Funny Stories About Being Hit On By The Turkish
Traveling alone as a female means that, whether you like it or not, you get a lot of attention.
Any girl will attest that unwanted attention from men is at best, annoying, and at worst, infuriating. However, I was fascinated by how men from different cultures approach women and turned my annoyance/infuriance (not a word but should be) into a social experiment.
And so my “Funny Stories About Being Hit On By Europeans – Arranged By Country” series was born.
This particular article is about the quirky ways in which the Turkish try to get the attention of foreign women.
Please note that this is a meant to be a silly, tongue-in-cheek article about candid observations I made during a solo trot across Europe and not meant to be of any offense to anyone. Also note that, as with all sociological studies, generalizations are made.
Turkey is a predominately Muslim country. It was also one of the first Muslim countries I have ever visited so it was interesting to watch the dynamics between genders in the city of Istanbul. For the most part, men dress as you would expect them to anywhere else in Europe. Women, on the other hand, always had at least their legs covered, regardless of temperature.
The Turkish are a very friendly bunch. English fluency drops the further east you go in Europe and by the time you hit Turkey, most people do not speak any English. Despite some Western beliefs that Turkey is a dangerous place, I found Istanbul to be very safe and the people very welcoming.
The best/worst of Turkish pickup lines
I read up on safety in Istanbul was before I decided to book a ticket because I was warned by friends from the Western world to be wary of Turkey. All of the articles I read said that Turkey, or at least Istanbul, is perfectly fine.
During my research, I stumbled across an article that said Turkish pickup lines are the absolute best/worst.
I then got to experience it for myself.
One hot day when I was exploring the Old City of Istanbul, I heard a voice behind me say, “Excuse me miss, you dropped something.”
I turned around and there he was: a young Turkish man on one knee clutching his chest.
“My heart!” he exclaimed.
Further down the street, I walked by another Turkish man. This one came up to me, opened his arms, and said with a pleasant smile, “Are you looking for me? Because here I am.”
Where white girls are all named “Jennifer” and “Jenny”
While in Istanbul, I stayed at a hostel in the New City and shared a room with three Australian girls. On the evening of their first day in town, they came back to the hostel and told me that men kept shouting “Jennifer” and “Jenny” at them to try and get their attention.
It’s genius, really.
At some point, Turkish men must have realized that most Americans (which is probably what they assumed my hostel mates to be) are named “Jennifer” or some version thereof. And so they shout the name at groups of Caucasian women hoping one of them is indeed named Jennifer and will turn her head.
Men who don’t stop staring
It’s 35 degrees out. The men of Istanbul are dressed in the same manner as the men in the rest of Europe: a short-sleeved shirt, shorts, and sandals.
Meantime, the women of Istanbul are dressed in long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Many have head scarves. Some are in full burkas. The egalitarian in me is a bit miffed at this reality.
Did I mention it’s 35 degrees out? (I’m Canadian; 35 degrees is extreme for us). It’s also rather humid, therefore the city is so hot and stuffy that I, at multiple points during my time there, had to duck into coffee shops and buy something for the sole sake of cooling down in AC before I fainted from heatstroke.
Being Canadian, I dressed as a normal Canadian woman does in 35 degree weather: shorts, tank top, and sandals. While I didn’t have any problems dressing like this in the rest of Europe, such manner of attire is unsuitable for Turkey.
Every man, and I mean every. single. male. human. in the city stares. And it’s not just a eye-flicker-in-your-direction-as-you-walk-by sort of stare, it’s a full-on spot-you-down-the-street-and-stare-without-breaking-eye-contact-until-you-round-the-corner sort of stare.
At one point, I got so fed up I snapped at one man, “What?! Never seen a woman before?”
He abashedly looked away.
I then went and bought harem pants and a headscarf.
My accidental date with a Turkish tour guide
I had just spent a hot day strolling through Topkapi Palace, the home of Ottoman sultans for over 400 years, and was milling about the air-conditioned gift shop on the way out when a Turkish guy around my age started talking to me. He told me he was a tour guide who recently returned from California to be with his family, that he had just finished his last tour of the day, and began casually telling me interesting stories about the Ottoman Empire.
Then, he said he was heading to the observatory deck at the top of the Istanbul Sapphire, the tallest building in Istanbul, to watch the sun set. “It’s a bit out of the way,” he said, “But it’s the best view in the city. Wanna come?”
“Sure,” I said, unaware of what I was getting myself into. When traveling, people strike up conversations with strangers all the time for the sole sake of making new friends. I assumed that this was the same situation. Being a tour guide, he had a lot of interesting insights into the history and culture of Turkey, all of which I found fascinating.
We took the metro to Levent, one of the main business districts in Istanbul, walked into the mall at the bottom of the Istanbul Sapphire, and approached the ticketing desk.
“I got this,” he said. My stomach began to sink.
We took an elevator up to the observation deck with a group of Bulgarian tourists. The view of Istanbul from the sky was as spectacular as promised.
The tour guide started to talk about the cuisines of Istanbul and the best places to have dinner in the city. My stomach sank deeper.
Then, he gestured to the skyline of Istanbul, awash with the darkening colors of sunset. The city was beginning to light up for the night.
And he said, “This is pretty romantic, isn’t it?”
I started planning my escape. I told him I was going to use the restroom. There was a long line and I didn’t see him when I got out. To be polite, I did a (very quick) circle around the observation area. I still didn’t see him.
So I left.