Why I Started Wearing Makeup in Turkey
Before I moved abroad, I thought I was pretty tough. I was a workaholic, I was at the gym everyday–if not twice a day, all while working two jobs and two volunteer English positions. I had a strict policy of not letting anything affect me personally, and I’d always been told that I acted beyond my years. I just liked being busy.
I found that being bored made me depressed and sluggish. However, because of that it didn’t leave me much time to allow myself to think about the condition of my nails or how I looked, or even to consider the height that I was allowing my stress levels to reach. I was comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans so that was my dress code.
After I moved to Turkey, however, I quickly realized there are many different aspects of being ‘tough.’ A different culture can literally shock you into making you analyze yourself–even if you don’t want to.
In Turkey, I found that people are very forward. It comes from their culture and desire of always wanting to help other people. If they notice you are having trouble with something–anything at all–they will begin giving you advice or trying to help you solve your problem.
“What happened to your face?” was what spilled out of my student’s mouth. I froze.
These problems could be as easy as: finding the right doctor, where to get a haircut, or the best local gym. However, what really struck me was that my friends and students all had no problem causally bringing up personal subjects that would be rude to even think about asking back home.
My first encounter with this was while I was in the middle of class teaching English one night when my student raised his hand to ask a question–or so I thought. Well, it was a question, but it had nothing to do with the grammar that I had been discussing.
If I hadn’t been red before, now I was positive that my face was a scarlet cover of red.
“What happened to your face?” was what spilled out of my student’s mouth. I froze, turned bright red, and quickly put my hand to my face thinking I had put the white-board marker on my cheek or something.
Then as I was assessing what I had eaten that day for lunch, they all turned to their phones for their online dictionary to translate what they were trying to say. Then their words just began to hit me: “pimple?” “zit?” “Acne?” If I hadn’t been red before, now I was positive that my face was a scarlet cover of red.
I quickly recovered and gave a short laugh, “Ahh my acne…” I responded. Little did I know that this was only the first of many such encounters. Later as I talked with other foreign English teachers, I learned that this was a common occurence and that I should not take it personally.
In Turkish culture, it is considered very polite to notice things about others, even if they are as ugly as acne or weight gain, and then once people have noticed them and alerted you, they begin to think of different ways to fix the problem.
I was a bit naïve to think that the common reminders that I found in the States to “be the skinniest you can be!” or “have something imperfect about your body? Try X product to change it!” were unique to the U.S. If anything, these impulses are even stronger in Turkey–though they are better hidden.
Not only was I always wearing makeup and nail polish, but I also had a new air about myself.
When my dad came to visit me in Turkey, I remember catching a glimpse of my new self. Not only was I always wearing makeup and nail polish, but I also had a new air about myself. I was calm and relaxed and finally not stressed.
All of this seemed ironic. Before I left, I had read tons of blog posts from women who wrote that they forgot about makeup and feminine impulses while traveling abroad. For me, the opposite has been true.
Why I Started Wearing Makeup in Turkey
- Exploring Off-the-Beaten-Path Neighborhoods in Istanbul
- Discovering My Turkish Roots in Istanbul
- How Turkish Culture Forced Me to Relax
- Three Truths about Typical Turkish Men
- Turkish Mosques: Experiencing Religion in Turkey
- Tips for Women Travelers in Turkey
- 10 Turkish Phrases You’ll Want To Know
- How to Take a Babymoon in Turkey
- Touring Turkey: A Conversation with Zondra Wilson
- Turkish Customs: The Social Event of a New Home
Have you traveled to Turkey? What were your impressions? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Why I Started Wearing Makeup in Turkey photo credits: unsplash and Haley Larkin.