The most excellent blogger Very Bored, who's doing her thing over in Catalunya, tagged me for a meme. You have to produce a list of rules for living the life of the 'tribal wives' of wherever you are. I think it started as a tv show or something. So she did something hilarious about life in rural Catalonia. But contrary to her possible expectations, I'm not going to talk about the rules of life for the tribal wives of Turkey because there's is a lot more fun to be poked at us ex-pats. We have our own habits, our own idiosyncrasies. And any one coming to stay from somewhere else, some place where they actually belonged, would have stuff to get used to. So here are the rules. Welcome to our tribe.
1) The ex-pat wives of Ankara aren't all women, nor are they all married. I found that out pretty early on in my career as one of them when I went to an ex-pat Christmas sale organised by the British Wives of Ankara. The first person I recognised wasn't a British wife in the strict sense of the term. His name is Jeremy, and he's Australian. Also not married. So you see, we're not fussy about detail.
2) We are sticklers for traditions. Just about anybody's. So we all celebrate Christmas, St Patrick's day, Easter, Guy Falk, Thanksgiving - both the Canadian and the American version. Although we don't actually fast for Ramadan, we do buy the special bread made for it, and let our children stuff their faces with sweets in the holiday that comes at the end of it (also at Halloween, of course).
3) We are gatherers. Specifically, we gather pork products. Any one going abroad is expected to buy sausage, ham, pate - enough to go around until the next person travels out. If you are visiting and want to bring a tribal offering, bring pork. Sure, there are other things we like. I'd be delighted to receive interesting Chinese teas, earl grey flavoured Rooibos, essential oils, and ginger nuts. But I can always get those on ebay. And although I happen to like these things, they're not pleasing to the tribe in the way pork is.
4) We don't really look after our children properly, no matter how you look at it. People here feel that we don't dress them up warm enough. They feel we should be particularly careful if there's a bit of wind, stay indoors if it's winter, and never, for any reason, let them go barefoot. Of course we do all that. People from abroad are worried that we give them too much freedom to interact with strangers. They don't really buy the attitude of 'I forgot to bring food for the journey, never mind a stranger will give them sweets', or 'I wonder if the kids are safe by themselves over there. Oh yes, look: a man we don't know is keeping an eye on them'.
5) If cleanliness is next to godliness, then the existence of this tribe is a pretty good argument against the 'one god' theory. Because as far as our Turkish neighbours are concerned, we're about as far from God as one could possibly be. But ask a British friend, and they'll worry that we're showing God off by having a house that's a bit too sparkling. But don't worry about us, because in any case, we don't do our own housework. We have cleaning ladies and they decide how much is enough.
6) You will have a better chance of fitting in if you understand our true nature: we are inbred cosmopolitans. Inbred because, basically, we don't go out much. We travel, sure, but on a day to day basis we rarely leave the campus. We're cosmopolitans because we've lost any remnant of cultural identity we once had. We eat each other's food, celebrate each other's festivals, follow each other's politics (and football), speak to each other's children in whatever language happens to come out. Think of us as multilingual, highly educated hill-billies.
So now I'm tagging others:
Hannah: she lived in Grenoble just long enough to get to know some of the nastier habits of the natives. And she's no longer there, so they can't retaliate. Don't be afraid you'll offend us here at the Paris-Ankara Express: the Grenoblois are provincials. We look down on them.
Metajugglamum from In Search of the Perfect Triangle - I reckon she has a thing or two to say about the people around her.
My own sister, Marianne, because until last year, she lived in Bordeaux, where the people are not at all like the true French, i.e. the Parisians. Failing that she can always write about her neighbours. A Parisian can always find it in her to bitch about other Parisians.
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