How to tell if you're Uygur
Note: Like most of these, this is subject to change as new information turns up. You might also look at How to tell if you're Turkestani to see the similarities and differences of their closest neighbour.
If you're Uygur...
- You believe you live in the greatest country on earth, with the highest culture, best music, most beautiful women and most stunning scenery. Anyone who doesn’t agree has either never been to Uyguristan, or is a confirmed idiot.
- You know how football and hockey are played, and if you have a taste for international sports, you might add rugby or volleyball. Your greatest passion, however, is reserved for traditional Central Asian sports: archery, traditional combat forms, kökbörü and wrestling (both horseback and unmounted forms). You can argue intricate points about their rules, and you know all about the best players of each. If you're female, you probably follow sports to a degree, especially Ring Game, even if it was invented by a Turkestani.
- You know how to play Timür chess and Western chess, possibly equally well. It is a point of pride with you, and gambling on local chess matches is something you've probably done.
- You count yourself unfortunate if you get less than three weeks of vacation a year.
- You go to church, mosque or temple, depending on your religious community, most weeks, or at least once a month.
- You are certainly not a vegetarian. Even the Manesian Elect bend that rule.
- It is not uncommon for your children to be named by their paternal grandparents.
- You were probably delivered by a midwife. Your own children might be delivered by a midwife or by a OB-GYN.
If you died tonight...
- You believe in God and his angels. More, you believe in Satan and his countless servants, and in various kinds of local spirits that can be helpful, troublesome or both, depending on how you treat them.
- You are used to having a number of different religions available to choose from. Most people stay with the faith they've been brought up with, and as long as the status quo is preserved and the different religions don't start to butt heads, you’re ok with the differences.
- You have never heard of Creationism.
- You would most likely be buried if you're Christian or Muslim, cremated if Manesian, Buddhist or Zoroastrian. In any case, your family will set up some kind of monument, depending on their wealth ranging from simple cover-stone to ornate mini-mausoleum.
- Your secret ambition is that people would visit your grave and leave little notes asking for things after you've died. That would mean you were in some way important, in the eyes of both God and men.
- You think of street food like lağman (home-made thick spaghetti noodles) shashliq (kebabs), samsa (fried meat pastries), manty (boiled meat dumplings) and so on as cheap food. Your wife, and especially your mother, can cook the same stuff much better, though.
- You probably own a telephone and a TV; if you are without one it will probably be the telephone. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom, though in some cases this may be in an outhouse in your yard. You do your laundry in a machine, unless you're a farmer which you're not but some of your relatives are. You don't kill your own food, except at Qorban Ayd (for Muslims). You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a low table, sitting cross-legged (if you're a man) or kneeling (if you're a woman) on a mattress or cushion.
- You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food. Those are the sorts of things that only a Chinese would eat, and it's well-known that they will eat anything. You claim never to have eaten pork, but you're probably lying. You consider horse and camel to be normal foodstuffs, but you're more than a little suspicious of fish (unless you actually live on a large river). You wonder how nomads get enough vitamins to be healthy, eating nothing but meat like (you think) they do.
- A bathroom has a bathtub or shower in it, usually both-in-one. Toilets are in the water closet, which might well be outside the house if you live in the country.
- It seems natural to you that the telephone system, railroad, airline, and power company are run by the state. These are public services, after all, so it is the responsibility of a proper government to oversee them.
- You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones work. Getting a new phone can be something of a big deal.
- The train system is alright, but very crowded. The national system works fairly well (is rarely very late), but the local lines can be good or terrible or anything in between.
- You find a single-party system to be natural, and can barely understand how multi-party governments (like Turkestan’s) can function.
- You are a nationalist. Possibly in your lifetime (or certainly in your father’s) you’ve gone from a situation where that was a Bad Thing to a situation where that was a Good Thing to the current situation where you’re not sure.
- "Black" and "white" are not really races to you. The former is something you've heard about rather than seen, while the latter means Russians. When you think of race, you think more along lines of specific ethnic group: Uygurs, Han, Russians, Tajiks, Tibetans etc.
- You think most problems could be solved if only people did what they were told. You're not terribly optimistic about that, though.
- You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had trouble with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take him or her to court. But you don't understand the courts and getting a result can take years of pain and trouble, so you'd try to find some other solution.
- You respect someone who speaks Arabic, Brithenig, English, Japanese or French- but you very likely don't speak them well enough yourself to communicate with a monolingual foreigner. You can speak the national language Uygur, and your Russian is passable, but beyond that, you don’t speak much in the way of foreign languages unless you are from an ethnic minority.
- As far as the other Turkic languages go, Üzbek is at least understandable, but Qazaq and Kırğız you can’t make much headway in. You consider all other Turkic languages to be bastardized versions of Uygur anyway, and just wish everyone would speak your original Turkic language properly, like they should.
- You think a tax level of 50% is scandalously high, but on the other hand folks who pay that much still have more than you do.
- School is free through 12th grade; they are run by the state, of course, though many teachers are also serving members of the different religious communities. Education has long been the province of the different religions in Central Asia, and you don’t see any reason why that should change.
- Universities are paid for by the state, of course. University study is (normally, and excluding post-graduate courses) three to five years long.
Everybody knows that...
- Mustard comes in jars, when it comes in anything. It's a foreign substance and you're a bit suspicious of it. Shaving cream comes in jars. Milk comes in bottles and is labelled as to whether it's from a cow, horse or camel.
- Dates are normally day/month/year (18/08/49), except that you'd normally write the month and year out in full (18 Tamuz, Buqa yıl 1949) - and you know what happened on that date.
- The decimal point is a dot. Commas are used to separate thousands and millions.
- A billion is a million millions.
- The Second Great War or Great Oriental War (you’ve never been sure where to place the Central Asian War as it was sort of an overlap of the two) was a war fought by the dastardly Chinese against the heroic Uygur liberation forces, who were eventually, with the powerful aid of their noble Russian allies, to throw off Chinese rule and become independent.
- You expect marriages to be arranged by the parents of both parties and see no conflict between this and them being made for love. Naturally, a good parent will take their son or daughter's feelings into close consideration, but one's parents are less likely to be swept away into some nightmare of an unsuitable match. You remember your (great-)grandfather talking about men kidnapping a girl into marriage (à la here's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), and you're thankful you live in today's more enlightened times. If you're a woman, make that really thankful. A man gets only one wife at a time, but you're aware that this wasn't always the case.
- If a man has sex with another man, he is a homosexual and almost certainly foreign. He is quite possibly insane, certainly so if he admits to his actions.
- You call anyone older or higher-status than you siz, up to and including your parents. The informal san is reserved for people of your own age or younger, and those of lower status. The idea of calling your parents by the informal pronoun is shockingly disrespectful.
- If you're a woman, you NEVER go to the beach topless. It's entirely possible you've never seen the sea except on TV or film.
- A hotel room has a private bath. If it is a good hotel.
- You'd rather have a film be dubbed than subtitled. The dubbing has to be truly awful for the reverse to become true.
- You've heard that in other countries you can transact business or deal with the government without paying bribes, and you're not really sure how that could possibly work. It's the grease that keeps the wheels turning, don't you know?
- If a politician has been cheating on his wife, you consider it normal. If he’s stupid enough to get caught, that’s another matter.
- Just about any large store will take your ATM card, if the clerk can figure out how to do it.
- A company can fire just about anybody it wants, but normally has to provide evidence that the person was more than usually corrupt or lazy.
- If Muslim or Manesian, you probably make a show of not drinking alcohol, especially around Ramazan. The rest of the year you say you don't drink, but have had more than one hangover in your life.
- Meat (especially lamb) and bread are something you eat every day. In good times, every meal.
- Bread comes in large flat round loaves.
- Chinese, Russian and Turkish foods are foreign, but easy enough to find. French, Italian or Arabic food is impossible to find outside of the major cities, but easy inside. You have heard of "sushi" but never tried it. *You've heard that Labour Day is on the First of May, but it isn’t anything you concern yourself with. It’s one of those strange foreign Communist holidays.
World civilisation? What’s so “civilised” about the rest of the world?
- You've probably seen War in the Heavens, Casablanca and Snow White (and others by Ditzenø). If you're under forty, add Amalia of Castreleon, Gigantic! and Kawars. Most of the rest of what you’ve seen has either been locally produced in Central Asia, or Russian.
- You know NoMoreEagleZ and ABBA, especially the latter (the former being banned suring the Snorist era), but you also enjoy Western-type classical music. Your first love, however, is traditional Uygur folk music, especially the Muqam.
- You count on adequate medical treatment, but expect to wait a long time unless it is an emergency. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other tropical diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies. You think dying at 55 would be a tragedy, but living past your eighties is something you hope for without much expectation.
- You went over Central Asian history in school, as well as some Russian and Chinese. Not much European, Middle Eastern or South Asian history, though, and no African or American history at all, unless you specialised in the subject at an advanced level.
- You expect the military to defend the country, and to support the government but not to get too directly involved in politics. You probably can name the Supreme Commander and the heads of both the Army and the Air Force, but you wouldn’t expect to see the heads of the two forces making political speeches, for example. The Supreme Commander, on the other hand, makes speeches all the time. Sometimes you think (very quietly) that he spends more time making patriotic speeches than studying battle plans.
- Your country has been conquered by everyone: Chinese (several times), Arabs, Mongols, Chinese (some more times), and possibly Russians, if you believe all that foreign propaganda. Now you’re independent, though, and you are going to make good and sure you stay that way.
- You're used to some variety of choices for most things you buy.
- You measure things in Central Asian measurements and have vaguely heard that most countries in the West use some weird system of arms or feet or whatever.
- Comics basically come in three varieties: newspaper comics, magazines (pretty much all featuring foreign superheroes) and books (original stories or adaptations of classics).
- The people who appear on popular television programmes are mostly entertainers, musicians and dancers, with the occasional politician or other strange individual thrown in for good measure.
- You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights if someone is around. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will pray quickly and then cross the road without making eye contact with any drivers. Some of them think that if you acknowledge you’ve seen them, it becomes your responsibility to keep out of their way.
- You poke fun at the Turkestanis for various things – their strange government, their odd languages, their insistence that they are the centre of Turkic civilisation (rather than the Uygurs, of course). Üzbeks are all money-obsessed traders, Tajiks are just generally weird, and nomads (Qazaqs, Turcomans and Kırğız) are all more than a little slow of thought. You don’t poke fun at the Russians. Only Turkestanis do that.
- The police are armed, sometimes with submachine guns. Except for the ceremonial guards, who carry bows and arrows. They know how to use them, too – archery is a national sport!
- If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks but it doesn't take a lot away, especially if she's older.
- The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.
- There are parts of the large cities you definitely want to avoid at night. Or during the day, for that matter (like jail). Some parts of the mountains too (see Satan above). There are bears, wolves and the occasional snow leopard, too, of course, but it's the spirits that are really scary.
Things Could Be Worse
- You feel that your kind of people isn't being listened to enough in Ürümçi. But you’re certainly not stupid enough to say that too loudly or intently.
- You hope not see both inflation and unemployment to be very high (say, over 25%) at the same time.
- You care very much what family someone comes from, especially if they want to date someone in your family.
- You can name your own ancestors on both sides back at least four generations, and your father's probably at least seven.
- The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children. The youngest may get the house as a matter of tradition, as they are the one who has had to care for their parents in their old age.
- You think of opera and ballet as good, uplifting entertainments. But it's likely you don’t go to see many plays.
- Tea houses, qımızhanas and cafes are a favorite place to relax with friends. Bars are only in cities and for pretentious young people or foreigners.
- Christmas is in the winter. If you're Christian (almost certainly Assyrian or Religion of Light), you spend it with your family and friends, have at least one large feast, and give presents. You've heard of Christmas trees and think it looks pagan and probably dangerous; trees just might be host to some kind of spirit that's liable to make your life a misery for chopping down its home.
- You'd couldn't name either the capitals or the leaders of all the nations of Europe, or of Asia, for that matter. The former Riga Pact countries and the nations immediately bordering your own you could probably do.
- You've never left a message at the beep. You consider answering machines to be unnerving, and possibly slightly rude. You'd much rather just not get through.
- Official taxis are generally operated by immigrants or students. The former are better drivers. However, in most of the country you can just flag down a passing car and negotiate a price with the driver.
- You are in favor of welfare and unemployment payments. These have increased lately, and overall you think that is a Good Thing. You would hope never to need either one yourself, because it would be humiliating.
- If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a master's first.
- There sure are a lot of bureacrats.
Space and time
- If you have an appointment, you'll treat it as normal if you're up to fifteen minutes late. Up to 30 minutes and you'll make excuses (usually about either a family crisis or a guest dropping in unexpectedly). This will be accepted, but over that and people begin to get antsy.
- If you're talking to someone you don't know well, you get uncomfortable if he or she gets within two feet of you. Handshakes are performed at arm's length, usually with one hand over the other person's. However, you treat it as normal if a same-sex friend holds your hand or embraces you in public.
- Aboard public transport, you expect to be crowded. These are all strangers, so it's in a different category to someone you're talking to.
- Showing up precisely on time for something is insulting or ignorant. You know they won't be ready.
- Of course you haggle when buying goods, or nearly anything that isn't a large department store. It is only polite, after all. Going through a few motions is all that is required however. Genuine haggling is an art.
- You are allowed to simply show up at someone's place when it's a friendly acquaintence. They will insist on offering you refereshment, which it is polite to refuse twice before accepting. People do not have to invite each other over - except if a principal meal is involved. If you invite others to visit you, then you are expected to offer food, and certainly meat (unless you have invited a Manesian Elect, and sometimes even then). It is polite if they bring something (flowers in odd-numbered groups are usual; even numbers of flowers imply that someone has died).
- When you negotiate, you probably play a part because that helps grease the social machinery. Increasingly some people just get straight to the point and that is somewhat rude.
- If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself for as long as it takes to conduct your business. Plan on at least an hour, the first fifteen to twenty minutes of which will be social interaction unrelated to the matter at hand.