13 Surprising Things About Parenting in Turkey

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For our Motherhood Around the World series, our twelfth interview features Diane Zhang, who moved from Brooklyn to Istanbul with her husband, Josh, and 11-month-old son, Aaron. Here are 13 things that surprised her about being a mother in Turkey…

Diane’s background:

Diane and her husband Josh graduated from law school the same year and both lined up jobs in New York. Though they had friends in common, the pair actually met in South Africa, where they both (coincidentally) decided to spend a year before starting work. They each needed an apartment, so after only two weeks of knowing each other, they decided to live together—as roommates! Six months later, Diane and Josh returned to New York, this time as a couple.

“We always knew we’d love to raise children abroad,” Diane says. “I was in my third trimester of pregnancy and was spending the morning recovering from a horrible stomach flu. Josh checked his Blackberry, then turned to me and said, ‘The firm just asked if anyone is interested in moving to the Istanbul office.’ I was so, so sick but managed to croak out, ‘Us.’ ”

Though the couple jumped at the chance to move, it was a huge adjustment. “Our first few hours in Turkey were spent stuck in traffic with our baby trying to get to our corporate apartment. I was so stressed and tired that I was nearly sobbing,” Diane remembers. “I felt scared and overwhelmed. For the first few months, thinking about New York or even just seeing a photo of a dirty subway station would make me nauseous with homesickness. Thankfully, Istanbul now feels like home.”

On the neighborhood: We live in a sleepy fishing village—a 20-minute cab ride north of the busy downtown area of Istanbul. The promenade is lined with pastel Ottoman mansions called yali. On morning strolls, we pass fishermen catching that day’s special for the neighborhood restaurants, and we see the local baker, greengrocer, cobbler and waiters sitting outside on their smoke breaks. It’s wonderful to live a small-town life in one of the biggest cities in the world. Istanbul is the world’s third largest city by population (14 million!) and straddles two continents—Europe and Asia.

On a hands-on culture: People in Turkey touch and kiss your baby—all the time. My son Aaron was only a couple months old when we moved here, so I was still a little paranoid about germs. At the mother’s group I attended back in Brooklyn, most of the women would have been totally horrified if a stranger had come up and touched their babies. Avoiding this would be impossible in Istanbul. Strangers have actually lifted my son out of his stroller! When I’m walking around with Aaron, it’s not unusual for passersby—even teenage boys!—to reach out to pinch his cheek, tickle his feet or fluff his hair. You’ll hear a lot of “Mashallah!“—loosely translated, it’s an Arabic phrase meaning “may God protect,” and is an expression of delight and affection when said about babies. Turkish people are completely baby crazy. It’s honestly like nothing I’ve ever seen before. In the States, it’s okay to say you don’t really like kids, but one of our Turkish friends said you can’t say that here—it actually makes you a bad person!

On the kindness of strangers: The people here are just so wonderful—I think they’re the best part of the city, which is saying a lot. One day, we were walking to a shop and it started to lightly rain. My husband Josh was carrying Aaron, and we didn’t have an umbrella. While we were waiting at a crosswalk, a young man walked up to Josh and held his umbrella out over him so Aaron wouldn’t get wet. He walked us all the way to our destination, keeping Aaron dry the entire time. When we got there he just said goodbye and went on his way—to him, it wasn’t a big deal, it’s just something you do.


On multi-tasking playgrounds: One funny thing playgrounds: They have exercise machines for adults! You’ll see parents exercising on stationary bikes or ellipticals, next to kids playing. There’s also a machine that looks like some sort of torture device; it’s a flat plank with a little metal hook at the end. We couldn’t figure out what it was for the longest time until we saw someone using it—you lie on it to do sit-ups, and the metal hook at the end holds your feet down! So basically we were right: It’s a torture device.

On national pride: Our Turkish friends have immense pride in Turkish culture. Photos of Atatürk (the first president and founder of the modern Republic of Turkey) are EVERYWHERE in both public buildings and people’s private homes. His name means “father of the Turks,” and it’s a crime to insult his memory. We thought about getting a cat and naming him Catatürk, before we realized that might actually be illegal.

On a lack of tantrums: I have never ever witnessed a public meltdown. If a baby were to get fussy in public, a bunch of strangers would immediately swoop down to pick him up, bounce him and play with him before it reaches a fever pitch. Once, while we were dining out and Aaron was reaching the end of his patience, a waiter scooped him up and carted him around the restaurant showing our son to the rest of the staff while my husband and I finished our meal in peace.

On switching to tea: Istanbul is a tea—not coffee—culture, which threw me for a loop. (The Western-style coffee here is borderline undrinkable.) People always, always, always drink black tea. It’s served BOILING in clear tulip glasses and only with sugar. Empty tulip glasses litter the landscape around Istanbul. You see people drinking steaming cups in 90 degree heat, construction men drinking it while working, market vendors always have a cup beside them. We had handymen over one morning, who asked for tea, and I felt so sheepish because we only had Earl Grey. We keep a huge stock of traditional black tea in our house now!


On local cuisine: We can’t get enough of the breakfasts here. Breakfast is called kahvalti, and finding the best one is kind of a pastime for us. Breakfast involves a huge basket of different types of bread (dill buns, olive-studded wheat rolls, warm and chewy flatbreads), sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, different types of cheeses (some salty and crumbly, some chewy, and some deep fried), ​menemen (a dish of eggs cooked with different spices and tomatoes and served in a hot skillet), a spread made of tahini and molasses mixed together, and, of course, tulip glasses filled with hot black tea and sugar cubes. The best part of all this is kaymak: dense clotted cream, served to you in a pool of honey. You smear it on bread (but I eat it straight, too). Stores sell jarred baby food and rice cereal, but for the most part kids eat the same thing as the adults—the food is just so good!


On the lack of bedtimes: Our Turkish friends have told us that most kids don’t have bedtimes—they just stay up with their parents. And we see parents out walking with strollers at 11pm or midnight, sometimes later. Our babysitters have told us stories about being hired to sleep train three- and four-year-olds. The emphasis on parents having “alone” time isn’t as strong here; date nights don’t really exist. People are very surprised when we tell them that our son goes to bed between 6:30 and 7pm, that we don’t hear a peep from him for the next several hours, and that we value those hours so much! One thing that might help is that many working parents have nannies. The nanny will accompany the whole family to the park or to a restaurant, like part of the baby’s entourage, and when the baby gets fussy, the nanny will leave the rest of the family and go walk around and bounce the baby.


On weather worries: Babies here don’t go outside when it’s chilly, windy, rainy, anything. I get a lot of confused looks when I take Aaron out for a walk on days when it isn’t the best weather, and people get very concerned with they see him exposed to the elements. When he’s in a light sweater, other babies are in snowsuits. People (particularly grandmas and grandpas) get incredibly concerned if there’s even a little bit of skin exposed, like between his sock and his pants. And if he doesn’t have a hat on, the world ends!

On working moms: Istanbul is very progressive in terms of gender equality and women in the workplace. It’s not uncommon to see successful working moms in the city. Almost all of the senior partners at Josh’s law firm are women. Maternity leave is much better than in the States (you get time off both before and after the birth), and childcare is much less expensive than it is in New York. In the rest of the country, however, the pressure to have motherhood be the sole and primary focus of a woman’s life seems strongera than in the States. In Turkey, the government comes right out and says that all families should have at least three children!

On adjusting to a slower pace: People generally aren’t in a hurry. They take time to relax, even though they work hard. One funny example: We arranged for some workers to come install shelving in our apartment and it took them a few weeks to show up. When they finally did, Josh sent me a text asking how it was coming along. I had to tell him that we were all sitting around drinking tea and playing with the baby. But it did eventually get done, and when they worked, they worked very quickly!

On women’s fashion: I think a common misconception about Turkey is the belief that women are required to dress very conservatively. Sometimes you’ll see women in colorful headscarves, but many women dress very similarly to women in the States. A lot of people aren’t aware that when Atatürk founded modern Turkey, he made it a secular state, which meant that religious headwear was actually banned from certain public places, like universities. Of course this has its own debate surrounding it, but the general takeaway is that women are not required to cover themselves up. One of the biggest trends for young women are flower crowns, which you can buy from street vendors, and they wear them with crop tops and high-waisted skinny jeans. Maybe it’s Istanbul’s answer to the bohemian hipster look?

On what the future holds: Istanbul feels like home now. Admittedly this journey has, at times, been less about having an adventure than it has been about worrying how you’re going to mime “swim diaper” to a sales associate in a baby store. But it has certainly cemented the desire to live abroad. We’d really like to give Aaron (and, hopefully, any future children) an expat experience they can actually remember.

Thank you, Diane!

P.S. Motherhood in Japan, Norway, Mexico, Northern Ireland, China, England, India, Abu Dhabi, Congo, Germany and Australia.

(Flower crown photo from The Very Thirsty Raindrop; playground photo by Luke Maloney; all other photos courtesy of Diane Zhang. Interview by Caroline Donofrio)

  1. Hi, I liked this post and read it with a smile. There is one thing I want to correct. Ataturk did not ban anything about scarves or any religional thing. They were banned after 80s when they were used for politics.

  2. Essie says...

    I am from Istanbul, living abroad for the last 18yrs married to an Italian. I have a daughter almost three yrs old. Curly blond hair and blue eyes. when were on vacation in Bodrum many people wanted to take her pictures and while we were in Istanbul, almost all the people were smiling to her or making compliments, holding her hands etc. When i moved to U.S my friends warned me not to expressive about a baby (which i did!) it is not like Turkey! Even now, i live in England and when make a compliment to a mom about her baby, usually mothers are kind of not happy (unless the mother is my friend of course).
    Long story short, yes we are baby crazy nation and it is kind of scary or not understandable for the people who doesn’t know our culture. Thank you for highlighting this baby crazy point :)

  3. BD says...

    I’m a Turkish mom raising my kids in Canada. And I have laughed out loud on some of the observations. They are perfectly true. And lack of bedtime is a real problem for our kids as rest of their Canadian peers are at 4th hour of their sleep while my kids were getting ready to sleep. And yes, everyone loves babies and wants to hug them. When my mom visiting us in Canada, she tried to do the same in shopping malls to some babies and got the angry look from moms. I tried to explain her that we don’t touch stranger’s babies in Canada, but she doesn’t get it. Such a cultural thing. I love Turkey.

  4. Suzy Cyr says...

    I am from California .
    Our family has been here 160 years
    And in US SINCE 1635.
    Our family had many children.
    And i find myself agreeing with the Turkish love of children.
    Thank you so much for sharing this about Turkey.
    Here where abortion is popular. I find it refreshing to hear about countries requiring more than one child.
    Certainly everyone’s bouncing on the
    Baby Making Equipment
    So it makes sense that babies come and taking care of them would be the wise thing to do.
    After all. They are OUR blessings!

  5. Cassie says...

    I love these posts about parenting in other countries. They are fascinating! Please do more! This actually could be an awesome book. With all the pressure and demands of parenting, it feels refreshing and fun to read that the different perspectives and ways to do things. And guess what? Everyone will survive!

  6. Varija says...

    This sounds ditto like raising a child in India……:)

    • Jigisha says...

      Thats true :)

  7. What a lovely post and a beautiful family. Thanks for sharing! I’m so pleased about reading this I want to read more, and want to visit Turkey too.

  8. Hello all and Mashallah to Aaron!

    as a Turk living in Turkey I really liked to read how we are from a different point of view. I have always had expats friends and colleagues.
    If you would like to visit my country, just keep in touch. I am a frequent traveller.

    Anyway, about breastfeeding. It’s rare in public and if a mom needs to do it, she covers the baby and her berasts with a cloth. We are afraid of evil eyes and it seems inappropriate to do so.
    And yes we love babies!!

  9. Please keep the series going! It’s my favorite part of your blog and really encourages me to see my parenting experience through new eyes. Thank you!

  10. ali, thanks for the question! this series isn’t actually meant to be a comprehensive overarching analysis of parenting in each country. (that would be awesome, but would end up being a book!)

    instead, it’s a look at one mother’s personal experience and perspective in each country. since diane didn’t have experience with birth and breastfeeding in this country, she didn’t talk about it (in the same way that she didn’t talk about what it’s like to raise a teenager there, etc.). but she did touch upon what experience she had while parenting in turkey.

    you can read a bit more here about how we’re approaching the series:

    hope this helps!!

  11. Just wondering, what about actually having a baby in Turkey? And breastfeeding? I understand Diane might not have had these experiences in Turkey, but why is there no information about it?

  12. Lovely article! I’ve been to Istanbul a number of times and found it charming and interesting. The spice market there is amazing. I must admit that drinking black tea instead of my morning coup of strong black coffee is not really…my coup of tea :))
    All the best to you and your lovely family!

  13. I am from Turkey, living abroad. I travelled to many countries but haven’t met such a open society like Turkish people, yet. In Turkey, people talk to each other even it is not necessary, people reply questions even it is not their job, people can help each other without waiting your request, I never realized it when I was leaving in Turkey, but when I am living abroad for 4 years, I realized that Turkey society is very open, and I miss to talk with a taxi driver, with a waiter, with people at public transportation :))

    • Nancy Gedik says...

      I lived in İstanbul for 4.5 years and I miss this too. I’ve been away for 1 year and I can’t wait to go back. Everyone is so helpful and friendly. Even though my Turkish is limited they still find a way to talk to me. ❤ Istanbul

  14. I LOVE THIS SERIES! And I totally agree about the doting. We used to live above a restaurant owned by a sweet Turkish family and almost every weekend when we take our toddler for a walk, the owner of the restaurant would greet our toddler with the heartiest hello and then lift her up from her stroller, like she was his own daughter. It’s unusual to see such friendliness from a neighbor, but especially from another man to a child. But it was always warm and lovely.

    Diane, I also must ask and do not mean to be rude but where did you get those incredible dresses and that blue and white striped top. I LOVE your style!

  15. Beautiful country and such nice/warm people! Loved our 2 week trip to Turkey which was awesome. I can imagine how wonderful it would be to live there. We were also surprised by the fact how open the country is and especially kind of freedom women enjoy there. We still miss kaymak and ayran even after 4 yrs!

  16. So great. This makes me want to visit Istanbul so badly. I want that breakfast!

  17. I love this series so much! I’m sure you’ve been told this but you really should turn it into a book., I’d buy it :) I love how they say in Turkey to say how describing yourself as not liking children is unacceptable. I think it has become far too acceptable here to dislike and discriminate against children and young families.

  18. thank you for this nice post,

    kisses from istanbul

  19. I love this blog post series. I am a future first-time mother, and I think it’s so inspiring to read about other cultures and think about how I want to treat my baby :) Keep it coming!

  20. My youngest is 10 (and we have 10 kids), I wouldn’t have had time to read your blog earlier but it is so nice to read about your mothering adventures and remember. Mothering a child is all about unselfish service and it changes the alchemy of your soul forever! Thanks for sharing so much, so publicly.

  21. Loved this one! Makes me want to travel to Turkey. Love the attitude towards babies and the food looks delish!

  22. Oh, I love this series! This one, in particular, makes me want to live abroad. That breakfast looks to die for.

  23. I’m a UK expat living in Izmir for 3 years with my toddler and husband. I could have written this post ! It rings very true.
    For good coffee (if you have a flat white craving or an aeropress need etc etc) there’s a really fantastic place on the same street as Hane 78. Bogazkesen Caddesi in Beyoglu. On the same side of the street but higher up.

  24. I love this series This one in particular had me running to my husband to tell him that when we have our first child, the first place we’ll travel is to Istanbul. Can’t wait.

  25. i am moving to turkey RIGHT NOW! it sounds amazing and that everyone is baby hungry?? i would fit right in!!

  26. I am from Turkey, and the mother of an 18 month old. I have been here in the states for about four years now. The funny thing is, these are the exact same things that I have found interesting about parenting in the states. I keep telling my friends that people take their baby out without packaging them with many layers of clothes like we do. Also, I observed that people protect their babies from strangers, no touching, no “Peek-a-boo”ing at all. In fact, I feel like they are weirding out if I do so to their babies. It is really interesting to see that we came up with the same list, but from different sides of the story!

  27. I love this series! Thank you!

  28. This is wonderful, it makes me want to go to Turkey.

  29. We vacationed in Istanbul for a week last year (during the Gezi Park protests! but that’s another story).
    Now I’m craving a Turkish breakfast. Thanks Dianne & Joanna!

  30. I think this was the most interesting one, yet! I love that the Turks love babies, and exposure to the elements thing is so opposite to Scandinavia, right? So interesting!

  31. This is a wonderful article about beautiful Istanbul! Thanks, Diane. And, special thanks for liking and using a photo from my blog theverythirstyraindrop :) That lovely girl in the picture is my daughter, who was 3.5 back then, she is 9 now :) I made and sold those flower crowns at GalataModa 2009. Towards the end of 2009, we moved to LA, and have been living in the states since then. Enjoy being in Istanbul and Turkey! Love, Pelin :)

  32. This makes me miss Turkey a lot! Just left Istanbul a month ago and wishing to go back!

  33. As a daddy of two kids and recentlu relocated to Turkey,I also experienced the same as Dianne.
    Just wonder how she dealt with the smokers flocking around the kids?

  34. Love learning about motherhood around the world! Thank you!

  35. Thank you so much for doing this series again! I love it so much. My husband and I want to raise kids abroad and reading all these women’s stories reassures me that we are not crazy and it can be done. These stories mean so much more than you know! Bring on the adventure…

  36. Loved this! They actually have exercise equipment next to the playground on the new pier at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and I thought it was such a cool idea. Joanna, now that you’re one of us (by us I mean Brooklynites!) you should definitely go check it out!

  37. I’m absolutely loving this series! Now I really want to at least visit Turkey, if not live there!


  38. Brings back so many fond memories of Istanbul, especially the old men with the dainty tea glasses and intricately decorated china saucers. I do have to say though, Turkish COFFEE is everywhere and is AMAZING for those that like thick mud in their morning joe. I loved the similarly beautiful copper or silver serving sets for the unique preparation that goes into every silty little cup.


  39. as a Turkish person and a mother of two living in Istanbul, I really loved reading this post. Thanks so much for sharing this… And this is really true that Turkish people love picking babies up, pinching cheeks etc. Yet, sometimes that can be annoying from some mothers like me :)
    If you visit Turkey, you’ll experience even more surprising things.. Istanbul is really a mixture of so many cultures.

  40. My sister lives in Turkey, and I have been to visit several times, including a month spent as her nanny. I smiled at so many of the things! They are completely baby crazy! When my sister had her third in Turkey, they were a bit worried about getting the baby’s papers done before an upcoming trip home…but the guards were so excited at the consulate that they swept them on through quickly. Another thing I noticed is that Turks don’t mind speaking their mind…I had people tell me on the street to put those children’s hoods up – it was much too cold! (It was probably 55 degrees.) I wonder if Dianne has noticed that too? 1`

  41. I am such a big fan of this blog, and this series in particular. As an avid traveler I think often about raising my (future) children abroad someday.. at least for a little while. My father is from Turkey and this brought back such fond memories of my childhood visits… the cheek pinches and the Mashallah’s!

    Jenni at

  42. I can’t agree more to many of the things mentioned. We have lived in Istanbul for 4 years and our son is now 2,5 years. It is really sweet how they feel about babies, I totally agree. Unfortunately our son is not fond of having his cheeks poked by strangers or that people are touching his (very) blond hair. We have also tried people actually removing his hat, to see if he also had blond hair since he had blue eyes and the skin was fair. Even though he very clearly signals with his body language that he does not like it and even says “no” they continue to do so! Right up to the point where I have to remove my son and tell them not to do it. In one of my playgroups one of the mums actually had t-shirts made saying “please don’t touch me” in Turkish! I am not sure if it is because they are so used to children don’t minding all the fuss or if they are just really bad at reading children’s body-language. Because of the many comments you will receive here if they do not think your child is dressed appropriately for the weather, I have now adapted so much it, that when visiting Denmark my Danish friends on more than one occasion has commented on why he is wearing so much clothes… ;) However despite this, it has been very nice experience to have born our son here in Istanbul. Even as a pregnant women you get a lot of attention and when my boyfriend and I went to restaurants we always got a nice table where the chair was more comfortable or definitely no draft coming in. There was no waiting in long passport queues in the airport – Once you told you were pregnant, or if they noticed themselves, they always allowed us to go through where there was no ques. In shops I would be approached by the sales assistants or other customer asking me how far along I was and whether or not it was going to be a boy or a girl. Then they would take a good look at my belly and based on the shape they would always say, yes it is a boy!

    Being from Copenhagen, which despite having some really great playgrounds for children, is not really so child friendly in restaurants/cafés e.g. not allowing prams inside or women breastfeeding (the latter creating quite a big public debate) it was so relaxing here to be out with a small baby. No need to worry if they started to cry, because there would always also be other kids around making noise… Will start reading the tales from the other cities shortly… Thanks!

  43. I love this series, especially since I am expecting my first child now. Istanbul is great city and it does not surprise me that people love it so much.

  44. as a Turkish person I may say you could give totally a good perspective of Turkey.. :)) good job

  45. thank you Diana for a nice post. i am glad to read that as a Turkish.

  46. Such a beautiful read.

  47. I am from Istanbul and except a 10 year break overseas I have been here always. The observations are nice and accurate. I also loved the suggested cat name Cataturk on the original text, as well as Chairman Meow (on the posted comments) I think I am a “why so serious” type of guy :)

    It is also a very interesting to see how comparative thing could get from a different PoV such as we find life fast here and for someone from NY it could be perceived as a slow down.

    ANyway with the right surrounding and neigborhood it is a pleasant city to live, if you are capable of enjoying these little joyful things. from a statistical point of view (if you for example look at green zones, public transport efficiency and coverage, school and education quality, cultural venues etc) it will not make it to World’s best cities to live in for quite a while.

  48. This series is really great. So fun to read about the differences and the unexpected similarities amongst different cultures. We went to Turkey on vacation a couple years ago when my son was 4 and not only did people come up and touch him — particularly his blonde little head — but my husband was told by a waiter that we needed to have more children! One was clearly not enough. :) An absolutely beautiful country and lovely people living there. Can’t wait to go back.

  49. I love love love these posts – they are so interesting!

    My husband and I traveled to Istanbul in 2012 and absolutely loved it, so I found this post especially interesting. A few times we were eating at restaurants and we noticed that all the wait staff would come over to some one with a baby and everyone wanted to hold the baby and pass it around – it was so funny! I remember thinking I would be kind of freaked out if it was my kid, but I think it’s awesome that the culture there is so baby friendly :) Keep these posts coming!

  50. Fascinating post! It makes me want to travel to Istanbul! What a smart couple and a wonderful little family! :)

  51. Baby Aaron’s Bruce Springteen T shirt!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love!

  52. I love these posts! We live on Vancouver Island and our new parks have the workout equipment for adults, I always get on it and embarrass my kids, ha!

  53. I love this series so much. It is fascinating. I have friends in several of the countries you’ve featured (including Turkey), but I’ve never really asked them what parenting is like where they are, except for our Australian friends. My SIL is from Russia, and it’s neat to watch what she does w/ her kids. My paternal side of my family is from Germany (and several family members still live there). I am dying to go to Europe so badly. I told my husband the other night that I wish he had the type of job that would send him to Europe for a year to work. That would be awesome. Thanks for this series. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve read online in a long time. :)

  54. How lovely that people there actually LIKE children! In my friend group I am a minority for wanting children, let alone liking them.

    This post makes me want to visit Istanbul so badly! Thank you for sharing. I find these posts so interesting and unique. It’s refreshing to see the world through someone else’s eyes for a moment.

  55. I imagine that a lot of work goes in to making these posts, but it is my FAVORITE thing on the internet. The entire internet. Thank you for this!

  56. These are my favorite posts! I definitely have the travel bug!

  57. These are my favorite posts! I definitely have the travel bug!

  58. It’s great to read this stories. We’re traveling quite a lot with Tomasz, moving around the world and living places for few months. Now, when I’m expecting I was wandering if my life will change. And I don’t think it will. I can see that people move around with children and are very excited about it. Love this entries on your blog.
    Marta @ What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today?

  59. I love this series, so interesting. Istanbul sounds like a lovely place to visit.
    Our neighbor down the street is from Turkey, and when he first saw our son years ago, he immediately reached out and touched his cheeks. I almost had a heart attack. After getting to know them better, I began to understand that it’s their culture.

  60. This is such a fun and interesting post to read since it gives one a different perspective on one’s own culture and country. I am a Turk born and raised in Istanbul and except living in Chicago for 8 months I have always lived in Istanbul. I have a son who is nine months old. From the time he was born he has been out every single day rain or shine and we get scolding looks and even remarks from older ladies and gentleman every time we go out. It is either too cold or too hot for the baby to be out. Or he is not dressed warm enough. Or he should have socks on even if it is very hot outside. :) ‘Ohhh moms these days!’ they always say.

  61. Loved this post it felt so close to my heart. My dad is Iranian and the cultures are very similar. Iranians dote on babies and spate them everything. A baby should never be cold, hungry, bored or alone. Imagine my telling my dad that a baby should not snack between meals or that frustration is good for a child’s character. These values just don’t translate!

  62. I realized when I read this that I know absolutely nothing about Turkey, and as usual after reading one of these Motherhood posts I am thinking of traveling there!

  63. Love this series so much! Istanbul sounds amazing, though I’d definitely have to adjust to strangers picking up my baby :)

  64. Absolutely love your motherhood abroad posts. I’m a Dane and it could be so much fun somedaybto read about Denmark.
    As a firsttime mom myself, it’s amazing to read how mothers are coping in different countries – and not even in their home country

    Love from Denmark – Mette

  65. I haven’t read through the comments yet, but I am blown away by how similar Istanbul seems to Dakar!!! I have lived in Dakar, Senegal (West Africa) for four years and though not a parent, I worked at the International School here. Almost every response in this interview could apply to Dakar as well–from the tea drinking culture, to the love of children, the kindness of strangers, lack of bed time, women in the workplace… all of it! Interestingly, Senegal is also predominantly Muslim, but politically secular. Obviously Dakar is far less developed in infrastructure, and I’d think more traditional in its gender roles. But yeah, SO SIMILAR. Fascinating! Now I really want to visit, and based on how much I love Dakar… maybe live there, too!

  66. Maybe my favorite post of this series yet! Such a warm and colorful culture. Love the bit about the handymen asking for tea!

  67. Joanna, I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful series. My husband and I currently live abroad (for his job) and we’ll have the opportunity to live abroad in the future, likely multiple times. We don’t have kids yet but will soon be starting down that path, and I spend a lot of time thinking about what it will be like to live abroad with kids in the future. These posts have given me such a great window into that lifestyle and make it seem less daunting that I sometimes imagine it could be. Many, many thanks!

  68. Another great post in the series — I felt transported! The writing really seemed to capture the place and the mom, which makes it such a delight to read. Joanna, I think you turn this into a book!

  69. Great post! I’m half Moroccan half Tunisian and I have the fondest memories of Turkey, where I lived for 6 years as a child. Spending my whole life abroad (after Turkey, Germany and Switzerland), I can attest that having an expat childhood was amazing! I’ve been based in Paris for 12 years now, and start to feel like I might want to move after my wedding next year, and give my future children the same experience! My sister is moving from Paris to Rhode Island, so my nieces are about to continue our tradition :)
    Love the series and the blog

  70. Oh, I am geeking out over this one!! My husband and I went to Istanbul for our anniversary three years ago, and had a wonderful time. My son is now seven months old, and we’re mulling over the idea of trying to travel out of the country for one or two months at a time. We would love to do Istanbul again. I am loving this series so much!

  71. It’s so interesting seeing how people live around the world. I love the idea of workout equipment at the playground! Wish they had something like that here! Unlike most of the commenters, I’m not a fan of the hands-on attitude in Turkey towards babies. I don’t think I could handle having random people touching my baby, picking him up, etc. When it comes to strangers and my children, I have a very strong “look but don’t touch” policy.

  72. The hijab ban in Turkey was recently lifted, now people have the right to wear whatever they want. Those flower crowns are so cute! The renovation story is hilarious, I can totally picture that scenario.

  73. b. says...

    I am from Istanbul, and this is so accurate! Made me very homesick! Thank you for this wonderful article!

  74. thanks for your note, kathleen! i hear you. we’re basically talking about being a parent overall, and that includes date nights, talking to people on the street, getting into the fashion there, etc….so we’re looking at what life is like as a parent overall—both when you’re focusing directly on your child and when you’re not. hope that makes sense!

  75. Wow, your post was so inspirational- especially since I am pregnant with my first child. I never knew Turkey was such a great place. I am in love with the way people treat children and the food looks delicious too! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and giving me an inside look into how other cultures view children!

    -Lara K @

  76. Beautiful family! I love that people dote on babies all the time there. That’s a big plus. I’d be okay with people swooping in to help my tantruming 2 year old!

  77. I like this series, it is interesting. But isn’t it something more like surprising thing about being an expat in x country as a parent. A lot of it isn’t about parenting, but about life in that country in general.

  78. This is by far my favorite series on your blog! Thank you for profiling these amazing mamas! We have been traveling for a year and a half now and are currently living in Bogota, Colombia (about to go to Oaxaca, Mexico). It’s amazing the similarities in what may seem like disparate cultures (I feel Diane on the propensity of Colombian grandmothers and grandfathers to make such a big deal of any exposed-to-the-elements skin on 65 degree days). I can’t wait to read the next interview!

  79. I really love this series! It’s so interesting to see cultures differ so much when it comes to raising kids. The Turkish culture sounds so child friendly with people being so baby crazy! It sounds like an incredibly kind and supportive place to raise a baby. I can’t wait to read more from you series, Joanna!


  80. Love how baby-friendly it sounds! Turkey is officially on my list of places to one day visit.

  81. Such a wonderful post and so dead on with just about everything. I worked for a charter school that was heavily populated with Turkish people and they took such immense pride in their culture and have such a sweet demeanor towards others and children. LOVED this post!

  82. Fascinating, as usual!

  83. Maybe if more families had the opportunity to travel abroad we would have world peace. I would have never guessed that the Turkish people are so friendly. Completely different experience from our time in Switzerland. Helpful, how wonderful! I was in London two years ago struggling with a stoller going up and down the tube stairs and I can’t tell you how many people walked past me without offering help. Aaron is a beautiful baby and I am so happy that you have found Turkey to be home or at least home for right now. It is on my bucket list of places to go! Thanks for participating in this series. I love it!

  84. Beautiful post! Makes me want to visit Turkey.

  85. Incredible – this is the first country I’ve actually wanted to be a mother in. Great synopsis, Diane!

  86. I LOVE this series so much! I visited Turkey in my 20s and still remember the fabulous sights, the warm people and the amazing food!

  87. These posts leave me inspired and dejected every week. Excited about city life but also feeling like a bum for kicking it in the burbs. Decisions, decisions.

    This series is so fantastic. I share them with my friends and they love reading them and sharing them with others. These are not blog reading folk either. They seldom even read what I write!

  88. The best thing in the breakfast is : kaymak not kayak. Kayak means ski:) Eat kaymak with honey over the bread.Yummy !

    Naming the cat as Cataturk wouldnt be illegal but will be so rude. He means a lot to us.

    We are really a baby crazy society. But ıt seemed so normal to me unless I read this post:) I love this post and the family.


  89. I love this series and find it fascinating! It makes me appreciate my own parenting skills and adopt those of other cultures that may be beneficial here in the states. Thanks so much for this series!

  90. I love this series! What a wonderful idea. I love reading about all the different ways other cultures raise kids. It somehow makes me feel more relaxed about my own choices, knowing that all over the world, other moms are doing the opposite or same things as me yet all our kids are healthy and happy. It really eases the judgment of self and others. Thank you for the series!

  91. Istambul sounds great! I’ve never been to Turkey, but, some of the situations remind me of Spanish culture too, for example, avoid being outside with a baby if it’s raining or if it’s cold, or people really baby friendly (you go to Zara and the shop assistant plays with your kid just because it’s the natural thing to do) and also bedtimes are crazy in Spain!
    I love the international parenting series!
    A Bilingual Baby

  92. yep this is my favorite series that you do. After each article I am convinced more and more that raising children almost anywhere else is better than the states…. I suppose the grass is always greener. But it seems to me that people are genuinely nicer everywhere else in the world.

  93. I love love love this series! Although I don’t have children yet, I find it so interesting…especially the differences is what kids eat!

  94. I’m really curious as to whether Diane continued practicing law in Turkey, as well, or if she is now staying at home.

  95. So interesting, I love reading these posts about different parenting styles! xox

  96. Loved this post. So interesting!! Cute baby.

  97. This is such a lovely post! I think this series generally, and this post in particular, really helps me identify and reflect on my own prejudices, as a person and parent – we really don’t have it all figured out!

  98. Again, love this series. Funny about not naming the cat after Atatürk — I knew a woman who named her cat Chairman Meow. Not sure how that would go over in China…

  99. I spent 3 months in Turkey last year and I couldn’t agree more with everything Dianne said! Istanbul is absolutely dream-like, and I love it and it’s people beyond all else. The Turks I met were so friendly and warm and gracious, and that came through in the way they doted on babies.

    One of my first observations of Turkish culture was just after landing at the airport. As I was waiting for a bus to take me into the city, I noticed a group of you police officers taking a baby from his parents. I was alarmed and thought of how scared the mother must feel to have her baby taken from her, but the police officers were cooing over the baby, smiling, laughing, and being very gentle. Subsequent observations really reinforced that baby-loving culture, shared by both women and especially men.

  100. as usual, this parenting around the world post was great! it’s so nice to hear how much everyone over there loves babies & isn’t it nice that if your baby starts throwing a tantrum, someone else seems to happily step in instead of giving judgey eyes?!

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  102. Wow, I always appreciate these posts so much. It’s so funny to hear the different worries that parents have all over the world. I love that even teenage boys will get in on showing love toward babies, what a great thing!

  103. My husband and I just came back from a two week stay in Istanbul with our then 11 month old. I can attest to the Turk baby-craze. People would pick her up, give her ice cream cones, take pictures and play with her. She definitely loved the attention. At the Hagia Sophia, she was crawling around so I pointed to the security guard and said, “Look, he’s going to come get you!”. Much to my dismay, he started to play “Peek-a-boo” with her! I think it’s great that they really follow the “it takes a village” mantra. But I’ve always wondered what they do with all the pictures of babies they take. Then I found out: a man was showing me a picture of his grandchild and then the next picture was some other baby… “And this is an Arab baby!”, he said. I guess they love babies of all sorts! I think it’s similar to our American obsession with dogs.

  104. I live in turkey with my husband and daughter and this is so accurate! The people are the best. We really enjoy it in our small town. I know many people that love it here also. Great place to visit. :)

  105. I simply adore how babies and kiddos are treasured there! xo

  106. Loved this one – you sound like such an adventurous and open-minded family. When I visited Istanbul a few years ago I was amazed at how it felt so like a smaller city, even near the centre, even though it’s so huge. It’s actually the most beautiful city I’ve been to. xxx

  107. This was so sweet! The Turkish culture towards babies – people (even strangers!) picking them up, pinching cheeks, tickling – sounds so refreshing and warm. Perhaps our culture should adapt more of that! :) Thanks for sharing!

  108. Makes me miss living in Turkey. Lovely post, gorgeous photography. It really captures the essence of Istanbul. What a lovely area of town to live in too!

  109. Ah! I absolutely get giddy with excitement when I see this series. I love reading about these different interpretations on parenting and culture abroad.

    I have heard so many wonderful things about Turkey, though I have never been. It seems like such a child-friendly (and just overall friendly) place. So nice to read about something uplifting these days… I’m trying to avoid the news right now. Thank you for something that makes me believe in mankind, Joanna!