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Travelling to Turkey

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1.       slavica
814 posts
 12 Jul 2005 Tue 01:56 am

http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/TravelDetails/WomenTravelers/index.html )

“What can I do to avoid occasional unpleasantness?

As in other Mediterranean countries with similar cultures, you should observe local customs.

In Turkey, as in many other countries, social encounters between men and women who are not relatives or close friends are conducted much more formally than they might be in Europe or--especially--Australia, Canada, or the USA. Also, this formality is maintained for a much longer time.

How can I be 'more formal'?

Dress neatly and act reserved. Be pleasant, but don't smile readily at men you don't know, even when conducting business (registering at a hotel, taking a taxi ride, etc). Be correct and formal, even on the third and fourth encounter. If a man responds by being overly friendly, you should be overly formal. Keep control of the situation, keep it on your terms.

Why can't I just be the way I normally am? Why do I have to do things differently?

Unfortunately, European and American movies, TV programs, magazines, books--and especially fantasy pornography--often portray 'Western' women as 'loose,' if not downright promiscuous: they go out to clubs and bars on their own, they talk to men to whom they have not been introduced, they even sleep with men they've known for only a short time and have no intention of marrying.

It's true of some Western women, so a Turkish man may assume that it's true of any particular woman--you, for example. Like any Western man, if he's attracted to you he may give it a try and see what happens.

Many Western women smile readily, at anyone. It's looked upon as good manners to smile and be cheerful. Turkish women, who act more formal, don't usually smile at an unfamiliar man until they feel assured that the smile won't be misinterpreted as a come-on. Thus, when a Turkish woman smiles at a man, it means she is willing to be more friendly. It's a calculated escalation of interest, not just part of a cheerful attitude.

So if you smile at a Turkish man just to be pleasant, he might interpret it to mean that you're interested in being even more friendly……”




Nixy liked this message
2.       admin
753 posts
 14 Jul 2005 Thu 04:51 am

Nobody replied to this message, so I guess I should say something. In Turkey, women are usually more reserved compared to women in some western countries. It is not dangerous to smile, of course, but it might sometimes give the impression that you are interested in the person you are smiling at. So, you should try to be more serious when you feel like your smile and good manners are misunderstood. But there is no reason to think that it is dangerous to smile

3.       slavica
814 posts
 14 Jul 2005 Thu 06:48 pm

Thanks, your explanation is much better and more realistic then text taken from “TURKEY TRAVEL PLANNER”
Actually, I personally find that text insulting, equally for western women and turkish men, that's the reason I posted it.
I'm also from traditional society, and I have understanding for manners like that, but I can imagine how can react classic western woman reading advice like "don't smile readily at men you don't know, even when conducting business (registering at a hotel, taking a taxi ride, etc)".
O.k. Next time I will think twice before I smile!
It was a joke, of course – I already said that I didn't have any unpleasantness being in Turkey, although I smiled a lot, so it means that I probably found balance between my natural manners and local customs.
Anyway, thanks again for your explanation, not only because of me, but because western-western women, planing to travel to Turkey

4.       Lyndie
968 posts
 08 Sep 2005 Thu 02:39 am

I found this topic fascinating.

In my experience, it depends on where you go as to how you behave.

For example in the tourist resorts, smiles and even kissing (on both cheeks when you greet someone you know) are not necessarily misunderstood. The men who work in these areas are familiar with the informalities of European women and are pretty good at 'reading' the body language of the tourists. You can pretty much wear whatever you like, go topless on the beach, dance provocatively anything, and you will be ok.(although I have seen some outrageous behaviour and language frowned upon - not my own behaviour i hasten to add)

But, in areas which are not tourist areas then I think it is respectful to be more formal, wear more modest clothes and generally behave with dignity, this is especially true if you are the guest of a Turkish family.

For example, i have friends in a small town, Ayvalik, which does not have many tourists and those tourists that are there are generally Turkish people. I would behave very differently there to say Icmeler. I would not wear clothes that showed the tatoo on my back. I would not smile at men or boys in shops or restaurants and I would not wear clothes with low cut plunging fronts. Partly because in places like that lack of formality would be misunderstood and also because it would embarrass my friends. Small towns in Turkey are very 'gossipy' places. If you behave well, try to speak turkish, conform to the social behaviours, your friends would be proud of you.

I cooked an English meal for my friend and his family when I stayed and his mother taught me the order in which to serve the guests. The elderly uncle first, because of his gender and age, then my own husband because of his gender and he was a special guest. After that the aunt because she was the next guest, then my friends mother because she was the next oldest person, then my friend because he was the next eldest and a man, the young female cousin was last. Normally if I hadn't cooked and been serving I would have been served after my husband because I was the next most important guest. This way might seem a little old fashioned if you are european, it is basically the way we would do things in England 30 or 40 years ago, but I found it quite pleasant. Everyone know their place somehow, and serving the oldest person first is just plain respectful in my opinion.

I particularly like the way that young men when introduced to you, will kiss the back of your hand and then press it to their forehead. This is a great sign of respect and if young people do this to you in a tourist resort it is a sign that they respect you very much, because although this is a normal behaviour amongst turkish people it is unusual for a tourist to be treated this way.

Turkish people are also in my experience very formal in their speech. When you greet a person they will always ask you how your are and expect you to respond in a similar way, you can never hurry a Turk if you go into a shop and intend to make a purchase or do business of some kind, you will generally sit down, be offered tea, talk about various small subjects before you get down to the real point of your business. This can seem a little funny, but I find this enchanting. It took me over 45 minutes to arrange a small jewellery repair in the summer this year and a similar time when I went back to collect my bracelet. I also bought a small gold chain, but I only spent a very small amount of money, nevertheless my entire 'business took over one hour, 4 cups of tea, a long conversation about respective families and the weather. Very pleasant indeed.

Another point to remember is the Turkish people I know and have met regard eating as being very very personal and it is very very rude to interrupt someone who is eating their meal. Turkish people will never impose themselves on you when you are eating and they also don't expect you to do this to them either. It is different if you are joining the person for the meal. But I would never approach someone who was eating, however well I knew them unless they invited me. If you go into a shop and the shopkeeper is eating you should always apologise for interrupting him, even if you are going into his shop to buy something from him. This is also something that europeans might find a little strange and unfamiliar. If when you apologise you also say 'Gecmis Olsun' (enjoy your meal) he will like you even more.

I am of course speaking from an English perspective, it may be that some of you come from countries that are equally formal and courteous in some respects and I would love to hear about this.

Generally, English people in Turkey embarrass me by their lack of good manners and respectful behaviour
Oooh didn't I talk for a long time.

ümitli and Laila65 liked this message
5.       catwoman
8933 posts
 08 Sep 2005 Thu 04:05 am

It is interesting indeed how you perceive these cultural customs and restrictions Lyndie. I am not Turkish, I am Polish, and although there are many differences between Polish and Turkish cultures, there are also some fundamental similarities, like the ones you described. However, I never felt good about them or found them exciting at all. I remember how I used to feel treated unfairly, how older people were given credit just for their age, although they were wrong and unjust in their judgment almost all the time. I remember having felt that young people are not given enough respect, no wonder that they rebel as soon as they can! I could go on and on, but the point is that I suppose some 'insiders' don't feel as good about these cultural customs and conservative communities in which 'everybody has his pre-arranged place'.

6.       bliss
900 posts
 08 Sep 2005 Thu 04:08 am

It was very interesting to "listen" to you.Thank you for sharing.

7.       Lyndie
968 posts
 08 Sep 2005 Thu 08:49 pm

I think you are absolutely right Catwoman. There is always a downside to these things. I have lots of thoughts and experiences to share about these things too. Maybe I feel another essay coming on......

8.       bliss
900 posts
 09 Sep 2005 Fri 01:47 am

Thank you , Lyndie for your post. It is good to learn about cultural customs.
I used to live in Cechnya, it was part of Russia. I was a kid and did not understand many things at that time but never could accept all the things I saw there. Lynde's post brought all the memories back.
My dad was a dentist and had many friends among native people. They were working together and I could see them very often in our house. One thing was common for all of them. The respect for elders. It was good thing of course. But like Catwoman said the older people were given credit just for their age not for the knowledge of life or good judgment. I remember my classmates jealousy of my relations with my parents, especially with my dad.
There was unwritten law in their families. When the father was home it looked like nobody else was home. They did not have right to disturb him. I've noticed that the married son never called his wife by her name in front of his father. He never could play or talk to his own children. Kids were closer to their mother. If they had to discuss something with their father, their mother had to do it for them.
Women never could eat with men. They could only serve them and eat in separate room.
My classmates liked to come to our house because there were less restrictions. They liked how my parents were interacted to each other and us. My dad could spend hours explaining biology and chemistry to them. Could talk and discuss many things with us, which they did not do with their own fathers.
It was very sad to see all those things.
I can't say anything about Turkey because I've never been there but my experience in Checheno-Ingushetia was not very good one. The young people had to live their lives by prearranged plans of their elders. I don't understand this. For me family means love and respect to each other. Everyone has the right to live his own life as he wishes. Do respect elders but not be a prisoner. We all respect older people and I wish they can respect us too.
I think they don't have to forget that they were in same shoe, when they were young, and felt same way, as we do now. It is only my opinion.(Sorry if something is wrong.)
I wish you luck , Lyndie. I will read your essay with great interest.
Regards Bliss

9.       catwoman
8933 posts
 09 Sep 2005 Fri 04:09 pm

Wow, the last two posts were really good and intense. It looks like so many distant from each other and culturally completely different places on Earth have quite a lot in common! That is very amazing I think.

10.       Deli_kizin
6376 posts
 04 Apr 2006 Tue 12:18 am

I'm really tired now, so im gonna hop onto bed, but i'll definitely bookmark this thread and read it when my illness is over!

I remember Kadir telling me not to smile around me too much, as it might give people a weird idea, especially if I'm smiling at other people while holding his hand But i couldn't stop it, as the sun was shining, i was holding my love's hand and i was in a gorgeous city! What else was there to do but smile

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