Typical encounters with local people in Turkey

What to do when meeting local people in Turkey? Time to panic? Not really, on the contrary! Apart from the fact that most locals speak none to very little English, they love to meet people. And Turkish hospitality is legendary!

We’ve said it before in our post about the risks of traveling to Turkey: If you are the “I do not want to meet any local” kind of person, then you’re in trouble when visiting Turkey. Locals LOVE foreigners. And as it turns out, that love is reciprocal after those foreigners return home from their trip. It seems that despite the language barrier, communication is never an issue. Friendships are made, following some fantastic experiences while on the road in Turkey. These are the stories of some fellow travel bloggers, and their (often funny) encounters with local people in Turkey.

Local Vendor Near The Ruins

A local woman near the Aspendos ruins, she was handing out oranges, even if you didn’t buy anything

What are people in Turkey like?

To add to the goodness, in most cases the drivers even offered to pay for some of our meals — which is always a touching feeling and doesn’t happen anywhere in the world.Marco Ferrarese, Monkey Rock World

My Malaysian wife Kit Yeng and I already had a blast and very good experience hitchhiking in Iran as a couple, little did we know that hitchhiking in Turkey would be even better. We’d read a few unpleasant stories but felt these episodes should not scare people from experiencing Turkish “on the road” hospitality. As a rule of thumb, we never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride. Turkish people know very well what sticking a thumb up in the air means! Never were we expected to pay for a ride that’s supposed to be free. To add to the goodness, in most cases the drivers even offered to pay for some of our meals — which is always a touching feeling and doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. One time, we started hitching in Trabzon and quickly got a ride about 70km out of town with a young couple. When they dropped us, it took about 15 minutes to find another car willing to take us on. Our final destination was Ankara, about 800km away from the point we were: perfect coincidence, the driver asked us if that was where we were going. We had no common language but got around by using a translator on our smartphone and hand gestures. I told the driver that I could help him with the driving if he felt tired, and he seemed very pleased to hear that. So much so that, an hour into the drive at the first coffee stop, he just handed me the keys and off we went with me in the driver’s seat! I drove for most of the day, with the car owner sitting next to me in the passenger’s seat, pouring me hot tea whenever I needed. He paid for our lunch, and also went out of his way to get us to our destination in Ankara. That’s what I call “real Turkish hospitality.”

Cengiz, Our Host Inside The Watchtower

Cengiz, serving free tea with a view inside the fire watchtower at Termessos

 

I realized then that our friendship captured an important essence of Turkish culture: high-class hospitality and loyalty. If you’ve got a Turkish friend, then you’ve got a friend for life.Kelsey Çetin, On Her Journey

Turks are notorious for their kindness and hospitality. My favorite “Döner man” is no exception. When I first moved to Turkey in 2013 with a few friends, we would eat at the same döner restaurant by the university campus every week. We helped university students learn English, so we were often around. We met the owner Mehmet, who worked with his brother Ahmet and their mother whose name I cannot remember now. Every week Mehmet loved sitting down with us, practicing his English and asking us how we liked his special sauce. In case you don’t know, döner is a type of thinly sliced meat that is typically either chicken or beef. However, it does not usually come with sauce; that was his specialty. Mehmet seriously served the best döner, and his sauce WAS great! He would always share stories about his family and his young son Mert. One week he invited us over to his home for breakfast, so the four of us Americans went. This was one of my first times entering a Turk’s home, and I had only lived in Turkey for about six months at the time. I’ll never forget how welcoming his family was and how much energy his son Mert had. He brought out his soccer ball to kick around with us and showed us all his toys. Mehmet was not just the guy who served us our delicious chicken döner, but he became a close friend. I realized then that our friendship captured an important essence of Turkish culture: high-class hospitality and loyalty. If you’ve got a Turkish friend, then you’ve got a friend for life.

The Public Boat Returning From The Beach

The Public Boat returning from Iztuzu Beach, the captain was treating all passengers and every person on the jetty with cookies (people in Turkey love sweet stuff)

 

My truck driver somehow convinced them to give us lots of oranges, which they threw through our window while we were both driving along the highway.Jub, Tiki Touring Kiwi

I hadn’t been hitchhiking in Turkey having discovered the cheap internal flights available. But on my journey from Izmir to Cannakale, I just had to experience hitchhiking after all. After a couple of noneventful rides, a truck driver pulled over. He spoke little English (I don’t speak Turkish), but we figured out we were both going to Cannakale and were on our way. There were two awesome moments on this ride. The first happened when we were driving alongside a truck full of oranges. My truck driver somehow convinced them to give us lots of oranges, which they threw through our window while we were both driving along the highway. He then told me to take them all! The second was when he said he wanted to see an old friend and I could come along (it’s amazing what charades can communicate). We pulled over, and the truck driver hadn’t seen one of his best friends for 12 years, it was so cool seeing them so excited. For the next 90 minutes, we sat around and drunk A LOT of tea. I don’t know how they don’t go pee every other minute. I turned them down eventually, as there’s nothing worse than needing the toilet while hitching a ride. The journey took longer than expected thanks to this detour, but it was well worth it.

Sidyma

At Sidyma we were welcomed with tea and snacks by the Muhtar’s wife

 

She insisted on sharing her food with me (really delicious gözleme, which is a great bus snack), and then for the next 2 days, she showed me around her city.Steph, The Mediterranean Traveller

Turkey was the first place I traveled on my own; I was on a trip with friends when I spontaneously canceled a flight home and extended my trip to see the rest of the country. It was the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of solo travel and just how easy and beautiful it is to roam around meeting new people and making new friends. But the first point in my trip I was truly alone – without any of the travel companions I’d met along the way – and heading back west from Malatya. I was catching a night bus to Konya, on a bit of a Rumi pilgrimage to see the Mevlana Museum. Seeing me on my own at the bus station at night, a group of older women huddled around me until it was time to board the bus, making sure I felt safe. On the bus, I was seated next to a university student who was heading back to Konya. She insisted on sharing her food with me (really delicious gözleme, which is a great bus snack), and then for the next 2 days, she showed me around her city. She even extended an invitation to visit her family in Amasya, in the north of the country. Unfortunately, I lost her address (this was pre-Facebook, so if you know who she is she can find me here!) and never had the chance to write and thank her. But Turkey remains one of my favorite destinations thanks to the warmth, hospitality and great conversation of the locals.

Volunteers At The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre

Volunteers At The Turtle Rehabilitation Centre

 

Still, as things often go in Turkey, they always have ‘a cousin who can fix things’. Rahim told us not to worry; he had called his cousin.Sophie, Bitten by the Bug

Everyone we met in Turkey was super friendly, but there was one event, in particular, I would label as ‘only in Turkey’. We were ready to leave Fethiye to continue our journey when our Couchsurfing host Rahim insisted on driving us to the bus station. We could easily have used public transport, but it seems that was not an option. En route to the bus station, he made a detour to pick up a friend, but he hadn’t expected the ensuing traffic jams. Sitting on the backseat, my sister and I pretty soon realized we would never make it in time for the bus to Ephesus. Still, as things often go in Turkey, they always have ‘a cousin who can fix things’. Rahim told us not to worry; he had called his cousin. We were not too sure about that, I mean, what would his cousin be able to do? But when we finally arrived at the bus station, the bus to Ephesus was still there! All the luggage was already stored, and all the passengers sat waiting in their seats, ready to go. Yet the bus stood there, waiting for us to get out of our private transport and climb on board. As it turned out, the cousin lived close to the bus station, and somehow, he had managed to convince the driver not to leave until the two Belgian girls had arrived. Crazy, right? Follow Sophie on Facebook.

Pizza From The Wood Oven

Pizza From The Wood Oven

 

And so, amid baklava and mint tea, we talked. And talked. About his family. And mine.Leyla, Woman on the Road

Turks have a reputation for friendliness and hospitality, and every so often, something happens to cement that reputation. Years ago, as a young female solo traveler on her first trip to the magical city that was Istanbul, I was armed with everyone’s dire warnings about solo travel. On a crowded street one afternoon, a young man sidled up and started talking to me. With everyone’s warnings fresh in my mind, I ignored him. He stuck, so I tried evasive action, the kind that only works in films. He was dogged in his pursuit. Finally, I reversed tactics and confronted him. “I would like to speak with you,” he announced – not quite what I wanted to hear. “No, no, I explain bad,” he tried again. “I want practice English please.” He was so earnest I gave him a second chance. “Please tea with me in shop.” If he was telling the truth, it would make for a nice half hour. If not, I’d be protected in a very public place. And so, amid baklava and mint tea, we talked. And talked. About his family. And mine. Time flew, evening came, and my friend rose. He thrust out his hand, shook mine, and melted away into the night. Follow Woman on the Road on Facebook.

Happy Paragliders

Happy Paragliders

 

Not being used to strangers inviting me along on their vacation, I hesitated, but only for a bit.Jill, Jack and Jill Travel The World

I was waiting for a bus on the side of the road in Cappadocia when a car pulled up with a man and a woman inside. In broken English, they asked me if I was visiting. I said, “yes”. They said they were visiting too and then asked if I wanted to join them sightseeing. Not being used to strangers inviting me along on their vacation, I hesitated, but only for a bit. I trusted my gut and jumped in the car with them. Apparently, they heard that a tourist was harmed recently in the area and they were worried about my safety, seeing me alone on the street. We spent the whole day visiting various tourist sites; we shared lunch and dinner. They wouldn’t let me pay for anything, not even my share of the restaurant bill, insisting that “I was their guest.” Every time I think of this encounter, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The day we spent together, and this couple’s easy generosity was the brightest memory I have of Turkey. Read the full story here.

Turgutreis Fish Monger

Turgutreis Fishmonger

 

The most heartwarming example of this is on the Black Sea coast in a small town called Perşembe … a place where I left a piece of my heart!Rae, Wide Eyed Views

When I tell people that I cycled from the UK to Nepal the most common query and cause for concern is centered around my time in Turkey, Pakistan, and India. Now its true that being a solo woman in traditionally patriarchal or Muslim countries can have its difficulties, but by far the majority of my experiences in ALL countries have been to do with similarity, not difference and hospitality and welcome rather than suspicion and fear. In Turkey, I received an unprecedented (until then) amount of positive support, hospitality, and joy at my desire to see their beautiful country from men, women, and children. I was offered the most delicious food, water for my bottles, places to stay inside or pitch my tent, tea in abundance and hugs, smiles and the name ‘daughter’ wherever I went.

The most heartwarming example of this is on the Black Sea coast in a small town called Perşembe … a place where I left a piece of my heart! On arriving there late at night, I scoped out a grassy area next to a small cafe, just large enough for my tent and, as I later learn, commonly used by traveling people as a safe place to sleep! I sit in the cafe and wait for it to shut before setting up my tent only to be approached by a woman in her late 50s. Fikret is the life and soul of the local party, and in no time my plans for an overnight camp are turned into a weekend of visiting the town with her, spending time in her well-stocked kitchen preparing food and attending impromptu gatherings of her women friends to celebrate my cycle ride! My fondest memories, however, are of being given 2 new pairs of pink and yellow pants (pants which became my prized possession for their symbolic representation of the love, care and attention I had received) being dressed in her old paint splatted clothes whilst mine receive a much-needed launder and dancing in the living room with her and her husband to some haunting Turkish music. When offering what seems like simple things to another never underestimate their impact … water, food, shelter, nurturing gestures … all carry so much weight to the road-weary traveler! The universally ‘simple’ gesture of love and sharing, met with heartfelt (and again remembered) gratitude and joy. Follow Rae on Instagram.

Rowing Boat

Get to Kaunos from Dalyan with a rowing boat, for 5TL they row you across the river, free smile included!

 

Hospitality, kindness, and tonnes of good conversations filled up my following days.Katalin, Our Life, Our Travel

One of the highlights of solo backpacking in Turkey was visiting Istanbul. I’ve been invited to uncountable tea, offered help when needed directions everywhere in the country, but the capital kept something special for me. On the Couchsurfing forum, one local offered me a couch for the upcoming nights in minutes after I’ve posted about hostels in the city. I accepted his help and gave up on staying in a dorm. And what a great decision was it. I got off the bus in the morning and headed towards his office to leave my backpack for the day. He was one of the most generous people I’ve met during my backpacking. Hospitality, kindness, and tonnes of good conversations filled up my following days. He worked in tourism and knew Istanbul inside out, history, culture and tourist traps too. In his free time, he was my private tour guide, and that’s not all. We were also eating in his favorite restaurants and visiting bars. I hung out with him and his friends often, yet, they refused me paying for anything. Not even for a tea. Couchsurfing is about cultural exchange, but he was offering much more than a usual host. In return for talking about my home country, I gained insight into local life for days, get to know a Turkish family and explore the city the way I never expected. I still think fondly about my trip to Istanbul.

Toasting Bread

Preparing breakfast is a serious matter, but done with love!

Encounters with people in Turkey: our anecdote

So, what do we think about meeting people in Turkey? Depending on where in Turkey you are, you may experience a severe language barrier. But the worst that can happen is that you end up in a hilarious conversation (or at least an attempt to a conversation). Many years ago, during our Turkey road trip, we ended up in the eastern part of the country where English is something people speak in American movies, and nowhere else. 🙂 In any case, we were welcomed with open arms, everywhere we went. People would offer us tea, food, and place to stay the night; you name it…

During those moments, they would always try to get to know us better. At the time, we didn’t live in Turkey yet, and our knowledge of Turkish went no further than hello (merhaba), thank you (teşekkür ederim), tea (çay), bread (ekmek), and a few more words. Imagine the type of conversations we had! At one point, we were asked if we had children. In a clearly failed attempt to explain we had a 4-year old son, we ended up as being seen as the parents of 4 boys instead. Everyone admired me for being so young and already having 4 sons! We never got to a point where we could explain things otherwise, but all involved had a lovely evening, with delicious food and happy laughter. People in Turkey are generous, in every sense of the word.

In short, we hear stories like these every day. In fact, we read them all the time when people share their travels in our Facebook group. It’s the people in Turkey that make this country a great place to travel. Add a fascinating history, 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites, gorgeous weather, and breathtaking nature to that, and you have an irresistible cocktail that will blow your mind. Be warned, visiting Turkey gets under your skin. And once it’s there, there’s no more getting rid of it!

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Check the weather

Never wonder about the weather in Turkey again. The Turkish climate is as diverse as the country with significant differences between the regions.

This page contains the current weather and weather statistics for all regions in Turkey.

Prepare your trip

How to order a tourist visa for Turkey?

What about public transport?
Can you skip the line at Istanbul Airports?

General Turkey travel information, essential to help prepare your trip, on one page!

Work with us

Get direct access to your target audience with a proven interest in Turkey. People call us their Turkey Bible!

Contact us for a feature on our map, a destination guide, a photo shoot, or any form of professional Turkey-related content.

Ask a traveler

Are you unsure about a destination, activity or hotel? Why don’t you ask other travelers about their experience?

We have a closed Facebook group where you can ask all Turkey-related questions. You’ll get solid advice and travel inspiration.

Check the weather

Never wonder about the weather in Turkey again. The Turkish climate is as diverse as the country with significant differences between the regions.

This page contains the current weather and weather statistics for all regions in Turkey.

Prepare your trip

How to order a tourist visa for Turkey?

What about public transport?
Can you skip the line at Istanbul Airports?

General Turkey travel information, essential to help prepare your trip, on one page!

Work with us

Get direct access to your target audience with a proven interest in Turkey. People call us their Turkey Bible!

Contact us for a feature on our map, a destination guide, a photo shoot, or any form of professional Turkey-related content.

Ask a traveler

Are you unsure about a destination, activity or hotel? Why don’t you ask other travelers about their experience?

We have a closed Facebook group where you can ask all Turkey-related questions. You’ll get solid advice and travel inspiration.

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