Living in Turkey you eventually get used to the interminable Ottoman bureaucracy you often need to endure to achieve even the smallest government related process or legal task. Yes it is obviously something that can infuriate, especially when you need a dozen signatures on different pieces of paper to complete a task that in other countries may take only a 5 minute phone call. Yes it is annoying but It gradually becomes something you just slowly accept as one of the prices for living here. Learning the language has helped and not getting upset when a queue jumper loudly pushes in as if his business is more important; I say he because this is invariably an older or elderly retired Turkish man (with all the time in the world) who believes that if he doesn’t look you in the eye he won’t have been some ignorant arsehole who pushed in.
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However, in recent years I have used my better understanding of Turkish to shame these people so loudly in public that invariably they either apologise and gesture me before them, or they adopt a kind of standing foetal position with tensed up shoulders, which is their signal that they are going to tough it out no matter what I say – and yet with the progression of time the servers and guardians of such service counters have taken to also shaming them by refusing to serve them first. This can then become an embarrassing standoff for him as he may simply begrudgingly stand aside but refuse to turn around to see who witnessed his public climb down as that would also puncture his self belief that he is more important than any filthy foreigner. I have been told in the past that this annoying class of person is almost always an ex public official with a belief that they still hold whatever position they had climbed up to before they retired… a bit like an retired military man who insists you call him Colonel or General. I have no problem addressing them in that manner either, although I sometimes put a little sting in the tail and add, with an emphasis on the designation, ‘retired.’
There’s a digression… as I was about to say this time of year is the silly season for officialdom here in Turkey. Rather than spread things out over the year it always seems to me that most things like taxes, council dues and personal taxes for your stuff like property and vehicles etc., must be completed, paid for, or calculated in a 3 month period from about the middle of February, which always gives me a slight sense of foreboding as these expensive and extremely time consuming months approach. Anyway, I suppose there is also a valid argument that the rest of the year is a breeze, with everything out of the way and paid for but that light at the end of the tunnel is of little comfort when you are forced to call some queue jumper an ignorant pig or you must point out to the mandarin behind a counter that there is barely any room left for yet another signature that he has decided you must get before he can declare the small task, you have been working through for most of the morning/ day, completed to his or her satisfaction.
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As a diversion from all of the mind numbing bureaucracy I decided to fly up to Budapest last week with a view to buying a very nice apartment I once saw through an agent but which had gone to auction. I love the city. It is only a two hour flight or a day and a half’s drive from Turkey and I always viewed living there as an occasional sanctuary from either the sizzling heat of a Turkish summer or the damp and wind in the depths of our winters. Yes it will almost certainly be colder up there but with such luxuries as central heating and a full cultural calendar to keep my mind busy in the darker months it would represent a very welcome escape for me and my cat. Anyway, yours truly put in the top bid so theoretically after a lot of Hungarian bureaucracy, which at times seems to fall back onto its own historical Ottoman Empire roots for pedantry, the place should finally be mine in May.