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The 7 Turkish Phrases I'll Miss the Most

The 7 Turkish Phrases I'll Miss the Most

There is an immense amount that I'll miss about Turkey (namely, my students and the people I met there), but I'm starting to realize that I'll miss the little things as well. I think I'm slowly coming to terms with the notion that Istanbul isn't technically my "home" anymore, and part of coming to terms with that has been taking the time to reflect on my time in Turkey. As far as the language, I'm trying to think of creative ways to continue practicing Turkish, but it's not just speaking the language itself that intrigues me, it's the way it's used day-to-day in Turkey. My daily life, I now recognize, was filled with little Turkish phrases that propped me up and helped me to feel a part of Turkish society. 

My Turkish wasn't perfect by the end, but it was pretty decent. I'd venture to say that by the end I could have had a 20 minute or so conversation in Turkish without flickering in and out witht the use of English. But it's not necessarily just that I'll miss. A lot of Turkish is about the "back and forth" or the "give and response." You say certain things at certain times which let others know you're thinking about them. The Turkish people, in my experience, are amazing in their empathy and care. Literally, If you ever get injured in Turkey, people will be fawning over you like you were their first grandchild, and they might have just met you. 

As part of this continued "Istanbul departure series," (which I by no means planned) today I wanted to note the 7 Turkish phrases that I'll miss the most! In Canada, people are incredibly polite, but there just isn't the same level of casual interaction as there is in Turkey. Honestly, the gym was about a block and a half from my house in Istanbul, and I'd probably say hello to eight or so people on the way, and occasionally I'd be forced to stop and have a tea. You just don't get that everywhere.  

In no particular order, let's get started. 

1. Kolay Gelsin

This one might just be my favourite phrase, mostly because I've never seen another nation have such a phrase. "Kolay gelsin" basically means "may it come easy." You use this phrase pretty much anytime you see somebody working, or at least you can. It could be to a fellow teacher, a caretaker cleaning the school, someone serving you lunch, the cab driver who just nearly ended your life with his reckless yet surprisingly effective driving, or the kind gentlemen who just sold you a simit. If a person is working, it's always nice to say "kolay gelsin," and I loved to hear it return as well when I was on the job. I think it speaks to the way in which the culture understands that work isn't life's first priority. And so, this phrase symbolizes the notion that, yes, we all must work, but let's just hope it isn't too labourious, so we can get back to living. 

2. Inşallah 

While you could argue that this phrase is more generally Islamic than Turkish, it has a strong place in the Turkish vernacular and society at large, and therefore I feel comfortable including as a Turkish phrase. Simply enough, it essentially means "god willing," but I loved it because I think it really forces you to live in the present and appreciate what you have. When you talk about a future event, you end it with "insallah," and it's not to say that in some morbid sense you'll perish before the event - it's more accepting that much of our life is up to fate, and it'll happen if it happens. It can even be as simple as "Yarın güneşli olacak, inşallah" or "tomorrow will be sunny, god willing." What you're saying is what will be will be, and there's a lot that's just not in your control, so roll with it. I like that. 

Istanbul, Turkey

3. Geçmiş olsun

We have this phrase in Canada, but we sure don't use it the same. It basically means "get well soon," but, as I mentioned in my intro, when you're injured the whole country takes notice. My last few weeks in Turkey I was wearing a boot for my injured foot, and I likely heard "geçmiş olsun" about 75-100 times a day. Can you imagine 75-100 people coming up to and saying "get well soon" in North America? You'd likely assume you'd been cast in The Truman Show: Part 2 and take reduge. Anyway, I knew a fair amount of those people, but many of those people were just randoms on the street. That is a true testament to the heart of the Turkish people, and that's why this phrase just had to make the list. If you're feeling a touch under the weather, let me just go ahead and throw a "geçmiş olsun" your direction. If you'd like 100 more, just head on over to Turkey. 

4. Hoş geldiniz / Hoş bulduk 

I loved this little combination. You walk into a store, almost any store, and whoever was running the place would almost instantly say "hoş geldiniz," which more or less means "welcome." What's nice about this is that it instantly starts a dialogue between strangers and opens the doors up for further communication. It takes the awkwardness right out of the equation. It's also nice when you visit people's homes, as it's a quick comment that says "my home is your home" without the formality. The common response to that is "hoş bulduk," which essentially means "thanks," but it also connotates that you appreciate wherever you're being welcomed into. This exchange, for me, is one of the subtle things that I never stopped enoying about Turkey. 

Istanbul, Turkey

5. Afiyet olsun 

This phrase isn't unique to Turkey, but the insistence and consistency with which the phrase is used is indeed unique. It means "bon appetite," but you can say it before, during, or after the meal. I guess what I love about this phrase is how forward and intentional it is - it's another phrase which is trying to keep you in the present moment. I'm sure that I said this phrase every single day in Turkey, but I think, historically,  I only said "bon appetite" when forced to in French class during my time in Canada. I think I'll probably still use this one moving forward, considering Bri will know precisely what it means, and she happens to like the phrase as well. 

6. Çok yaşa / Hep beraber 

You say "çok yaşa" when someone sneezes and in that way it's similar to the phrase "bless you." However, it's the response "hep beraber" that I really like. It means, basically, "all together," and so in context when you wish someone good health by saying "bless you," the response from the sneezer is like, "hey? why focus on me, let's all be healthy!" It's a nice touch. 

7. Sıhhatler Olsun!

This is another "good health" sort of phrase, but its use, to me, is seriously on point. It was originally just used after people had had a shower or bath to basically give them a pleasant blessing as to not catch a cold. But, it's also used after someone has gotten a haircut or shave. I remember that in the same day two different people said "sıhhatler olsun" to me - one person after the sauna, and one person after I got my hairbut. After that I thought to myself, "okay, this phrase must be wide-spread and apply to everything." Nope, turns out it was primarily just those two circumstances, but how great is that? 

Istanbul, Turkey

Are you Turkish or have you spent time in Turkey? What phrases would you add to the list? What phrases do you think definitely need to be on there? Have you visited Istanbul or Turkey? What did you think? Any and all comments welcome below. As my readers know, I always take the time to answer back to each and every comment! 

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