We have been living in Istanbul for three months now. Before we moved, I had high expectations for the city as a result of the praise heaped upon it by ex-Istanbul resident expats. Their gushiness about the cafes, restaurants, clubs, sea, islands, ferries, boardwalk, and overall quality of life had put the city on a pedestal for me even before I arrived (it’s still there). However, I never had any clear expectations – or understanding of – the people who call the city their own: the Turks. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was so focused on the city and the pleasures that awaited us (mainly the food!), I never thought too much about what the people would be like.
In one of my initial posts about Istanbul, I blogged about my favorable first impressions of the people. Let me follow that up with my 3-month assessment: Thumbs up!
I won’t bother qualifying that by going into rural vs. urban people, or stating the obvious (that jerks exist everywhere…although I, thankfully, haven’t yet met one here)…instead, I’ll just say that as of three months in, I have only had positive experiences.
Let me give you some examples.
Example 1: My husband took a taxi to meet friends and me at a restaurant. The restaurant is tricky to find, especially for an ignorant foreigner (I include myself in that group, but, luckily, I had a ride with friends who knew where they were going). The taxi driver, not an ignorant foreigner but apparently an Istanbulite ignorant of this particular restaurant, stopped to ask directions from a woman. She apparently tried to explain to him how to drive to the place. The driver looked confused. So she interrupted her own plans, jumped into the taxi, and drove the 1 kilometer to the restaurant, guiding the driver to the restaurant’s front door. (I forgot to ask my husband if the driver was nice enough to give her a free lift back to where she had been.)
Example 2: My husband and I walk our dog every weekend to our neighboring town, Yenikoy. It’s a lovely walk but a rather long one (45-55 minutes each way depending how deep into the town our legs are willing to take us). On a sunny day, it’s also a hot walk. At least it was a week ago when we took the dog mid-day to Yenikoy, forgetting to take water for her or any money to buy any. After a 50-minute walk, we reached a park and saw a water fountain. Some young men – maybe in their twenties – were standing there. One of them took a look at Zoya, said something to us in Turkish, ran to a nearby building, emerged from it with a water dish, washed it out very carefully (what young man does this? as a mother of two sons, I feel justified in asking this), filled it up with water from the fountain, and gave it to Zoya. I think she was as happily surprised as we were.
Example 3: I have blogged ad nauseam about the street dogs. Suffice it to say, no scuffles or scars yet. The take on street dogs: their bark is worse than their bite. They must bark to protect their honor. However, they are rarely aggressive-acting (I say rarely because there is one dog who, upon our passing, apparently finds it entertaining to come at us, snarling and barking…he is all show-and-teeth, but one of these days, I am going to zap him with my shoo-dog spray to give him a lesson about assaulting innocent passers-by…if I ever remember to take the spray with me, that is). In any case, friendly dog or not, help needed or not, if there are men close by and they see a street dog approaching Zoya and me, they will, without fail, come to our aid and shoo the dog away. Very chivalrous indeed.
There are many more examples, but you get the idea. These are warm, helpful, and friendly people. They are nice but not pushy. Very polite. Also quite cosmopolitan and fashionable, at least here in Istanbul. I love going out and seeing what they – men and women alike – are wearing. They care what they look like, but not in a snooty way. They don’t turn up their noses and strut about. But they sure are lookin’ pretty good when they hit the sidewalks.
Actually, they look like people who are enjoying life.
And it shows in how they treat others.