On a mountain trail in Ihlara valley in Goreme, a handsome mountain goat of a man explained to my eight year old son the porousness of the rock, the geology of the valley, and the need to take care on the smooth stones… I couldn’t hear him through the wind, but I could understand almost everything he said. I was watching the phenomenon of Turkish hands. The physicality of Turkish people is unmistakable and, without question, one of their most impressive features, at least to their more awkward Western cousins. Still, after four years in Turkey, it took me until that moment to realize how loaded their gestures actually are--each has a specific use and meaning, and if you know them, you almost don’t need to know Turkish in order to get around. There are, of course, other fiercely gesticulating cultures; excitable Italians, heated Spaniards... but their hand gestures are more like angry birds flitting around their stories. In the case of Turks, their hands tell it all: their helplessness, their anger, their faith, their favorite recipes, how big the fish they almost caught was, and how bad you’re going to get it if you don’t behave. This richness of body language could be a remnant of Silk Road passages when various cultures and languages rubbed up against each other and had to find a means to communicate outside of words, or it could be a creative way to fill a gap in Turkey’s emotional language and its customary indirectness. Either way, it is a significant element of Turkish language and culture that needs to be understood by any serious student of the language so you don’t end up thinking that your neighbor was telling you how hot she was all those years when she was really letting you know she couldn’t stand you (see Yaka Silkmek). This book contains over 40 hand gestures and the phrases that usually accompany them as well as the situations in which you might encounter them. It is meant to be instructive to foreigners and hilarious to Turks themselves. Turks will encounter themselves or their uncles or older sisters on every page, and revel in the richness of their body language, suddenly remembering another seven hand gestures they used as children…The book ends with a smattering of pages from the forthcoming books in the series which focus on the emotional hand language of Turks as well as their more technical gestures. This book will prove helpful to tourists who will have noticed that they usually don’t understand the answers they get to the questions in their phrase book. How many times have you seen a woman at the market lift her eyebrows to the sky and click her tongue when you asked her for out-of-season veggies, or a waiter tilt his head sideways and nod gently with a slow blink of his eyes, to say ‘yes, we have the perfect table for you, quiet with a view of the Bosphorous (see Var / Yaparız Abi page).Now you will know what all this means, and you will be better prepared for physical demonstrations that otherwise might chip away at your comfort zone: intense reactions towards children like cheek pinching and kissing, hair patting, and general squeezing accompanied by the words
“ I could eat you;” men holding hands or walking arm in arm, touching each other’s legs while chatting or leaning on each other; or you, the visitor, being held by the forearm and forcibly turned around to face the right way when you ask for directions.
Allow yourself to ease into the grace of the moment, be touched by Turkish hands.