How My Employers Became My Adoptive Family in Turkey
Working for a family-owned company in Turkey, especially a small one, is the equivalent of being adopted. The management takes on the role of mother and father and your coworkers become your brothers and sisters. As in all real families, there are both positives and negatives to this employment setup.
The Positives? Any help you need, you immediately get.
At the moment I landed in Turkey, the small family-owned language academy I worked for got me settled in. Despite my grumpy jet-lagged-infused attitude, they treated me as a long-lost sibling finally coming home and made sure I had everything I needed. The very first night included a welcome dinner to meet the entire staff, then a run to the market to stock up my fridge for the next week. Then the following day between their classes, teachers ran around helping me buy a Turkish cellphone, professional photos for my visa process, and checked up with me every week or so to see if I had any problems.
Outside of helping me get settled, the holidays were just like being at home. Even though they don’t celebrate Christmas, the first sentence out of everyone’s mouth at school was a huge “Happy Christmas,” along with offering small gifts wrapped in bright paper. Then, birthdays were a full school event. They never missed a birthday and would “surprise” the teacher with a huge cake, while all of the teachers sat around drinking soda and eating cake between classes. I think I celebrated more birthdays working in Turkey for one year than I have in my entire life in the States.
The Negatives? You have a second family.
Now imagine your family. You love them. You need them. All of this is true. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to go into business with them. Sure, lots of families have their own businesses, and they are passed down from parent to child to grandchild. But in this situation, you inherit the responsibilities, not the company.
You will receive text messages, Facebook messages, and phone calls all letting you know about an hour ahead of time that there will be a birthday cake for one of the teachers, or that there is some sort of social gathering that “isn’t required” to attend or even that you must go visit your boss — who you don’t particularly get along with — at the hospital after she has just had a baby, completely ignoring the fact that your number one fear is blood.
Why you continue to do such things? The reason: they drop subtle hints about all the times they have helped you out, and how many things they will assist you with in the future. So, you put your tail between your legs and guiltily oblige.
Now this is all within working hours. If you have the energy to be social after work or on the weekends, just like any mother, they want to know it all. They want to know where you went on vacation, who you have been hanging out with, and also if you have begun dating someone that you have met in the area. And there will certainly be consequences if you do not go into full detail. They are in the form of minor embarrassing moments, in front of the entire staff, when one person finds out about your social life.
Now say you want to quit your job. It isn’t so easy to “quit” a family. Unfortunately, quitting is like offending the family. Most small companies simply don’t understand it. Because they treat you like family, they forget that you aren’t truly biological blood, and expect you to stay with the business through thick and thin–regardless if you have plans for a future career in a different path. Accordingly, even though they may seem pleasant during your last couple of days, they will most likely be speaking about you to the other teachers after you have left because gossip is any Turkish person’s best friend.
Overall, just like any country or company, there are “the good, the bad, and the ugly” parts of working for a Turkish company. Rest assured that during your first months, you will feel close to royalty with the care they take to make sure you feel at home. However, it all comes at a price: family-like obligations with a group that is thousands of miles away from your real family.