We yabancılar get plenty of comedic mileage about what we see as the superstitiousness of Turks, especially when it comes to weather, health, and children -- from the waiter who solemnly warned my friend that she shouldn't let anyone other than herself or her husband kiss their baby on his face lest he develop allergies to the otherwise intelligent-seeming woman who was convinced that walking around barefoot while pregnant will result in a gassy child. And of course there are the old favorites about air conditioners giving you colds and sitting on bare ground freezing your ovaries.
But when I recently rearranged my furniture and then woke up the next morning with a stuffy nose and a scratchy throat, what did I blame it on? Having moved my bed so it was under one of my leaky windows. Now that's assimilation in action.
A discussion a few months ago about these types of beliefs led, as so many discussions often do, to some Googling, which revealed that there is indeed a scientific link, if not a full underpinning, to such ideas. While exposure to cold cannot technically give you a cold, British researchers showed that it can cause someone with a latent infection to develop symptoms:
When colds are circulating in the community many people are mildly infected but show no symptoms. If they become chilled this causes a pronounced constriction of the blood vessels in the nose and shuts off the warm blood that supplies the white cells that fight infection. The reduced defences in the nose allow the virus to get stronger and common cold symptoms develop. Although the chilled subject believes they have 'caught a cold' what has in fact happened is that the dormant infection has taken hold.Now perhaps I am indeed becoming too Turkish, but this distinction pretty much seems like a semantic one to me. If I "have" a cold, but am not sniffling, sneezing, coughing, or any of the rest, well, for all intents and purposes, I don't actually have a cold, now do I? And if avoiding catching a chill keeps from developing those symptoms, well, that seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do. I'm not moving my bed back, though. One has to draw the line somewhere.