Tenedos (Bozcaada).
People moved from different parts of Anatolia and Greek lands, taking the traditions with
themselves. When they settled again, they did not quit their ways of living. That is why we
still have so many things in common.
Things we share are food and even the names of the foods. Imambayıldı, fasulye,
bamya, dolma, sarma are just some of them. Also the sweets are same in both countries;
kadayıf, lokum, helva etc. the names of the fruits and the vegetables are similar also, like
kiraz(i) for sour-cherry or karpuz(i) for watermelon. The language is similar for cuisine and
also for navigation. As Greece is surrounded by seas, she is developed for seamanship and
Turks took most of the names from them. Language also seems alike in surnames. “-
oğlu(turkısh), -oulou(greek)” means “the son of” and it is in the ends of most surnames both
in Greece and Turkey. Also there are a lot of surnames in Greece which date back to
Ottomans’ time. For example, a Greek was a butcher so he was called with his profession.
Then, he was given his profession as his surname and it still comes to our date as
“kassapi”(kasap means butcher in Turkish).
We are both addicted to beverages. In Turkey it is Black Tea, also known Turkish tea
that is constantly consumed, while in Greece it is Frappe that people consume every other
day. We still have something in common, Turkish Coffee, which is also called Greek coffee.
These beverages are not just for drinking means, they have a great deal of social importance
in our cultures. It is for drinking coffee or tea that people come together and chat. These
beverages are not the reason to come together but they are the most common way to come
together to spend time. Tavla or Tavli is the indispensable play for both countries also. It
dates back to early times also and it is a part of traditions of both countries. When two
people sit down for a coffee it is very usual for them to play tavla(i) meanwhile.
Some of the city names in Turkey derive from Greek origins. One of our most
prominent cities, Istanbul derives from the Greek phrase "εἰς τὴν Πόλιν" [istinˈbolin] or in
the Aegean dialect "εἰς τὰν Πόλιν" *istanˈbolin+ (Modern Greek "στην Πόλι" *stinˈboli]),
which means "in the city", "to the city" or "downtown. It is thus based on the common Greek
usage of referring to Constantinople simply as The City. Also Ankara, our capital comes from
Angira, Kayseri from Kasseria and most of the cities in Black sea part comes from Greek
origins also like Trabzon-Trapezunda, Giresun-Kiresunda. The landscape was also something
that we share so there are lots of monuments in each country which is important for the
other. All these common things invite people to know each other better. By means of
education, business or tourism lots of people have the chance to know each other better.
And also they have the chance to see the other parts of their cultures in different places.
In both countries open air markets are still of high importance both for the local
people and the tourists. Bellowing for goods, bargaining for them is almost the same in the
two. Even some of swear words are same. No need to mention them here, I just want to
emphasize the similarity.
Our main difference is religion and the attitudes towards the religion. In Turkey most
of the population consists of Muslims while in Greece it is Christians. Although again there is
a minority in Turkey who are Christians and minority in Greece who are Muslims. Again a
living-together exists. The attitude towards religion in Greece is totally different that is in
Turkey especially when it comes to formality. In Greece people can do whatever they want,
wherever they want for their religions. While in Turkey there are some laws that stricken the
ways people wear according to their religions. For me, as a Muslim girl with a headscarf,
being in university in Greece is really freedom for me. Because everyone respect each other
but in Turkey even people respect each other, even they share the same religion, because of
some political problems they are forced to wear as the law tells them.
Another major difference is the daily schedule of people. To begin with Turkey, it is
really strict. Even at 6 o’clock in the morning markets are open and they close really late at
night. People start to work for government departments at 8 in the morning and they work
till 17.00 o’clock with a break between 12.00-13.00. While in Greece the working hours of
civil servants is 8 hours although some services are not open to the public for 8 hours but
less. At 14.00 in the afternoon they are closed for the public. In the private sector the
number of working hours varies from 4 (part-time work) to 8 (full-time work) or more (10 or
over 10 in certain occasions). And the famous “siesta” breaks during the day overall Greece
is between 14.00-17.00. Except for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays it is very rare that one
can find an open shop. On Sundays it is just the Kiosks that work during the day. Which is the
contrary in Turkey, on Sundays it is when families come together, go out for shopping or for
picnic, so most of the markets are open on Sundays. The reason why people work so much in
Turkey is the economical problems that people have. They do not work for fun, they have to.
While in Greece most of the population is over a level of economical status so they do not
have to work so much. Instead they enjoy their lives.
In conclusion, the things that we share are more than that we differ. Our differences
are few but main. That does not imply that we have to be enemies as we have differences.
We have to learn how to live with our similarities and differences. The prejudice against each
other in both countries proves itself to be groundless. We are “gardas” (means brother in
both languages) so we should look for ways of destroying this prejudice and be aware of our
similarities. We are living under the same roof that is “sky”. We are all citizens of the world.
So, we have to live together with respecting each other.