Turks warm-hearted, cold-blooded

Aboard the shuttle to the office, I turned back toward Yusif – the only other fluent English speaker on the bus – and smiled conspiratorially.

“Yusif, look, I have my own air conditioner,” I said.

I unfurled the black and turquoise wings of the bamboo accordion fan in my hand – a treasure I acquired from a streetside vendor in the Aegean city of Izmir.

“I just hope I don’t hit anyone with it, because it’s quite large,” I said, as I fanned up a breeze amid the heavy, humid air inside the bus.

He laughed.

I have lived in Istanbul  for six weeks now, and there’s one thing I just can’t get used to – the subtropical temperatures at which Turks like to keep the thermostats in their offices, homes, vehicles and public transportation.

Turks are among the warmest-hearted and most hospitable people I’ve met, and they’re remarkably sensitive to cold.

Some women in my office wear turtleneck and cowl-neck sweaters in mid-May.

Before I bought my fan, I often jury-rigged whatever was in my possession into a fan, be it a book, piece of paper or wallet. Sometimes, the sight of me dramatically fanning myself would prompt a bus driver to switch on the air conditioning. As soon as the air started blowing, I would see a wave of hands shoot up to close their vents.

On a bus ride to the airport on Friday, the temperature felt unusually comfortable.

Around the time I was thinking this, a Turkish woman sitting beside me asked whether I felt cold.

“Uhhhhh, no. No way.”

Then, she kept fiddling with the vents to see if she could close off more air.

I have yet to discover why Turks are so cold-blooded, butI recently gained some insight from reading a list of Turkish proverbs and sayings. 

A Turkish-American, Sevil Delin, compiled the list in a post in December 2016 on the Matador Network travel website.

“Turks have a congenital fear of catching a chill, which can strike any part of your body,” Delin wrote.

The Turkish saying, “Kafayı üşüttü” literally means: “They’ve caught a cold in their head.”

“If you’ve caught a cold in your head, it means you’ve gone crazy,” Delin said.


Back to top