Having worked in hospitals (Australia) for several years I’m accustomed to the concept of extreme hygiene. I’d have to say, Turkish hygiene comes a close second to the world of medical purity.
A Turkish friendship is a lesson in cleanliness. Shoes off at the front door and into the house slippers, reminiscent of Asian home manners. Washing your hands 300 times a day, not just at meal times or bathroom visits, but every time you brush a hand against any public object, no doubt laden with toxic microbes.
Did you just pat the head of a passing dog? “Dirty, dirty!” Straight to the nearest public bathroom for a thorough scrub.
What are you doing with that potato chip that just slipped off your dinner plate onto the tablecloth? Putting it back on your plate to eat? “Allah Allah! Not good. (slap)”.
Are you laying the table to eat? Isn’t that the same table you’ve been studying at with your laptop and books? “Dirty. Not good.” Sponge and hospital-strength detox first.
Çok şükür Turkish cleanliness doesn’t come with the cloying sanitised odours of hospital-ward corridors. Instead our beaks our constantly soothed by the wonderful citrus-fresh aromas of the ubiquitous lemon cologne sprays – of the type that gets ceremonially passed around on those long-distance intercity coach trips. But don’t you dare touch that lump of börek that teyze is generously offering, until you’ve doused with lemon cologne.
Discovered recently that this fastidious hygiene is not limited to the gentler gender. Visiting the Antalya family home of a friend, I managed to drip a single droplet of sticky baklava syrup onto the keyboard of my laptop computer. Problem solved with a surreptitious (I thought) lick of the finger and swipe of the hand. All in a flash, my friend’s retired father, whilst facing completely the opposite direction, reached from the sofa, snatched from the coffee table, and sent spinning through the air in my direction a packet of zesty citrus-flavoured wet wipes. Extremely impressive!
So when you visit a Turkish home, you know it’s going to be clean enough to eat off the floor – but of course that type of behaviour would require immediate intervention, hospitalisation, detox and rehab.