Where I’m From: Living as an Anglo-Turk in London

An Anglo-Turk in London – a term that isn’t meant to sound too unusual. In my situation, however, having lived in one country over the space of eighteen years renders it so.

Movements between eight different households, a bundle of cardboard boxes packed full of clothing, books, memorabilia, and video games became a familiar sight to me. However, the extent of such movement was strictly local rather than international. The only concepts of “internationalism” I was familiar with stemmed from the fourteen long years I spent at an international school in Istanbul, the place which I call, or once called “home”.

As a child of a Turkish father and an Anglo-Turkish mother, I was raised in a family environment containing the sensibilities of both cultures; this was in contrast to many of my national compatriots who held Turkish roots, yet were raised in England since childhood. After school, I would come home to greet a dozen guests and plates full of mezzes – Turkish appetizers on the dinner table.

In addition, there would be the odd day my mother would present her traditional Yorkshire pudding dish with a serving of chicken and vegetables. It was a contradiction: one day the importance of family and community prevailed; the following day, individualism snatched the crown.  

Despite this supposedly “international” upbringing and the determination to further explore different cultures caused by it, the sudden decision to move from Istanbul to London proved more difficult than I imagined. This jarring transition in my life taught me that meeting individuals from opposing ends of the world and living in a bilingual home were only a few mere steps towards becoming a “citizen of the world”.

Even though I’ve lived in Istanbul far longer than in London, I am now experiencing serious uncertainty regarding where “home” is. The bulk of my family resides in Istanbul whereas my mother lives in London, and my Geordie* relatives live in Newcastle.

“Where am I from?”

It’s a question appearing simple in principle, yet one that proves to be one of the most abstract; at least for someone such as me who is undergoing a dilemma between the prospect of two “homes”.

I am an Anglo-Turk, speaking in an accent resembling a lost child, wavering between the distinct allures of American-English and British-English. Being equally fluent in Turkish and English, there are occasions where I can hardly determine which one is my mother tongue. If Sting were to write a spiritual successor to “Englishman in New York”, he’d have more than enough material in his hands.

Drivers, shopkeepers, and everyday civilians in Turkey tell me I “don’t sound Turkish.”

Random bystanders tell me, “Your accent is American”, or ask in bewilderment, “Where is your accent from?”

I feel accustomed to Turkish cuisine, yet enjoy British tea and coffee more. Yes, by Turkish cuisine I mean seafood, olive oil, baklava, and of course – being the most stereotypical and familiar example – kebabs.

And no, I do not ride a magic carpet to campus – I take a red bus.

I speak English and Turkish, both to an equal degree in the family household.

I feel drawn to British individualism over Turkish invasiveness and faux “concern”.

I enjoy football – albeit with a slight preference for the Premier League.

Where am I from? Nationality, for me, carries aspects which are both dynamic and static. As I retain elements of my cultural heritage wherever I go, one day I may find myself holding a stronger identification with the culture of another place. Therefore, over the next five years, I may end up being from a completely different part of the globe but for now, I identify myself as an Anglo-Turk in London.

*= People who come from the Tyneside region. It is also a separate dialect of English, which may be indecipherable to those who are unfamiliar with it, so much that they have their own dictionary.

Featured photo is an original image sourced by author.