For travellers and expats looking to settle and live in Turkey, the Turkish proverbs themselves are about much more than advice. They give great insight into the cultural heritage and identity. Additionally, anyone looking to learn Turkish would enjoy brushing upon them. In this article, we look at some of the most popular and the meanings behind them.
Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır – A cup of coffee has a 40-year memory
A true testament to the importance placed on Turkish coffee for Turks, the proverb, “Bir kahvenin kırk yıl hatırı vardır,” is a proverb whose literal translation is, “A cup of coffee will be remembered for 40 years.” But what is actually infers is that partaking in a cup of Turkish coffee with a Turk means you will share a 40-year friendship.
Caysiz sohbet, aysiz gok yuzu gibidir – Conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon
It is hard to imagine breakfasts, social gatherings, business meetings, negotiations for carpets in the Grand Bazaar, or ferry rides across the Bosphorus in Turkey without the presence of tea. With tea servers in streets, shopping malls, and parks shouting, “ÇAY!” (chai) the beverage is always within shouting distance. It is fundamental to Turkish social life.
Nazar değmesin – Don’t let the evil eye touch you
Translated as the “evil eye,” the word “nazar” refers to the belief that bad luck or misfortune can come as a result of envious or admiring gazes from others. As a result, the practice of hanging a “nazar boncuğu,” aka an evil eye bead, has become a steadfast tradition to safeguard homes, vehicles and even people from unfortunate circumstances. In conversation however, you will frequently come across the tradition of uttering the proverb “nazar değmesin,” which means, don’t let the evil eye touch you. You may even be told the phrase when you offer overt praise to someone’s good fortune or circumstance.
Tereyağından kıl çeker gibi – It’s as easy as pulling a hair out of butter
The Turkish proverb “Tereyağından kıl çeker gibi,” which translated means “It’s as easy as pulling a hair out of butter,” is used to describe something that is very easy to do. Similar idioms in English would be “like a walk in the park,” “shooting fish in a barrel” or “as easy as taking candy from a baby.”
Şeytanın bacağını kırmak – Breaking the Devil’s Leg
A similar idiom to “Şeytanın bacağını kırmak,” which translates to “Breaking the Devil’s Leg” in English would be “getting the show on the road” as this idiom is used to denote starting something you haven’t been able to somehow for a long time or similarly to travel somewhere you have been unable to get to.
Pireyi deve yapmak – Don’t turn a flea into a camel
The Turkish idiom “Pireyi deve yapmak,” which translates into “Don’t turn a flea into a camel” is the equivalent to the English idiom of “making a mountain out of a molehill” and refers to overreacting to and exaggerating a minor issue.
Armut, ağacın dibine düşer – A pear drops to the bottom of its own tree
The saying “Armut, ağacın dibine düşer,” which best translates to “A pear drops to the bottom of its own tree” is basically the Turkish equivalent of the English idiom “a chip off the old block” and refers to the generalization that children usually turn out like their parents.
Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu – What is this diet, what is this pickled cabbage
This particular Turkish idiom, “Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu,” is certainly one of the most perplexing, literally translates to “What is this diet, what is this pickled cabbage?” Without aiming to decipher the words, and their placement, the meaning in the culture that uses it is what matters most and in this case, this statement is used to point out inconsistencies in one’s behavior or words.
Dost acı söyler – A friend says what hurts
The proverb “Dost acı söyler,” which translates into English as “A friend says what hurts,” means that a real friend tells the bitter truth and it is used when someone needs to soften the blow of having to deliver or receive unfortunate news from a close buddy.
Bekarar karı boşamak kolaydır – It is easy for a bachelor to divorce
To a bachelor, divorcing a wife comes easy.) Used to point out that when one does not carry a responsibility, it is easy for them to give advice.