This week’s Wednesday Wanderlust takes us to Central Asia for a look at the values and attitudes celebrated among these nations:
- Superstitions – Ill-wishing neighbours can cause you harm by placing sand or broken needles in fornt of your house. A mullah, or any old person, can help to avert the evil eye or bad luck, cure the sick, mend a relationship, and so on, by reading a prayer in Arabic.
- Seven Fathers – In Kazakh culture, knowledge of one’s own ancestry is paramount. You know who you are, and you know that you are Kazakh if you are able to recount at least seven generations of your paternal ancestors. In the past this was how people in Kazakhstan would define themselves. A male ancestor who is seven generation away from a senior living relative gives a name to a sub-clan (el, in Kazakh). The el is part of a wider clan (ru), Clans are united into a tribe (taypa), and tribes are grouped into a tribal confederation (zhuz).
- Ulken-Kishi – A widely known Kazakh proverb says: “if a senior person comes to your house, serve them food; if a younger person comes, find them work.”
- Terendez – Observed the day before Valentine’s Day, Terendez is a celebration for forty days after Jesus’ birth. The faithful of Armenia light candles in church and take the consecrated light back to their homes. The real fun of Terendez celebrations comes from the borrowed pagan traditions,for this is a time to “jump the fire”. The fire – a pagan symbol of warmth and renewal – is lit, and newly married or engaged couples are encouraged to jump through it to ensure their fertility.
- A tip for Tipping – Tipping in Armenia usually starts from the time you arrive at the airport. If someone offers to carry your luggage, they’ll expect a tip. Your taxi drivers and waiters will also expect about 10 to 15 percent of the bill. And yes, as a foreigner, you are expected to tip often and well!
- Blushes Spared – The way of asking for a woman’s hand still involves the family of the would-be groom visiting her parents, where they are served traditional tea. Whether the tea is sweetened or not signals to the visitors if the woman’s family is willing to join their kin. If, for whatever reason, the answer is a “no,” the tea is not sweetened and both families are spared the humiliation of direct rejection.
- Gismet – Azerbaijanis rarely talk about the future without adding “Insh-Allah” or “God willing!”. Most Azerbaijanis are highly fatalistic and firmly believe that personal will is only applicable when destiny is benevolent. Inexorable fate is not subject to change – everyone has their gismet (fate) predetermined by the higher powers.
- Omens – If you drop a fork, there will be an unexpected visitor knocking at your door.
If you spill some salt, there will be a fight; you need to laugh out loud to prevent it.
- Uckho – Making friends in Georgia is easy. Most locals are welcoming as hospitality is a core value of their society. The word Uckho means “foreign” in Georgian, but the term also indicates “interesting,” “special,” or “rare.”
- Superstitions – Ill-wishing neighbours can cause you harm by placing sand or broken needles in front of your house.
A mullah, or any old person, can help to avert the evil eye or bad luck, cure the sick, mend a relationship, and so on, by reading a prayer in Arabic.
To find out more about the unique countries and cultures that make up Central Asia, head to our Asia area page.