(For monthly magazine Onze Wereld – Our World – I often write short interviews that are used in bigger articles to which different correspondents contribute. My interviews are used alongside interviews on the same subject with people from countries in south-America, Asia and Africa.)
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Name: Ipek Kutbay from Turkey
Ipek Kutbay shows her dramatic side when she says: “I want to live and die in Istanbul.” But in other respects she is not sombre, but more cheerful, energetic, brimming over with life. And full of faith about her future in Turkey: “I studied at one of the best universities in the country. In Turkey I can achieve something with that, but in Europe? There I would be a Turk, always second choice.”
A large number of Europeans fear Turkey’s future EU membership, partly because of their expectation that a sizeable proportion of the 72 million Turks would come to Europe as soon as they get the chance. But there is a large group of young Turks who don’t give a moment’s thought to leaving Turkey. They studied at good universities and usually get their first job offers before even graduating. Ipek is a private tutor in French and Italian and is about to start a job as a school teacher. She has been living on her own in a trendy part of town since she was nineteen and has been financially independent ever since. “I work hard, but I have a good life.”
Studying in Europe, by the way, is rather popular in this group of young people, as it is good for their CV. Kaan Alpaslan (24), who studied environmental engineering and went to a German university for a year, was offered a job a week after he graduated, and now works for a German company which has just established a branch in Turkey. Did he consider staying in Germany? “No”, “he says. “Environmental engineering is a developing field in Turkey and I think it’s exciting to contribute to that.” Ipek also has a profession in which she can contribute to the development of her country. For her it’s an extra reason to stay in Turkey: “It would be wonderful to help the next generation to also have a successful life in their own country.”
Name: Ridvan Tuncer from Turkey
Profession: office job at a record company
If you ask around in Turkey for a single male around thirty years old, you get a weird counter question: is it okay if he is in a relationship? The concept of ‘being single’ raises questions. The Turkish word for it is bekar, which means ‘unmarried’. So you can be bekar, but be in a relationship anyway. When this relationship is serious and about to result in marriage, then you are no longer bekar but nisanli, engaged.
Ridvan was once nisanli, but the wedding was called off and now he is both bekar and without a relationship. “I was in a serious relationship when I was studying. She was studying medicine, I was studying to be a teacher. The wedding date was set, our families had met, but all of a sudden, we ran into trouble. She said that I would probably ‘never be more than a teacher’, and the arguments about that got totally out of hand. That was weird, how it was only after we decided to get married that we started to have serious discussions, and it turned out we weren’t a good match.”
Ridvan is happy to live in Istanbul as a single. Unmarried people in their thirties have an easier time in this big city than in smaller cities or villages, where both single men and women are pressured to settle down and start a family. Ridvan: “My mother went through this period when she selected girls for me, but I never reacted and luckily she has stopped doing that now.” No arranged marriage for him, even though a lot of his peers still trust in their parents’ choice.
Another advantage of living in a bustling city is that there is plenty of entertainment to be found. “But many of my married friends don’t want to go to a bar or a concert with me any more. These are places for ‘singles’, married couples go out to dinner with other married couples or they visit each other at home. But I meet new people all the time when I go out. Women too, of course. I’m open to a relationship. I like to go out with a woman now and then for a beer or to a concert. But usually that’s not how it goes once you are married. Turkish women have this habit of calling their husbands all the time when they are out. Where are you? When will you be home? Who are you with? That must be so tiring!” He admits it would be quite okay to stay bekar for a bit longer yet.