Turkiye, Culture, Europe

Our culture in London was Turkish: British consul general

I love the historical, cultural diversity in Turkiye, including its beautiful architecture, says Kenan Poleo

Mehmet Kara   | 04.01.2022
Our culture in London was Turkish: British consul general


Calling the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul his “dream city,” Kenan Poleo said he admires the multicultural life here from all perspectives. 

Poleo was appointed the British consul general in Istanbul just three months ago, even though his love for the city and Turkish culture is much deeper.

"My parents were very young when they came to London, and they were broke. Life was difficult at that time in England. There was also racism,” he said, describing how his family emigrated from Cyprus in the 1950s.

“Cypriot, Turkish families, families from Africa began to arrive. For me, London and Istanbul are like a mosaic because where I grew up in London, there were people from all over the world.”

Sharing that his childhood years were spent in a cultural richness even though it was difficult financially, Poleo noted that while working at his father’s shops when he was a child, he gained “diplomatic talent” as he often spoke to the customers.

He also noted that his family tried to preserve their Turkish Cypriot culture and that they went to Cyprus from time to time, saying that they have a mixed British, Turkish and Turkish Cypriot culture.

Poleo said he came to Istanbul for the first time at the age of 18 and that his "head exploded" due to the crowds and noise in the city.

"My head exploded because Cyprus was so small. It's very big and crowded when we came here,” he said.

“The people were hospitable, and so was Cyprus, but here it is much different than there.

“I loved it so much. So I did my second education on Turkish studies,” he added.

He emphasized that he had been following Turkish cinema and music with interest since a young age, adding "our culture in London was Turkish culture.”

Giving examples of Turkish artists and actresses that he loved at that time, Poleo said it was not just the movies or movie stars that he loved but also Turkish music.

“We supported Turkish artists at Eurovision. We loved (famous Turkish singer) Ajda Pekkan's song Petrol. We used to listen to it and play it at our house.”

“Ajda Pekkan was like a star. The song was very beautiful, but it was the 15th in the contest.

“I was 10 years old at the time, and I realized there was discrimination,” he said.

“Music, art and literature all came from Turkiye. I read (famous Turkish author) Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu's book Yaban with a dictionary in one year. That's why we are so close to this culture."

Istanbul was my dream destination

After his assignments in Slovenia and Germany, Poleo said he chose Istanbul, noting it “was my dream destination.”

“I was supposed to stay in Berlin for another two years, but I came here, like a dream. I'm very lucky. This dream continues. It's a colorful dream. I really like this task,” he said.

“I talk to people every day. I learn new things. People are enterprising, innovative. They communicate very well,” he added.

“It's like my neighborhood here, I'm very comfortable in Istanbul. Unfortunately, I can only stay for four years. I don't want to go.”

He mentioned that he is always thinking about what to do after leaving the city.

Stating that the German capital, which was his previous post, is like a "village" compared to the Turkish metropolis, Poleo said that London is more like Istanbul in terms of mobility.

He said he loves the energy of big cities.

"There is another view everywhere, on every corner. It's an incredibly beautiful city,” he said.

“I really like the historical and cultural diversity here, and the architecture is very beautiful in Turkiye.

“Both Istanbul and Turkiye are like living museums.”

Comparing Turkish cuisine with the cuisine of northern Cyprus, he also pointed out which Turkish meals he enjoys the most.

Poleo noted that he didn’t have much of a chance to travel across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing that he will visit Izmir province, Adana and Mersin provinces, Gaziantep province and Trabzon province at the very first chance.

He added that besides exploring Turkiye, he really wants to improve bilateral relations between the two countries.

*Writing by Merve Berker

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