Cultural Synchretization by Immigration

Oct 12, 2021  •  10 min read

When I first met with the word ‘syncretism,’ I was studying in the first year of University. Even if the word did not remind me of anything, I would use it much later. As far as this information is concerned, ‘Syncretism’ is defined in the Turkish Dictionary as “a system of philosophy that seeks to integrate discrete ideas, beliefs or teachings.” Suppose we are going to explain this definition a bit more. When a society meets a different culture, religion, or thought from the outside, that society combines these values with their ones instead of excluding them or fully embracing them and emits new stratified values. Then we call this fact ‘syncretism.’

I can feel that my sentences look like an academic article more than a blog entry, but I want to give this info before touching on the core of my subject. So you don’t have to worry since I would like to present to you how immigration creates a syncretic structure on cultural values rather than the etymology of this vocab. Before going into deeper, I harshly advise you to think of this sentence because I am sure that some of us are close-minded or strictly conservative about accepting the effect or existence of the other culture, although some of us are already live under this condition behaviours. At this point, I want you to think about three important factors. 1- The most prominent cultural element of the Turks – I mean: “FOOD,” 2- The thing that we call “indispensable” in our life: “MUSIC” and finally 3- The everyday anxiety of “What am I wearing today?”: “CLOTHING FASHION”!

I am not sure if you all know, but in some cities of Turkey, there are a lot of Iranian asylum seekers. I have friends among them who have been hosted in our country for at least three years. I want to share with you one of the memories I have experienced with my Iranian friend. In May 2016, we had just completed one of the Erasmus projects, and I was hungry as a wolf. My Iranian friends have met in a place and were calling me for dinner. Oh, well, what a treat it is, I cannot express! Then we gathered in a region where a significant number of Syrian refugees live. They told me there was a Syrian restaurant nearby, and incredibly delicious foods were served there. I said OK, and to tell the truth, I did not care about its taste, but I was curious because of the exaggeration of my friends. They claimed that we, Turks, have delicious dishes but we are not as good as Arabic and Persian because of adding too much ‘MEAT’ and ‘SPICE’ in our meals. Finally, we arrived at the restaurant.

One of my friends knew Arabic because he grew up in Arabia even though he was Iranian. They first spoke Persian and decided what to buy, and then our friend ordered something. I didn’t intervene with their choice. I would take a potluck. Then the soup came first. I did not know the name at the time, but now I know: “MUSABBAHA”! It was an amazingly delicious soup. I can put the lentil and tarhana soup in the first rank and Musabbaha right behind. Our Hummus is somewhat similar, but this has a more permanent taste. After the soup, we could take the course meal. The Syrian rice was served.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name, but I can give you the recipe briefly. This rice has red meat and a few vegetables inside. On top of the rice – I guess it was roasted with butter-fried chicken- was put, and finally, Lavas bread, which was soaked with the fat of the chicken, was placed next to it. I was disappointed to see the rice because this kind of food was ordinary food in our country; however, the different spices that were added to the meal and the traditional spice (I think saffron) gave a brilliant yellow colour where the elements were making the meal worthwhile. Moreover, let me just say that many of the meals served in the canteen seemed the same as ours but with different presentations, different spices and some different cooking styles, we are offered common and SYNCHRONIZED products of two different cultures. If I were you, I would not hesitate to type “Syrian foods” or “Ten common Turkish and Syrian foods,” etc. On the net and anatomize the images one by one!

Let’s say someone asked you to put the most famous ten foreigners (generally English) in order, what would be your answer? I do not know yours, but when I examine the youth of today, when the cars are blasting music pass by me and when I serially change radio frequencies, there is something I surprisingly realize: For God’s sake! What are so many Arabic hit songs and remixes doing in England, America, Europe, etc.? I guess there is only one answer to call this crazy movement: ‘Highly Syncretized Musical Culture.’ If you are also listening to ‘Te Ma Etmaje’ while you are taking your jacket and shaking it in the air, If you listen to ‘Habib Galbi’ and listen to the remix with Pitbull on it if you are looking for Shaggy Mohombi Faydee Costi brothers’ ‘Habibi’ song from YouTube as a chained effect in your mind, you guys are welcome to our world!
FOOTNOTE: We present our respects to the Mezdeke team, which has a permanent presence in our society and to Rajid Taha & Fadil & Khalid, the crazy trio of Abdulkadir pieces.

Last but not least, let’s face the clothing fashion recently growing like an avalanche in our country which creates great repercussions and adds a new richness to the dressing sense of our country! First of all, I must say something. As I said at the beginning, I am not talking about a scientific reality here but my observations. What has multiplied this point in the last two years is the new style of clothes we wear in Turkey. Even as a lady wearing a headscarf, I can feel the effect more. Over the past two years, especially for women who wear a veil, the produced garments are being presented to more colourful, more patterned, more stylish, and more numerous by markets. These outfits are often fabricated in such a way that they will not show many solid lines of women, with wide cuts. Moreover, Turkish women mostly having preferred “Scarf” models as the veil before are following the “Wrapper” models these days. However, the main syncretic event is not the cloth but how it is shaped!

In other words:

As the Turkish nation, when we learned religious aspects from Arabs, we didn’t completely turn into Arabs. What I mean, we have realized our religion by enriching it with our traditions and styles. We did not contradict it, but we developed it with our national self. It’s just like the shawl models in Turkey. If you are careful, you can notice that a Turkish woman – especially younger ones– designs their veil by wrapping it a couple of times around their head like a Syrian woman, but as different the lady lifts the front of the shawl a little while hanging down one edge of it and adding small motifs and shapes with the other edge. And this new fashion is developing every day. I see this style as a style that Syrian women have brought to our country, and we have blended it with our style. If there is a wrong deduction here, please give a fair quarter to me!

Dear reader! I have begun talking the hind leg off a donkey, but it is pretty kind to find such a lovely reader and try to give our humble opinion to you! However, if I want to emphasize my last words, I would like to say that please don’t be destructive but constructive! The world is hosting more than around 7.5 milliard people living in almost 195 countries with nearly 4.5 thousand beliefs. So I hope you have understood the meaning of “Syncretism” and how to build it in our society. You can find it not only in fashion, food, music and also in belief, language, and architect. Do not forget. It is not only about cloth; it is about how you shape!