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.