Leaving shoes in front of the door is regarded as uncouth, those who wash twice a week are regarded as sloppy. Watching television for hours on end is frowned upon. Indeed these types of behavior are what, in the full sense of the term, define the ‘average Turk’. Moreover, the vast majority of the population are included in this definition. A survey conducted by Capital not only draws a profile of the majority of the population in Turkey, from consumption to entertainment, social life and work but provides important clues on many topics.
People do not dream of having average intelligence, being an average student or having an average lifestyle… Most want to ‘be very clever’, ‘be first in the class’ and ‘have a wealthy lifestyle’. People turn up their noses at ‘average’ lives and look down on and despise the average people who make up the vast majority of society… But there is something that those people who are always striving to be different miss. ‘Being average’ is not a bad thing at all. It is possible to find many ‘middle level’ happy families who have full stomachs and can walk tall. Moreover in politics, business and marketing success depends on being able to catch ‘average’ people. But the disdain with which they are regarded pushes the average Turk into the background and means that the average Turk, who accounts for a significant proportion of society, is unknown and misunderstood.
In fact, the situation is similar in other countries. Kevin O’Keefe, an American marketing consulting living in New York, noticed that the people who constitute the majority of the USA are not well-understood. He decided to conduct research and collected the results of this study in a book called ‘Average American’.
O’Keefe explains how at one time he always avoided being average: “In my life I have always been afraid of being average. Throughout my life I have tried to be number one. I studied at university through an athletics scholarship. I always ignored people I thought were average and never devoted any time to them.” He explains how he discovered the good parts of being average.
“I married when I was 40 and I suddenly noticed that the most average thing I had done up until that time was to marry. Then it occurred to me that there was a possibility that the other things that average people do could also make me happy.”
“I used to be a very good runner and I was successful at my job. I was above average at both of these but terrible at everything else. Now, when I think about my past, I understand this. In fact, I don’t think I was above average but lower than average. Because an average person can do 100 things in an average way. They find a balance.”
We also conducted a study to identify the balances and produce a profile of the average Turk. By studying the results of the research we tried to draw portraits of the average Turkish family, the average Turkish man and the average Turkish woman.
The Aspirations Of The Average Turk
A very large proportion of Turkish households, that is to say families, have what we can call an ‘average’ profile. In terms of income and education. a little more than 8.6 million of the more than 17 million households in Turkey are what we can call the upper middle and middle class, what are categorized as C1 and C2. According to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT), in 2004 these households had annual income of between TL 9 billion and TL 16 billion.
Kıvanç Bilgeman, the general manager of the HTP research company, says:
“When we study the picture in detail we can see that both the highest segment of the population, what we can call the ‘A’ class, and the lowest, what we can call the ‘E’ class, both account for small shares, at 1.1 percent and 10 percent respectively. While the remainder, that is the majority of the population, are squeezed between the two. Those in this middle category are distinguished from one another by small differences.
* Nearly 70 percent of Turkish families live in their own houses. This shows that one of the most important ambitions of the average Turkish family is ‘to live in their own house’.
* Another cherished ambition is to have a car. But there is only one car for every four middle-class households.
* Prof. Dr. Mahmut Aslan, who is a member of the teaching staff in the Sociology Department at Istanbul University, makes the following observation about another major aspiration of the average Turkish family: “Middle class families give great importance to providing their children with educational opportunities. They work their fingers to the bone to send their children to private courses on weekends. They give everything they have in order for them to have a university education.”
* Aslan says that the children of middle class families display similar traits when it comes to choosing a profession and explains their behavior in this regard as follows: “Middle class families in Turkey want their children to work in the public sector because the wages are very high. They want them to become civil servants, teachers or police.”
* The reason that middle class families want their children to work in the public sector is probably because the coverage of the social security system is limited in Turkey and they are worried about the future.
* Only 14 percent of households in Turkey can save money. The number of average Turkish households which can save is so small as to be negligible.
The Motifs Of Daily Life
Average Turkish families resemble each other a lot in an areas such as the role of the mother and father and the pattern of daily life.
* It is difficult to find working women in the average Turkish family. More than 90 percent of the women in middle class families do not work. That is to say, the model of the mother in a middle class family is ‘housewife’… Most of the women in this category have two children.
* Aslan explains this as follows: “In these middle class families there are women who work at things such as sewing and embroidery, in small workshops and jobs which don’t require a lot of skills. But, when the head of the household has sufficient income or when the children have completed their education, they stop working. Because a working woman is still not something which the middle class family has completely internalized.”
* Supporting the home is the man’s responsibility. It is worth providing the following information at this point. In Turkey as a whole, 71.2 percent of men aged 18-54 are employed, while 11.7 percent are unemployed and 17.1 percent are not included in the workforce… As can be seen from these statistics, the role of working and earning money still belongs to the man of the house.
* In the morning the father of the house goes to work and the children go to school. The mother prepares food, tidies up the house and does the washing. She works as an invisible heroine until the evening. The average housewife has no social security. Until the evening it is the television which provides her with friendship. Sometimes she goes to visit neighbors but she usually spends her life within the four walls of the home.