An interesting part of Turkish culture is the broad and virtually universal love of children. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with smiles and looks of admiration at our three beautiful children. This is partially because we were obviously foreigners, and partly because of a belief that it is impolite to speak compliments out loud about someone else’s children. See (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_eye). The Turkish people have reconciled their admiration with their fear of the evil eye by their friendly smiles and reaching out to pat the kids on the head, pinch their cheeks, or patting them on the back.
Our kids quickly learned to take the cheek pinches and hair tousles as a compliment and as natural as an American handshake. This was just one manifestation of the difference in the sense of personal space that is offered in Turkey compared to much of the West. Riding on a tram or bus is an experience in intimacy when everyone just crams into the vehicle without getting hung up on providing an American-style amount of breathing room. We saw this as just an extension of a different view of personal space than we have in the west. Once you get used to it, it’s actually somewhat nice to be able to stand close to a crowd and not be hyper conscious if your shoulder happens to touch someone in the back when the bus stops at a red light.