This is your lucky day- a double book review!
I decided that these two books were similar enough that they did not need separate reviews.
Both are helpful for visitors to Turkey. If you are coming soon, you will be a step ahead having either of these books in your luggage.
The two books are pretty much interchangeable. I do not think you will add much value by having both books. I made that sacrifice so you do not have to!
Turkey – Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs & culture by Charlotte McPherson
If you are coming to Turkey and need a good intro to life and culture, you will not do much better than Culture Smart! Turkey: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture. Charlotte McPherson has been in Turkey for over 30 years, runs her own business in Istanbul (a bookstore), and knows this place and its people having done research as part of her MA in Anthropology.
She divides her coat-pocket-sized, 164 page book into 9 chapters as follows:
1. LAND AND PEOPLE
2. VALUES AND ATTITUDES
3. CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
4. MAKING FRIENDS
5. PRIVATE AND FAMILY LIFE
6. TIME OUT
7. TRAVE, HEALTH, AND SAFETY
8. BUSINESS BRIEFING
She covers everything from history and government to religion and the role of women to holidays to relational expectations to cultural dos and don’ts to transportation issues to business information and even a pronunciation key.
This book is definitely worth picking up if you are heading this way or even if you live here and are feeling confused.
[Side note: I have the 2005 edition which has the subtitle: "a quick guide to customs and etiquette". The title above is from the 2010 edition in which they have added the word "essential". I assume they have become more sophisticated in their marketing and realized that people would rather buy an essential guide over just a quick guide. Maybe before it was not essential, but now it is?]
Culture Shock! Turkey: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Arın Bayraktaroğlu
First off let me say that you should get the latest version. I have the 2001 edition of Culture Shock! Turkey: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette by Arın Bayraktaroğlu. It is littered with mistakes and/or outdated points. One glaring example is the prediction that political parties with more religious views will fade out of existence. The dominance of the Islamic-friendly AKP shows the exact opposite has happened over the last 10 years. I assume these notes are changed in newer editions.
The structure of the book is as follows:
1 INTRODUCING TURKEY
2 THE TURKS
4 SOCIAL LIFE IN TURKEY
5 OUT OF DOORS
6 CULTURE AND LEISURE
7 SETTLING DOWN IN TURKEY
8 DOING BUSINESS IN TURKEY
In spite of my comments above, I found the book very helpful as an initial guide. I would recommend reading it no more than one week before coming and maybe taking some notes to carry with you.
The author includes some excellent Turkish phrases that will endear any visitor to their Turkish friends.
[Side note: As mentioned above I have the 2001 edition simply subtitled: "A Guide to Customs and Etiquette". As with Culture Smart! Turkey, they have upgraded the 2009 edition adding the word "Survival" to the subtitle and, of course, updating the content. I am not sure if people did not need to survive before the newer editions, or if they found that people were not surviving, and thus they needed to give people more help? Regardless, I say tongue in cheek, that if you need to survive, this must be the book to acquire.]
Both Culture Smart! Turkey and Culture Shock! Turkey would be much more memorable if they were written as novels with all the details and information included in the story. The many different topics covered almost guarantee that the reader will forget everything within a couple of weeks. I read these books upon arriving in Turkey in 2007.
I picked them up to write reviews the other day and could not remember one point that had been made. I had to re-read them.
This is why I recommend getting one just before leaving on your trip. The tips are essential to the newcomer/visitor and can serve as reference guides throughout your stay but do not expect to be an expert after a first read.
Culture Shock! Turkey is written by a Turk which gives it a bit of a different attitude or perspective. Culture Smart! Turkey (at least the edition I have) is smaller which makes it easier to carry. Also, it uses two colors of ink which makes it more readable.
In spite of this, I think either book will work. I would personally buy the cheaper one. If you can get a used copy, do it.
Do you find these kinds of travel books helpful? How do you use them?
Are you interested in other Turkey-related books? Check these out:
The New Turkey: The Quiet Revolution on the Edge of Europe by Chris Morris
The Visitor: A Stranger, A Message, A Clash of Cultures by Peter Pikkert
Cappadocia Travel Guide by Oberheu & Wadenpohl
Turkish Alevis Today by John Shindeldecker
The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk
Crescent and Star by Stephen Kinzer
Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango
The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire by Lord Kinross
A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat By Jeremy Seal
29 Books Related to Turkey: A Reading List
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Culture Smart! Turkey & Culture Shock! Turkey Double Book Review
This is your lucky day- a double book review!