Beware of Metaphoric Deformation

Some days it feels like we have settled in quite well then something happens to make me realise that I have no idea what is going on around me.  I know this is part of the process of settling in, but, from other people’s blogs, I have gathered that it is unlikely that this sudden feeling of being alien is ever likely to go away entirely.  We will always and forever be yabanci.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.

The language still feels like a massive barrier.  My reading gets better and better – I rarely resort to the dictionary now.  I’m trying to watch at least half an hour of children’s TV each day (that’s fallen over a bit recently as we have been out and about and busy), I try to listen to conversations taking place around me (it’s not as if the neighbours talk quietly).  I understand more and more of the questions I am asked but actual fluency feels a long way off.  And, without fluency, how can I do simple things like order a new cylinder of calor gas?  The neighbours do things I don’t understand and I wonder how we should respond.

To date we have managed OK.  As I’ve said before, everyone out here is extremely helpful.  But I find my lack of comprehension quite uncomfortable.  And I am not certain how far this will improve when my language skills increase (as, on good days, I am sure they will).  Why do my neighbours hang plastic bags of left over bread from their gates?  Why did they put the picture of Ataturk and the flags back on the castle earlier this week?  Was it a special day?  What kind of special day?

It’s hard to explain what I mean.  I am confident that my language skills will improve and, however discouraged I feel from time to time, I do believe that these skills are developing at a reasonable rate.  I have to remember that we only moved here in August – these things do take time.

It’s the culture shock though.  It reminds me of ‘Mindswap’ – a book by Robert Sheckley which is a little bit like Total Recall.  People in the future take their holidays by swapping consciousness with alien beings.  The standard warning is ‘beware of metaphoric deformation’ ( In my student days we used to give each other the standard warning all the time).  Metaphoric deformation occurs when you suddenly see a vague similarity between something totally alien and something familiar (and safe) and then you start to act as if the alien thing actually is the familiar thing.  In the book this led the protagonist into all kinds of difficulties from which, of course, he narrowly escaped.

I think, here in Turkey, I occasionally suffer from metaphoric deformation.  But at least I know enough to be aware of the danger.


6 responses to “Beware of Metaphoric Deformation

  1. As you said, you know from other people’s blogs that you’re not alone. We still get that ‘smack in the face’ from time to time where we realise we’ve not a clue what’s going on and something we thought we understood is not what we thought it was at all. I used to really worry about it but after 8 years, you get more accustomed to it. It’s a part of us now. Hope you enjoy your journey.

  2. My parents often talked about the odd things that confused/surprised/delighted them when they were living in a new place; my father moving to Holland with no dutch, and then my mother moving to Ireland with no English. It was all part of the adventure, they said, and they settled in Ireland and it became completely their home for more than 30 years. Mum thought that there was always an element of looking at things with an outsiders eyes, but there was also loving the life with the heart of a local. Does that make any sense?

    • It does make sense. I’m not sure whether having family ties in a new country makes things easier – I guess it increases the motivation to adapt. We’ve also moved from a big city to a small town (with all the adaptation that involves) and our part of this small town is very much like a village.

  3. Sounds like you’re progressing really well so don’t be too down on yourself. We’ve been here three years and we’re still completely hopeless!

    • Thanks. I’m sure you aren’t hopeless at all. I really don’t want to slip into being part of an ex-pat enclave (and nothing else), but we are in need of a lot of help on day to day interactions at present and we have made a number of International friends who are very good to us.

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