Of course people often ask me if I miss my home country the Netherlands. No, not the country, but I do miss people. Not the Dutch people in general (even less since I’ve come to know them better from a distance), but the people close to me. My family, who has known me for fourty years. Friends since my teenage years, and friends since ten, fifteen years. People who really know me well.
In Turkey, nobody knows me longer than the time I’ve been here, which is 4,5 years now. Most people know me even much shorter. Besides that, Turks of course don’t automatically understand my background, shaped by where I come from. So when I meet new people, we mutually have quite some figuring out to do. Which is nice, but also difficult. And can go dramatically wrong sometimes.
Well, dramatically… Sometimes it’s not so dramatic. Some weeks ago, I had some misunderstandings with someone I haven’t known for long, and I think a young possible friendship ended. It wasn’t so painful, it was okay actually, but still, at the time I felt it rather deeply: now she thinks I’m a hysterical person. I’m not, really, but from her perspective it could very well be she thinks I am. It made me feel not known. That’s not a nice feeling, especially when there are no people directly around to go to, who know you better and where you can be your total self, with all your mistakes.
This week, something happened again. Again with somebody I haven’t known for long, but with a person who in this short time became rather important to me. I wasn’t that much aware of that fact, until we were a night out together and I made some stupid mistakes. I’m not going to get into the details (sorry ;-)), but later, he expressed his anger and disappointment. I liked that in itself – better to talk than to get silent – but it hurts terribly. I could be exaggerating, but I feel I’ve destroyed a young and good friendship. He must be thinking I’m just not a nice person, a woman he totally misjudged.
Why is this more difficult when living abroad? Because you have no common ground to begin with with the people you meet. You are an outsider already, and situations like these make you feel like an alien. Unseen, unknown, not part of the country you chose to live in. I can blame only myself (and the circumstances a bit) for my mistake, but I miss it that I have no automatic mutual understanding with anybody here. It makes (potential) friendships so fragile. I wish I could shout around: I make my mistakes, I’m not perfect, but really, I’m okay. But I don’t even know which words to choose to make my message come across in Turkish, nor if they can ever be really understood.
I came back Sunday from twelve days in the Netherlands. And I miss the common ground and the people who really know me deeply.