10 untrue stereotypes about Turkey..


Anyone who has never visited Turkey, or bases their judgement of the country by what they have seen in one resort, is quite likely to form their own stereotypes of the country and it’s people from things they’ve heard, seen or read.

Anyone who lives here, or who has spent a considerable amount in the country will know most of these stereotypes are not true. Here are a few of the most common ones:

1. Turkey is a strict Muslim country.
Well, it’s certainly true that the majority of the country claim to be Muslim by religion, but the country as a whole, is not. Turkey is actually a democratic republic. Turks are very proud of their history, particularly that of Ataturk. Ataturk is the founder of the Republic of Turkey, he reformed and modernized the country. Turkey is a secular state, meaning its government do not (or should not..) favour Islam over any other religion, and religion should have no effect on public life, politics or law (although this is arguable after recent events.)

2. Women walk around in Burkas, covered from head to toe, only showing their eyes.
Wrong. It’s very rare to see women wearing Burkas in Turkey, it is discouraged.  A lot of women do wear headscarves, although this is changing too. In fact, those women working in government buildings are not permitted to cover their head while working.
Walking around Fethiye in summer, I have seen plenty of Turkish women wearing revealing clothing, leaving little to the imagination, beaches are full of Turkish people sunbathing in bikinis. I imagine a lot of the big cities to be the same. Of course, in strictly religious rural towns and more traditional families, a lot of women do still cover up, but it is their choice.

3. Turkish people are uneducated.
Wrong.  School education is compulsory for 6-18 year olds. There are over 100 universities in Turkey, some of which are very good, well respected and internationally known.  I think this stereotype is one which comes from people judging the whole country based on their experience in holiday resorts. A lot of resort workers are from small villages and towns far away and come to resorts to find work as they are not qualified in any area of expertise. A visit to Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir or any of the larger cities would most likely change your mind.

4. Men are dominant, women are submissive and stay at home.
Technically, women and men have equal rights, but in practice, I’m not so sure. As before, in remote, religious and traditional villages, it is the norm for the male to be the main breadwinner and the wife to be the housewife; to cook, clean and be a good host to guests. Of course, women being housewives doesn’t necessarily mean they are submissive, many prefer this than working, lets not forget that stay at home mums and housewives are still a common thing in the UK too. However, with more and more women having university education and being welcomed into professional jobs, families are being modernized and women becoming more equal, even in tourists areas, it is not uncommon to see female waitresses and bar staff now. The country is very divided though in my opinion, between those modern and traditional families and their very different customs and beliefs.

5. Turkish men are lazy.
I can’t speak about all men, as I only know a few, and living in a tourist resort, my view is somewhat limited. What i will say though, is that the men who work in these tourist resorts do work ridiculously hard, long hours, often in the boiling heat, for very little money. Those who have professional, higher paid jobs may work less hours, but often just as hard. There is very little government help and certainly no real benefit system here in Turkey, nobody gets anything for free, they have to work hard for it. Turkish work ethic is the polar opposite of laziness, in my opinion. 

6. Turkish men are allowed x amount of wives.
Wrong. Polygamy is illegal and can be punished with a prison sentence.

7. All Turkish men are love rats and just after your money, or a visa.
Wrong. Again, a stereotype based on ignorant views from people who have only ever visited holiday resorts. Sure, a lot of Turks working in resorts are liars and cheats, but not all, and they do not represent the country as a whole. Some resort workers take advantage of the foreign tourists and see them as easy targets for sex, money, a visa etc. The warning signs are there for these types of men, most men are very proud and would never ask for money, if anyone does, it should be a huge red flag. Turkish men are also very family orientated in general, and would never cheat on their wives, families, etc.  There’s a lot of bad eggs out there, but there’s a lot of good’uns too. Lets not pretend adultery doesn’t happen elsewhere either, there are bad men, and women in every country in the world, it’s just thanks to ‘take a break’ magazine that Turkish people have arguably the worst reputation of them all.

8. The water is dirty.
Wrong. In most areas the water is perfectly safe to drink, especially those where the water is freshly sourced from melting snow on the mountains, springs, etc. There are some cities where old plumbing pipes affects the safety of the water, but on the whole the water is clean, however it may upset people if they are not used to it, as it has a higher mineral content and particularly high chlorine levels. I have always drunk it and never been ill, but bottled water is cheap enough if you’re here for a holiday and wary.

9. The country is unsafe.
Not really. Crime happens all over the world, certain areas are more dangerous and it could be argued that gun and knife crime are more common in Turkey than the UK, but I have no statistics to confirm this either way. On the whole, Turkey is safe, the people are friendly and you’ll never be far from someone willing to help you if you get into trouble. Some people board their plane and leave their common sense at the airport, stay alert and keep your wits about you, as you would in your home country, and you’ll be just as safe as you are at home.

10. Everyone wears a fez and has a mustache.
Don’t think there’s really any need to comment on this one is there?  (; Thought I’d end on a lighter note (:

Having a Turkish partner, naturally I am constantly defending Turkish people and trying to change peoples narrow view of the country I currently call home. As I have said, there are good and bad people and customs all over the world. Turkey is a beautiful country with plenty of kind, beautiful people. You have to know to look in the right places and not get caught up believing everything you read or hear, and know there is often a lot more to the country than we see in resorts and areas designed purely for tourism.

43 thoughts on “10 untrue stereotypes about Turkey..

  1. I agree with most of your blog, but not all of it. The country was more modern during the 60`s, 70`s and 80`s. There are more women wearing the headscarf than ever before and I have seen more burkas around, especially in Istanbul. A lot of Turkish men do work very hard, but there is also an element of laziness and if they got the chance a lot of Turks would cheat on their wife. With regard to Turkey being a secular state, I wonder for how long? The country is split.

    • Maybe so yes, but I think people who have never been here picture ALL Turkish women to be completely covered from head to foot, something that isn’t true, is it? (: At least not here, or Izmir, or Denizli..
      I think Turkish men are just men, I’m not sure being Turkish means they’re more likely to cheat than an English male, or a German male?
      Aye you’re right there, that’s why I said its supposed to be a secular state but recent events question that, far too complicated for me to blog about though. x

  2. Also in the East of the country, polygamy is still practiced as is Sharia law, even though it is supposed to be illegal, these people are never prosecuted. Honour killings still go on also.
    I always say that Turkey has it`s modern Western side and it`s old traditional Eastern side.

  3. In a way I agree with your point about cheating, but Turkish men are hot Southern European males……..the same as Greeks and Italians, it is in the blood.

  4. Cheating or leaving your spouse is a generalization shared by the Turks as well. My Turkish mother in law cried and cried and begged her son not to marry that American foreigner because…you know…all foreign women end up leaving their husbands.

  5. Good post Danni. I kind of agree with most of what Fleur says though, so I don’t need to repeat anything. I think people should come here with an open mind and ignore most of the stereotypes.

  6. Hi Maria, a lot of Turkish families cringe at the thought of their precious sons marrying foreigner`s, but there are those who are extremely happy to have a foreign daughter in law. In my case, my parents in law were really welcoming and very happy for their son to marry an English woman and this was over 20 years ago……..the reason why she thinks along the lines that foreigner`s leave their spouses, is because as a rule of thumb, most of us won`t put up with any cr.p and Turkish women who may be unhappy in their marriage, know that family pressure and often finances, will force them to stay. When marrying into a different culture, both partners must compromise and accept each others views. My late husband always said I made him soft, especially towards animals and taught me how to be more patient.

  7. Ooh, #8 is so wring! I wish people would litter less and that some places *cough*Kusadasi*coughcough* hadn’t been allowed to get overdeveloped in such an ugly haphazard fashion but… speaking as someone who hasn’t been back to Turkey (to visit family) in two years now, I really really really really miss the sea and the sun and the cicadas…

    (by the way, you don’t have a Follow button on your blog!)

  8. I agree with everything you have said. I do think that when I first went to Istanbul in 2009 that i expected to be one of the only people without a headscarf but this isnt the case. Most of the young Turkish girls do not wear headscarves. I have lived here for 2 years. I live in Istanbul in the winter and Fethiye in the summer and can honestly say I only know one Turkish girl around my age group who wears a head scarf, however it is unusual to see women above 30 without one. I have been with my Turkish partner for 5 years and he treats me with the up most respect, i was never one to stay home, cook and clean and he accepts that and doesnt expect me to do that. He helps me around the house and with our 3 month old son. I think a man is just a man and they shouldnt be stereotyped because of where they come from… everyone is different as they were brought up with different backgrounds 🙂

  9. Just stumbled across this – really enjoyed reading it. My husband is Turkish and we currently live in the UK. He is desperate to return to his country to live and I would move there tomorrow (personal circumstances are keeping us here at the moment). He works so hard (50 hour week) to provide for us and would slap anyone who dared to call him lazy. Turkey is such a beautiful place with amazing people. These stereotypes come from people who have never really experienced the true culture.

  10. Very interesting read. I stumbled across it yesterday through a chane google search. It is amazing to read some of the things through a foreigners point of view in turkey, I recently(3 weeks ago) married a turkish man who has been raised in sydney but still very cultured. It was a mission to get me across his folks. I am indian in origin but have lived in sydney for a while. The turkish wedding I had meant a lot in acceptance from his side. At the wedding the guest changed a lot of perception of turkish people for my family. They were assumed as covered and extreme islamists but the free flowing alcohol and mini dresses was a huge change in perception. I am glad most turkish people have a balance between having fun but still being connected culturally. I would love to go turkey one day to meet the wider family and see where my destiny took me for a husband.

  11. Pingback: 100,000 views!! | living the turkish dream

  12. I had some prejudices, actually not prior to coming here, but after I came here. My landing in Turkey is the same story as yours by the way. I came here for a man 2.5 years ago, who I’m still with. While struggling to adapt, I did a lot of research and asked so many questions to my boyfriend, who patiently listened and explained. The more I studied, the more negative things I found. So I stop reading articles on the internet, and that helped me adapt to the culture better.

    I think many Turks are more conscious and good-hearted than….well, the countries I’ve lived so far.

    To cut the long story short, I am so happy to have discovered a blog that writes from the heart and with honesty, instead of sweet-talking to tourists. 🙂 Thank you.

  13. I stumbled across your lovely blog and saw this page. I have a long comment.

    What have I discovered since living here (Kusadasi) for a while?
    The water can smell a bit “off” sometimes, especially in the Summer months.
    It’s an absolutely beautiful country, and the people, by and large, are very helpful, warm and kind.
    Perfect strangers will share what they have and will try their best to give a good welcome.
    Treating others well, generally, is the Turkish way.

    The people strike me as extremely hard-working and family-oriented. The children are usually polite and beautifully-groomed. The food is good, although sometimes over-cooked at times.
    Everything is fresh and produced or grown here.

    As for my own personal experiences…
    Well, I find the constant, unrelenting staring “uncomfortable” at times.
    I don’t want to say how it REALLY makes me feel, day in, day out.

    I have been to other countries and been stared at, but Turkey wins the prize for staring, hands down.

    Some people stare discreetly (catch a quick glance and look away, but after I walk by — full on), and others are just in my face, unblinkingly, as if I am a thing from Mars. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not “hostile” or such. It’s like “disbelief” and fascination or something.
    The men, if with other men, call to each other and stare at me in groups. There’s a quietness when I appear and until I am some metres away. I always have to brace myself. Sometimes, I will just cross the road, or take another route completely, if possible.
    The women look MORE, young or old. They look me up and down and smile, sometimes laughing and whispering to each other. That bothers me at times, as I don’t see what there is to laugh at about the way I look or dress or whatever. I dress conservatively, I keep myself to myself.
    This over-attention is not something I understand. Sometimes I have to ask “Ne oldu?” (what happened?) when it’s excessive.

    I am multi-racial and have a brown skin colour. That’s it — so what, that’s not “unusual”.
    Yet when I go out, I have to put on armour, big time, because it might be “unusual” to some no matter what I seem to think.
    The question “Where are you from?” has been asked so many 100s of times, I don’t feel like responding now, and keep my head straight if it’s too much on some days. This is not just in Summer Season, but winter, spring, autumn…I try not to notice or look, but it sometimes is so in my face, it’s impossible to ignore. As I say, it’s not unfriendly as such, just constant and intrusive staring and commentary. They are used to foreigners here, though. It makes no sense.

    I hear “arabi” or “africa” or “hindustan” when they try to identify where I am from or know what I am. I am not an Arab, or from an African country, or from India, although I might be a mixture of these things and others. Can’t my heritage be my own business most days? The women and the men tell me how “beautiful” I am. I don’t know where to look or what to say, just “thank you”.
    I am not sure to be flattered, and ignore it if possible.
    Sometimes I try to avoid leaving the house if I can, stocking up on groceries, working at home instead of taking my laptop and sitting somewhere nice to research or write.

    I have learned to be super-careful around Turkish men.
    Avoidance is better, perhaps. Is it unusual not to be married or have Turkish boyfriend?
    I think so. I wonder whether the stereotype is that a foreign women MUST be with a Turkish man, that they MUST find Turkish men attractive?
    Practically all the foreign women here that didn’t come with a partner are with Turkish men.

    There are some good men out there obviously, but I am cautious of their attentiveness. They can be presumptuous and pushy where unattached foreign women are concerned. When I say “some”, I MEAN “some”, but I do feel there is huge pressure here to be part of a couple.

    I don’t think that some people here have the same standard of good manners as I would be used to in the UK, or Ireland, for example. Some people obviously were brought up to stare and not think it offensive to do so, or to laugh and point at strangers.
    Bank tellers will be astonishingly rude, people will push in if they can if you are in a queue, Turks will get served first, the “yabanci” (foreigner) is treated like a walking money-bags (!) and “stupid”.

    Do Turkish people like when foreigners try to speak or learn, Turkish?
    I thought that Turkish people would be delighted if I really put in the effort to speak the language.
    It’s important to do that, to show respect and get the most out of being here.
    But even when my pronuniciation is clear, many Turks will continue just speaking in English right over it, like they can’t “hear” the Turkish words being spoken! Like, they are blanking me.
    Is it because a lot tourists are here and the Turks here are “in an English-speaking zone”?
    Sometimes I think impatience and irritation towards foreigners is the cause: we are just “work” to them rather than “people” and they are too tired to have a conversation with someone trying to learn. They work long hours as it is! Maybe this is why. I don’t know.

    As a culture, I have the feeling that it is quite authoritarian and collectivist — so the individual doesn’t matter as much, because conforming, conventionality and obedience is more important.
    I feel some people are quite in fear of upsetting the status quo, and think that equal rights and diversity is not worth bothering about it. Do it our way or go away, so to speak. Being Turkish is what counts and to hell with giving any attention to anyone “different” — that’s just asking for trouble. That’s how it seems, at least.

    There’s also seems to be some confusion around identity, it’s as if there is direct 50/50 split between conservative and secular. Some Turks want to be European, and say “we are white”… well, they are and they aren’t. When they are reminded that they are perceived as partly Asian, and partly European, as swarthy “Muslims”, in many countries in Western Europe — and not part of the EU — they become thoughtful. Therefore, I feel they juggle with these stereotypes just as much, too.

    • Thank you for commenting, its taken me ages to reply to this comment lol!

      See i dont think people are family orientated anymore, Ive learned that they only are when it suits. usually where money is involved!
      Yeah you’re right about staring, especially in the ‘village’ – they look at you like youre in a zoo cage. Never experienced it quite as bad as you say though, they’re very unwelcoming to people who aren’t the same as them, there are very few brown/black skinned people there and they have no shame in staring like you say. Horrible 😦

      Sorry to hear you have a lot of problems living there 😦

      • “Ive learned that they only are {family-oriented} when it suits. usually where money is involved!”
        There’s a whole story behind that insight, I bet! I’d really like to know more about that from what you’ve seen yourself.

        It’s not that I have a lot of problems here, as such. Adjusting is just not easy on one’s own.
        Then ask yourself:
        Have you been a single woman in a place where being part of a couple is much more socially acceptable? Whilst also being a foreigner? And not looking quite like most people in that place?

        I feel that if you have a Turkish husband or boyfriend it’s kind of a shield: you have a companion to support you, love you and “protect” you from the rougher aspects — and sometimes your partner’s family as well, if they are around and are supportive. That can be huge!
        Foreign women with Turkish partners have many advantages and probably don’t know it.
        When you have a Turkish partner, it’s less likely anyone will take liberties with you. I have seen that with my own eyes, I’m afraid.

        It’s probably a TRUE stereotype that most foreign women here have Turkish men! lol.
        I don’t think they realise just how much that can ease their adjustment here.

        Also, the husband/boyfriend will have friends that sort of become your friends, too.
        The nice part of this means that someone is there to guide you through the system, speak the language and help you to speak the language. Those things really do help and can make things far, far easier. Without that, it’s intimidating and it can feel like A Struggle at times.
        The positive side of this is that the experience of living here is very vivid and immediate because nothing is “filtered” through anyone else, and your successes and breakthroughs are that much sweeter!

        Right now, I am cautiously and slowly trying to dip my toes into the waters and make friends.
        I hope that one day I might even have a social circle! There ARE genuine people here who can become good friends; they understand your situation and become really positive influences… Some things just take time.

  14. Do you feel that some Turkish women perceive foreign women as a “type”, and stereotype foreign women?

    The English wife of a male Turkish friend said that “Turkish women look at us in an unfriendly way because they believe we are stealing their men”.

    I don’t really agree with this.
    Most Turkish men are with, or married to, Turkish women. Foreigners are minority.
    And by and large, Turkish women are hospitable to women from other countries.
    But perhaps I feel this way because I don’t have a Turkish boyfriend or husband, so haven’t seen any reactions of Turkish women whilst “being with” a Turkish man.

    What I have noticed, is that some Turkish women do stare longer and harder and more critically at a foreign woman, especially one on her own. I wonder what stereotypes they have about us?

    I can only speculate that some have the idea that many foreign women are “easy”, not as moral, etc., but no doubt just as many are curious about fashion, lifestyle and other “girly” stuff.

    I am curious about this, as I have not yet had the opportunity to talk with many Turkish women at length. Perhaps when I have more Turkish.

    • Wow, I can say I’ve not really experienced that! Interesting though. You might have a point, although women from villages etc that don’t have much contact with foreigners may feel that way about ‘us’, I dont think more modern people would.. I hope not anyway x

  15. “Turkish men are also very family orientated in general, and would never cheat on their wives..”

    Hmm. I simply do not believe this. That is the image that many, if not all, married Turkish men want to project. But is any nationality this pious?

    A great many appear to have a roving eye and would, if given the opportunity, SOME would and do jump at the chance of infidelity in a hot second. Definitely. This is does not mean they are not “family-oriented”, either, as a man who is unfaithful –on the quiet– will still love and support his family utterly. I get the impression that Turkish women kind of “know” this about their men, too.

    Also there are different kinds of marriages. Not all marriages are love-matches and burning with erotic passion. From what I have seen in Turkey, marriages are contracts, full of obligation and responsibility and made for the purpose of building families. Some marriages in Turkey are also Arranged Marriages, which are meant seal family honour, etc.
    So, love and romance is a luxury in many cases.

  16. I married my Turkish husband here in the US in 2010. After getting his green card due to our marriage, he has made frequent trips to Turkey. In september 2015 he announced he is leaving “indefinitely ” to care for his aging mother ( he has many other family members there to do so). I found out by asking him point blank on November if he is seeing someone. He answered directly, yes, so? And when I ask him about our furure (I’m in the states bc I have children from a former marriage), he says please, don’t ask.

    On the multiple wives, he has always almost proudly boasted how Islam allows 4 wives as long as you treat and love them equally. He doesn’t wven treat me like a,wife. I am devastated by his affair still continuing by his own admission he sees her 2 to 3 times a,week as I cry my eyes out every night here in the states. In addition while he may very well be the strongest man, literally, I have ever met, he is quite capable of doing many jobs but never earned a living in the 6 yrs we are married, did not pay anything to our living expenses and owes me a huge amount of money while paying for frivolous things. In addition his very large family, while very kind to me on the 2 occasions i was in Turkey, seem to be fairly comfortable at the least if not well off, each family seems to have at least 2 residences each, 1 in mountains, ( on northeastern part of country, and 1 in the city, 30 min away) and still he has made no concerted efforts to pay me back on earnest. I sacrificed alot to marry him, provide for him and love him, and I now realize he has never really considered me his wife and dreams about the turkish wife and having his own kids, ( he is nearly 50 and has no kids but wants desperately and I wanted to try to get pregnant and he never did).

    After all this, I love him like crazy but it’s heartbreaking to know all this. And he is, the first to say “all men” not just Turkish men screw whoever they want. I know that is not true. My first husband of 21 years never considered it, nor do any of my 3 married brothers, neither does my married son.

  17. hi there,

    I am Turk, I live in Turkey,İstanbul since I was born here.
    I read your blog , and I wanted to say this information that you tried to give people is wrong like some others.


    you said above “It’s very rare to see women wearing Burkas in Turkey, it is discouraged. ” THIS IS ABSULATELY NOT TRUE. Almost every single day, when I go to university /supermarket or when I go outside with my friends/relatives, I run into women who wear Burka/headscarf on the road, on the bus etc. I THINK YOU SHOULD SAY THE PLACE THAT I LIVE INSTEAD OF TURKEY.



    Wearing this about taqwa, it means “God consciousness, piousness, fear of Allah–>love for Allah, and self restraint”.

    I didn’t too astonished because MANY foreign people who come to Turkey, learn many things about our customs,traditions, cultures, history ( **especially last part our history(!)) etc. However,I do not know why but they do not know enough and well information about real Islam( not the way that many Turks live) , our prophet Muhammad( peace be upon him)and our holy book Quran.

    I just wanted to give true information about this. I am sure you have had no any bad tendency when you write these but i think, before tell people important things about important issue, you need to research properly.

    If you have any question about anything, you can ask me via email, I will really appreciate for this, if you do not hesitate.

    Take care…

      • That’s what I am talking about. I am aware of differences between Burka and headscarf and I see both of type of wearing around me. Many place in Istanbul.

  18. Pingback: Turkey » English Enthusiasm

  19. To say Turkish men would never cheat on their wives is definitely an overstatement. Men are just men. Lots of Men cheat on their wives all the time, regardless of their race. I know a lot of Men who cheat on their wive (Im not Turkish btw). Having said that, the Turks are probably much more gentleman compared to the Arabs. And much more romantic too.

  20. Try making a difference and from a neutral point of view. Allot off things you typed here are sooo obvious and sooo not true. Little example the water is not drinkable even the local people will tell you that much. Why do you think that for example people from izmir almost only drink bottled water? And thats just one example.. Try spending some time outside the resorts and you will see.

    Just a little comment from a person who lived in ızmir for a while and not in a resort

    • I have spent plenty of time outside of resorts, in my husbands village in denilzi, but they drink the tap water and have wells lol Maybe different in cities though, only spent the day in Izmir and never been to Istanbul x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s