Cultural differences (Istanbul)
I need some help with the cultural clash I am facing here in Turkey.
I am Brazilian and I have lived in Europe and Usa. I've been in Istanbul for about four months now.
My husband is Turkish, but has lived in the west for about 10 years. He isn't a typical conservative Turk, but his family and most of his close friends are.
Whenever I get invited for a meal or tea, I leave their place feeling kinda upset. Don't get me wrong: Turks seem to be very hospitable people, however... even though they always serve us the most delicious dishes and desserts and take the effort to prepare a good tea and all... they seem to have absolutely no curiosity about me, the foreign person visiting.
It's not the language barrier: my husband is always beside me and is happy to translate. It's true lack of interest. And I am not talking about ignorant people... Lawyers, doctors, accountants... it doesn't matter.
They seem to get together and talk about nothing for about three hours! Just some words about current events, couple words about soccer or politics, you get the picture. Nothing truly interesting, and there are no debates. Nobody seems to be asking each other deeper questions, or having intimate conversations, even on a family circle.
Since I am a talkative person, and have curiosity about them (the ones who are foreign to me), I usually try to come up with a subject that I find interesting, or ask questions, or start speaking something about my culture, just to push some kind of reaction, some kind of interest... but to no avail. The questions actually seem to bore people, and whereas in my culture disagreeing with somebody is a good opportunity for a heated-up fun discussion... here it seems to make people a little angry. As if by disagreeing with somebody's opinions I am attacking the person who believes in them.
In the west, whenever we have a foreign person over we want to know more! Because if the person is of a different background he may have lots of interesting things to tell us! So I get kinda hurt and quite offended to have my dissimilarities treated with so much indifference. As I result I also end up feeling like I am losing precious time by going to these people's houses, time that I could have been working or learning or actually having a good time. It's not reproachable to be protective about my free-time and willing to spend it profitably, is it?
So here's my question (and sorry for the lengthy introduction): what should I do about this? Should I keep trying to have some sort of fun interaction, so that maybe they see it's not really that harmful, but actually interesting? Or is it silly to try to swim the Bosphorus upstream? Should I give excuses and not go for a visit? Is this a reasonable option since we are talking about Turkish in-laws and my husband's very close friends? Or should I just take the "In Rome, do as the Romans do" approach?
I appreciate your insights about this.