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things I’ve learned from istanbul

January 8, 2013

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Istanbul quickly became one of my favorite cities in the world and not just for the sites. I learned so much about life here and found many ways to live and act that I could take away fans carry over into my everyday habits. I wanted to share these for future travelers and encourage you to see Istanbul.

-Turkish people are very friendly and hospitable.

From the moment I arrived, people were willing to help me with directions or show me to the best restaurant, even if we didn’t speak the same language. People went out of their way on my stay here to show me all the beauty that is Istanbul. As a solo traveler, it was a treat to get several inside views to this amazing city and gain some great friends in turkey.

-Time is not going anywhere.

Turkish people although very modern, enjoy their time. One day, I spent four hours in a cafe just chatting with a friend and having a couple cay, Turkish tea. Another day, I went to a restaurant alone and sat for several hours having just dinner and a couple beers. Although the restaurant was busy and turning customers away, I was never rushed or asked to leave. People here enjoy and embrace face to face time, whereas in the United States I feel lucky to get even an hour of my closest friends time.

-Everything is negotiable.

Besides mainstream restaurants, all prices in turkey can be debated. In Istanbul there are thousands of deals made everyday and it is all situational. For example, a cab ride for an obvious tourist who doesn’t speak Turkish may be 30tl while only 10tl for a local. My new scarf may have a starting price of 25tl but if I throw in a pair of earrings it may be talked down to 25tl for both. This competitive way of thinking in markets is interesting and although it may seem unfair or skewed in ways, I find it oddly charming.

-I like beer.

Efes, to be specific. At home, where cocktails aren’t usually too expensive, I tend to opt against beer. However, in turkey where cocktails are three times the cost of a beer, efes was my go to. A Turkish beer, it tasted oddly like coors light and water, making it quite easy to drink on my cheap budget.

-The best way to get off the tourist path is ask for suggestions.

My favorite meal in Istanbul came after I asked a local working at my hostel where to find a good meal. She gave me directions to a restaurant with no listed name that you took an antique elevator to the sixth floor of a building to reach. As I entered, I found myself one of no other English speakers but a welcoming staff. The restaurant was a local favorite, ending up with over an hour wait for a table by the time I was done. It was a family business I learned as the owners grandfather sat down and shared a few laughs with me, bringing me several free dishes to try along with my dinner. Without asking, there is absolutely no way I would have found this hidden gem that I visited for dinner yet another night as well.

-There are many ways to communicate outside of speaking.

Although this may seem obvious, when you are living in this situation for a couple weeks, you start to realize how important body and face gestures can be. Whether just simply pointing to something on a menu or reading someone’s expression as a foreigner walks by on the streets, body language is essential to communication.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. David Gonzalez permalink
    January 8, 2013 9:09 am

    Great post sassy one! Happy you are getting to fully absorb the culture and notice all these details, it’s a great read. The time is not going and your beer drinking analysis were definitely my favorites.
    Keep taking those rad pictures, enjoy!

  2. Niki permalink
    January 8, 2013 7:35 pm

    These are some great lessons!

  3. January 9, 2013 12:19 am

    Amazing things to learn and listen over the Atlantic! Orange juice stacks and we love art are my favorites!

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