So as I write this, I am happily awaiting the arrival of my mother and my grandmother (mother's side) to come to Izmir this Wednesday. ONLY 2 FULL DAYS! Yes, That was needed, as I have not seen any of my family for nearly a year! In the midst of their packing, they constantly ask me how to pronounce names of my family and hello, how are you, and other basics. They also ask me about some normal to things to blend in. Although I am not Turkish, I am now at the point of being able to tell who is a tourist, and its very fun and down right cool to now know. I mean we all are tourists somewhere, and after living in a foreign place for nearly a year, I find it so cool to point out what I probably used to look like!
So what I can do is write a few recommendations or notes of how to at least slightly blend in with the Turks; you know, after your outfit, hair and skin color is taken out of the options to change.
- Do not rely on maps! As a traveler, everyone has maps, right? Well, if you have a map for Turkey, many times they will be out of date or even completely wrong. You know how a map shows street names, numbers and all of that? Yeh. Don't come to Turkey expecting there to be street signs on every street corner like there are in United States for instance. Finding a road sign is like finding a needle in a hay stack, they are there, but trying to spot them takes up half your travels. My best recommendation is to ask the nearest market owner or people on the street. This is the easiest way to find your way, and also possibly even learn something or get a complimentary treat (Tea, gum, coffee, etc.) Which brings me to my next point.
- Do not think that Turkish people do not know or speak English. If you go somewhere playing a game of charades or flipping through your fresh new Turkish-English phrase dictionary, you might get some innocent laughs and be asked to just simply ask in English. Although sometimes there is a huge language barrier, you will be very surprised how even simple English can help you on your travels.
- When crossing streets in Turkey, run like there is a huge animal chasing you! Turks are known as very hospitable and polite people; however, something happens like a morphing transformation when they get behind the wheel of a car. It does not matter if the cross light says walk, look left and right before crossing, and while crossing, keep your eyes open for those little moped motorcycles. This and only this may be your only life-sentence while in Turkey, so I repeat, cross streets with speed and caution!
- When entering the house of a Turk, take off your shoes. This is just a simple cultural respect. Some families even take their shoes off before even entering the house. Do not be surprised either if you are handed a pair of slippers to wear around the house, they want you to be comfortable. So after entering the house, take off your shoes, and if they say it is not a problem (as sometimes, this is not a problem), then leave them on as you wish.
- Never disrespect bar owners, waiters, taxi drivers, or hotel receptionists. In general you should show respect anyways, as it is plain courtesy. However there are those times when something goes wrong: the wrong meal, bad hotel room, the taxi takes you to the wrong place, etc. When these instances come up approach them calmly, and I guarantee they will handle the situation to the best of their ability (Hospitality, AGAIN) and you may even get a free meal, taxi ride, or discounted hotel room. Turks will do ANYTHING to make you feel welcome, happy and relaxed. While talking about respect, never, ever, ever, ever disrespect the name of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Do not even test what will happen, Please!
- Be ready to eat when coming to Turkey. Again and again, I write on my blog about the Turkish hospitality, and it is so evident when you get here. When at a meal, they will push food on you over and over again. Sometimes, if you are not used to it, it can be overbearing, but they do not want you going hungry, EVER. It is considered rude if you do not at least try what they offer you, but if you are genuinely full, just put your hand over your chest and say tesekkurler (thank you). Turks are persistent with hospitality and will even give you their own bed if all the beds are taken up.
- When getting on a public bus, hold on tight. Turkish transportation offers many options from Dolmus (mini-bus), taxi, taxi dolmus, bus, metro, Vapur (Ferry), and metro-bus (Istanbul). Generally buses come every 15-25 minutes, ferries and metros have a set schedules, and the dolmus comes at random in their designated routes. Just a simple tip, though, when getting on a public bus, hold on tight, because the bus drivers love to drive, turn, and stop with speed. If you are elderly, individuals will give up their seat for you to sit in mild comfort. If you are young or capable of standing, be courteous and let the elderly or disabled have your seat.
- Dont assume that you will come here and wear a turban. While some Turks prefer to cover their hair, you are not forced, nor inclined to wear one. Turkey is secular, and you can practice however you wish. If you are on the West, it is very modern and you may not even notice the difference, while the East has more conservative individuals. When touring mosques however it is required to cover your hair out of respect to the people actually practicing that religion.
- Be prepared for a Turkish man to say I love you upon the first night of meeting. Turks are very romantic, and also have a different view on love. There is no like or dislike of something, it is always love or hate. So when a Turk says he loves you upon meeting you, this does not necessarily mean he is in love with you, it just means he has a deep liking for you. Turks are very poetic and romantic, but also very jealous lovers. So be prepared to be swept off your feet, but I wouldnt recommend this in your itinerary.
- Share everything. Just as Turks are hospitable to you, do yourself and them a favor and be the same back. For example, after buying a pack of gum, a bottle of water, or cigarettes, offer them some before taking some for yourself! You can also leave an open pack of whatever on the table, for people to have at their desire, dont buy something and stuff it in your pocket or purse for yourself. This thing is so simple, but will prove that you are just as much Turkish as the natives.
These were just a few that I thought of from the top of my head, but if you want to be as Turkish as possible check out some books at the library and listen to some music to feel the heart, soul, and peace of the Turkish individuals.
Everyone enjoy your stay in Turkey and in advance, Turkiye'ye Hosgeldin.
~Welcome to Turkey~