Friday, May 6, 2011

Consumer in a Foreign Land

The general sense I get around here is that Turkey is hoping to gain entrance into the EU, but there are forces within the Union that are resistant. While there are a multitude of reasons why people are against it, I'm sure, it seems that Turkey has been scrambling to modernize their country and catch up with the rest of Europe. Personally, at least from what I can see, they're doing a great job. Part of that progress is promoting tourism, and part of tourism, the one that surely speaks to the American sensibility, is shopping. On the other hand, as a tourist, you get less of the genuine experience, if that's what you're looking for. Visiting Turkey becomes more like visiting a European country with an Arabic influence. Mind you, I like it this way, the thought just struck me.

Anyway, wherever you go, they are trying to sell you something, whether it's food, sweets, clothes, and of course, rugs. It's not unlike walking through Little Italy in NYC, the guys working at the restaurants stand outside and do their best to lure you in. It becomes an issue of who is the best salesman, rather than who has the better food. The problem I run into is that when they're fawning over me to enter, it makes me want to turn and run away. It doesn't leave such a good impression, but at some point, you realize EVERY restaurant is doing it. You get tired of saying no thank you, but it's great practice in learning Turkish.

Plus, every now and then, you get a little scammed, and it really bums you out. Case in point - we made a friend who has a shop next to the hotel. He seemed like a nice guy, chatting us up, and he spoke good English. At some point, though, he wanted us to come into his shop and buy a rug or something, so it was a bit disingenuous, but that's just how things are. He was still nice. I figured I could ask for a recommendation about a good kabob place, and he gave me some advice. He even drew me a map, with which I got totally lost, of course. When I tried to ask other guys for directions, they told me to forget about that place, eat at their place, instead. You just can't win.

We went to his suggested place, and ordered a chicken kabob, and they gave us lamb, instead. Of course, it cost more, but I didn't feel like arguing, even though I thought the whole thing reeked of conspiracy. You have to just accept that when you're a tourist, you're going to get taken a little. It's just the way it works. Besides, the food was good, and it wasn't as if they took us for loads of money. Maybe $2 at most, but it's the principle of the matter.

In the end, the people are very nice, and they back off if you just politely say no thank you and keep moving. If you say it in Turkish, even better. You do get a sense that a lot of infrastructure is being built and the country is really being primed to be a mover and shaker in the EU. Part of that will be a tourist destination, and they are well on their way. There are tons of tourists here, mainly from Europe, Germany and England, as far as I can tell, and we've met quite a few Aussies. There are even other Americans.

One last note on the spending, you can't come to Turkey and not try the sweets, they are famous for them, especially the Turkish delights. I love that stuff.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

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