I’m writing this post from my sea view terrace in Turkey, a place I come back to time and time again for many reasons, several of which I have written about previously but, among others, one notable reason is the people. I love Turkish people.
I said these words out loud recently and was asked ‘why?’. I said ‘because they’re amazing’. A weak answer, I know, but it wasn’t good timing to engage in a lengthy discussion where I elaborated. But, it got me thinking about what I would have said if I’d had time to add some meaningful meat to my reply and there’s no better place to audition this further than right here, right now.
How many destination blogs have you read where the locals are referred to as ‘warm and friendly’? Too many I’m sure. I think I’ve even written these words myself a few times, likely as a vague afterthought and the feeling that I need to make reference to the nature of the native folk or at least make it known that I do interact with locals when I travel – it’s not all about sightseeing, I love understanding culture too. But let’s face it, it’s hardly a selling point it is? I’ve never convinced anyone to add a line to their bucket list based on the ‘warm and friendly’ locals. I’m not much a fan of the cold so, doubtful I am that I’d ever meet someone abroad that wasn’t ‘warm’. Although I did visit Copenhagen one Christmas.
Anyway, one thing I definitely know to be true about Turkish people in general that I particularly like on a very basic level is that they drink a lot of tea – Turkish tea. Fact no.1. But, I want to share my deeper thoughts on precisely why I like Turkish people so much, way beyond the fact that they seem to be warm and friendly tea drinkers, and I’ll start with filling you in on a conversation I had with my husband on my second visit to a place I stayed at in Kalkan in 2016. It was like we’d never left – everywhere we went, people I didn’t recognise were saying ‘hello, welcome back, nice to see you again!’. Surely, they didn’t remember me after a whole 365 days?! I’m mostly talking about restaurant owners standing outside their eateries waiting to show us their menus. Shop owners too. You’ve got to be kidding – I genuinely thought this was a totally see-through sales technique that is used for all tourists. My husband disagreed – strongly, and this is coming from a salesman who knows every trick in the book. Over the course of the next few days, I truly auditioned my theory that this was true and I’m satisfied to admit – I was wrong. After engaging a few of these guys, I realised – they really did remember us. I spoke to a few returning holiday makers about their thoughts on this too and they agreed! The Turks are uber hospitable – fact no.2. That probably ticks off the ‘warm and friendly’ thing.
Next up, I went to meet Derek Goodall to see what he thought. This is a guy that shares an equal love for Turkish people. AKA ‘Del’ or ‘Del boy’, he is a 74yr old musician, ex-drummer of the Derek Goodall Trio from back in the 70’s/80’s and he still gigs around Kalkan and Fethiye. He was born in Calcutta, India and moved to East London at age 11. In 2003 he built a house in a village called Uzumlu in Turkey and has been here ever since. He loves it! We’d met him in Kalkan many times and always bought him and drink and spent time chatting after his gigs. He was delighted to see us and give us a CD of him and his band playing back in the day that he’d made for us. Sweet!
I asked him why he loves Turkish people so much and he said this: “Because they’re inherently helpful”. YES, Del! You have hit the nail on the head. Those were indeed the exact words I was looking for. Turkish people are inherently helpful – fact no.3.
He then went on to tell me that he remembers pulling over in his car once to ask a guy for directions and the guy said “follow me” – he was on a push bike!! Similarly, once he went into a sandwich shop to ask for directions to the next village and the shop owner said: “give me 5 minutes and I’ll take you there”. Nice! He compared this to a time in East London where he stopped and asked a policeman “excuse me, do you know the way to such-a-town” and the policeman stared at him and simply said “Yes!”. Del laughed at this story but I didn’t. I genuinely felt embarrassed by the sentiment towards us Brits. It’s disappointingly accurate at times, without wishing to stereotype our entire nation.
After this conversation, Del invited us to go and visit him and his wife in his village, to show us around, meet the locals and see his home. He wanted to show us a video of him playing the drums and singing in his band from back in 1984 and then take us to see him playing at a bar later in the evening in Uzumlu. He offered to pick us up and take us back later that night but there’s no way we’d have accepted that offer – it’s a 1.5-hour drive and he’s 74! We made our own way there and back but we truly embraced the experience and considered this gesture as the absolute epitome of the Turkish ‘way’ – kind, helpful, hospitable, and genuinely ‘warm and friendly’.