Şekerleme: On the work of both rest and cultural competence in Turkey


Now, if I had this in my backyard, I would have no problem with workaholism, no? Must make a living, though.

Well, this week has been a full and deep one, as I have contemplated both work – and a bit on rest as well. I have noted that there are differences in approaches to work between east and west, as is evidenced in my marriage from time to time.

And I have also discussed, much to my embarrassment now that I am becoming aware, that I used to see work as relaxation – must be the Yankee work ethic upbringing? But let me stop on that point, on relaxation. As this reminds me of how I learned of that wonderful thing the Turks call Şekerleme (“shehk-air-lem-may”).

Now, this word comes from “Şeker” (“shehk-air”), which means a kind of sugary candy…I guess a nap is a really nice thing to take, akin to something sugary. The Karagöz puppets, wise in their ways of the world, roll their eyes at me, as if I am stating the obvious.

Basically, in many parts of Turkey, it is so hot (or humid) in the summer, that most activity slows down or stops during the hottest hours of the day, when the sun is high over the heads of the populace. Some people sleep and some people just take quiet time to read or do their craftwork, for example. It is, tabi canım, just like siesta in Latin America.

Now, Before my first trip to Turkey, I did a lot of fast work to “get up to speed” on the customs of the country – as of course a good girl who attempts cultural competence at any and every turn must do.

And it was through this effort, that I found a certain book that filled me in on ALL the right details about Turkish cultural etiquette, including şekerleme. “Naps,” I thought, “that works for me.”

Of course, I must admit, despite my good intentions on the road to workaholic hell, I worked through that whole vacation, laptop in hand whenever down time was up. Pathetic!

Those days are done, canım benim.

But let me diverge a bit from work, workaholism & noontime naps, and talk instead about the work of cultural competence (which İ think is a flawed concept anyway) and the related dangers of buying into the advice of any cultural etiquette book – and for this, I will tell you how just as my e-friend over at Turklish, I too fell pray to some of the stereotypes and misnomers found in one particular book on the culture and customs of Turkey – aptly (hah!) named “culture smart.” Now as a maven of etiquette at my worst, of course, I bought this book as well.

At this point in my writing, Kenne, the Queen of Manners and Maven of the Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior Including Cross-Cultural Etiquetts of All Shapes, Forms and Types, throws me a headlong glance, wondering if she is seeing the slob she critiques most days – but applauds the effort, although it is in the past.

Here is the book in question:

L., the authoress of Turklish, read in this book that Turkish women take great pride in having lovely, manicured nails at all times, and of course, to make every attempt to fit in, she got the manicure of a lifetime – replete with hard-to-remove gel polish. You can read the slightly cringe-worthy yet hilarious and self-compasionate write-up of L.’s first trip to Turkey to meet the family, realizing too late that her perfect gel-polished nails were a too far on the side of neon pink – causing her to be referred to in terms of those nails amongst the extended family for some time to come.

I can relate, as I had a nail polish experience of my own with M.’s family, but I could never do it the justice that Turklish does, so please check out her writing. The one thing I – and the book – did get right, however, was that Şekerleme is totally alive and well – in the leisure class, at least.

Perhaps I need a little more Şekerleme in my life these days – both literally and figuratively.

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This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Gendered moments, Turkish-American Matters, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Şekerleme: On the work of both rest and cultural competence in Turkey

  1. Alan says:

    . . so, this is where my life is out of balance – to much şeker in my diet – or is it too little? I need to sleep on it!

  2. I am a pro advocate of taking a mid-afternoon Şekerleme especially on gloomy, rainy days like today! 🙂

  3. E. says:

    This time of year is perfect for naps – I agree. From what I hear about the weather in Istanbul right now, a lot of people maybe taking naps! Thanks for your comment, Liz

  4. E. says:

    Dear Alan all I can say is this was a much needed LOL love, Liz

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