Stereotypes of Asian in Turkey

Crossing 換日線

Leyla/萊拉

What are the stereotypes of typical Asian for Turkish people?  (Here, Asian countries refer to China, Korea, Japan and some eastern Asian countries in this context).

During my stay in Istanbul, I had only seen Asian in Old Town area and language schools.  As a matter of fact, I had never seen any other Asian beside myself in residential areas or non-touristic places.

 

As you could probably tell, it’s extremely rare for Turkish people who does not work in Asian-related jobs to meet Asians outside of touristic areas.  Truth is, on Turkey streets, “Asian” faces are significantly absent compared to western faces.  Due to this reason, Turkey receives very limited information on Asian.  Of the little information on Asia that reached Turkey, many were either selective or biased.  It is no wonder that their knowledge about Asian was still relatively outdated.

 

Thanks to the raise of K-pop and Korean drama recently, Turkish people actually are able to know more about Asian from TV.  However, Korean drama certainly does not represent the diversity of Asian culture, as the romantic plots and the beautiful idols may only delivered the unrealistic fantasies to Turkish girls.  At the end of the day, for many of them, the most realistic experience with Asia might just be eating “Japanese cup noodles“ imported from Indonesia or Thailand.

 

Below is a list of top five “Asian stereotypes” in Turkey compiled by my fellow Asian friends and myself. 

No. 5: You must be Korean!

In recent years, Korean travelers are dominating the touristic areas in Turkey.  Plus, Turkey and South Korea did have a “brotherhood” bond in the past during wartime.  As a result, when they see an Asian face, they tend to break the ice with you by guessing-- “oh, you must be Korean!”

Even If you are not Korean, they still assume that you are somewhat related to Korean.  After all, you are from a place that’s much closer to Korea than Turkey, and you look quite “similar” to Korean anyway.

No. 4: You are smart and hard working

 

Honestly speaking, many Turkish people had told me at different occasion that-- “you guys are very smart and hard working. You guys are not lazy like us.”

 

This really got me thinking.  This stereotype may be due to the fact that we are way too concerned and serious about the academic grades in school and performances at works.  Maybe... a little bit too much?

No. 3 Your language is “Ching Chang Chong”

I myself had never met anyone who said “Ching Chang Chong” to me.  However, almost all my fellow Asian friends in Turkey had encountered this.  Of them all, one Korean-American friend of mine was particularly not impressed with this experience.

 

This specific expression could be traced back to the early Asian Kung-Fu films in Turkey.  In those movies, most of what they heard was the foreign pronunciation of “Ching Chang Chong.”  Since then, it had convinced Turkish people that “Ching Chang Chong” was the language of Asian.  If we put ourselves in their shoes, maybe Turkish people were just genuinely impressed with the pronunciation and intonation of the Asian languages.  And they might think, “Asian languages are indeed the most difficult languages in the world!”

No. 2 : All Asians have slanted eyes

“Çekik Gözlü” is a specific word in Turkish describing the narrow, long, slanting eyes.  Once, my Turkish friend asked me “why did my Japanese friend got so mad when I told her that she had “Çekik Gözlü”?  He said it with a hand gesture over his eyes.”

 

Frankly speaking, it was a rather neutral descriptive word for Turkish people in describing the shape of eyes. There’s no positive or negative connotation to it.  What Turkish people were not aware of is the fact that Asian pop culture advocates big eyes.  Such direct and blunt expression may sound offensive or sarcastic to some Asian people influenced by this culture.  On the contrary, what many Asians do not know is that, in Turkey, there are many online makeup tutorials on “how to do make up to let oyur eyes look slanted”.  These videos were just as popular as the makeup tutorials we often see on “how to make your eyes look bigger”.

 

No. 1: Do you really eat bugs? dogs?

To be honest, this was the question that most Turkish people were curious about.  When you first met them, maybe they would only ask, “are you Korean?”  Eventually, the time would come.  One would be faced with this question-- “do you really eat bugs and dogs?”  Yes, there were a few areas in Asia that do eat bugs and dogs.  It is, however, rare and not common.  For most Asians who did not consume bugs or dogs, such stereotype could be quite bothersome.

These interesting encounters in Turkey might happen anywhere in the world too, as stereotypes were usually caused by incomplete and biased information.  If you happened to meet some foreigners who were curious about these questions, that would be a good chance to share with them the diversity and beauty of Asian culture (and food).

Some of these stereotypes may sound negative, but, in real life, Turkish people were very friendly to Asian people. On the street, they might stare at you out of curiosity.  If you just return with a smile or wave, they would welcome you with open arms and great passion.  I was a living proof that Turkish youngsters welcomed me with tight hand-holding and selfies; whereas, elder Turkish ladies welcomed me with tons of kisses on my cheeks. 

* This article was originally published in Chinese on Crossing on this pagethatcontinent has been authorized to edit and republish this article.

** Photo credit: backjunsung@pixabay, dlee@freeimages.

Storyteller's Bio:  

Crossing

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萊拉 / Leyla

習慣從心窗感受世界,正在體驗存在意義的靈魂。喜愛攝影、寫作,音樂是文字的靈感也是每日必需品。大學主修社會學,後專注於文化觀察與旅行文學,目前為自由寫作者,正努力成為一個會說故事的人。


拿破崙曾說:「如果世界是一個國家,它的首都一定會是伊斯坦堡。」那麼,我就站在伊斯坦堡,徜徉在伊斯蘭與西方價值共存的歐亞混血國度,寫下土耳其的美與愁。

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