Unsavory Moments with Turkish Men

Unsavory Moments with Turkish Men

While working as an au pair in Turkey, my host-mom always sent the driver with me when I went into Istanbul – making me feel very overprotected. But on my last day in the country, I went there without the driver and finally understood that she’d wanted to protect me from male harassment. While the majority of Turkish men I met were kind and courteous, the unsavory ones often find tourists. Luckily they can be deterred by common sense. Anyone interested in foreign women’s experiences in Turkey should definitely read, Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey.

Onward and Downwards

On my last day in Turkey, I started my trip to the city by taking the funicular and the “historic tram” to the Egyptian Spice Market. I have to say, I impressed myself. Even if I got completely screwed by the bargaining system, with some cordiality (I was invited to share tea) and perhaps some flirting (!?!) and a little lie about my finances, I think I may have wrangled a deal–at any rate, a better deal than most people typically get. If nothing else, I at least got the feeling that I did, so I was happy. I found a few little things and continued on my trek. I decided that I should walk over the golden horn (about 4 minutes of walking) and then caught the tram to continue to the tourist trap, um, cultural center.

Sultan Ahmet: Beware of Creepy Turkish Men

Now, in their defense, they might be totally nice guys. However, when I am walking around and obviously a young tourist and western woman by herself, the last thing I really want is to be approached. The first guy almost pounced on me. We were on a crowded street and he just ambled up and said “Hello! Don’t worry! I’m not a tour guide.” Not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that.

He continued, “Are you from America?”

Deciding to be polite (and ready to kick his ass, or at least scream police loudly in all the languages I know (three), I answered that yes, I was. He said he was learning English and that it was nice to talk with an American. Then he started to ask where I was going, and asked what I’d seen.

Then he got weird…

“Oh, I could tell you are not a tourist! You are not dressed like one, you look like, a TRAVELER!” And then he beamed at me.

This was the “Um, this could get bad” moment.

Before I had a chance to answer he bounced in with:

“Your eyes, are they your natural eyes?”

Understanding that he meant color, and knowing that lighter colored eyes are not as typical here, I answered, “Um, yes, yes they are…”

He immediately said that lots of girls wear colored lenses to make their eyes like mine.

Now, I was playing it completely nonchalantly while wracking my brain to figure out how I could politely slip away from him. Luckily we were right by the gate to the palace…

“Oh, I will leave you here. Perhaps we can talk after you are done? Maybe we could go have a cup of tea! Or we could do something this evening!” he declared.

Think fast think fast think fast…bing!

“Oh, um, (lie, Steph, lie) I have only an hour before my shuttle, so I have to go then. But thank you!”

And then I speed walked away without resorting to violence or undignified screaming–which I am well capable of.

About Steph Munson

Steph MunsonSteph Munson spent the year after college traveling the world.

7 thoughts on “Unsavory Moments with Turkish Men

  1. Northern
    June 15, 2015
    Reply

    The reason I came upon this blog is that I am looking for others in US w/similar creepy experiences to those I’m having w/chain-smoking stalking Turkish neighbor across street — and most of my experiences w/him have been my expressing being bothered by his smoke & his presence (going on a year now) . . . before
    hearing on NPR within
    past 1 1/2 week that over 100 women in Turkey have bn murdered this year usually by a relative. Looking into this further on mobile, the thinking that when a woman makes a mistake, it’s okay to kill her exists in some of
    Turkey.
    How chaste a woman is seems alsi to matter

    &
    his presence . . .

  2. T.
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    Just because a guy hits on you doesn’t automatically make him dangerous, maybe just overly eager. Women get attention; you can act paranoid and defensive about it or you can feel flattered and move on. I choose the latter.

  3. Roxanne
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    OMG! I lived for 3 months last summer and (for some odd reason) I will be moving there. Some of the Turkish men are very clingy and horrible. I was on a feribot going to SultanAhmet and a man masturbated infront of me. I wanted to cut his dick off…I was sooo angry! I NEVER went back to Sultan Ahmet. And why should anyone go there anyway, its highly overrated. Kadikoy is where the real fun is 🙂

  4. Danielle
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    What exactly was sketchy about them?

  5. Natalia
    Natalia
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    Love your post. I can relate to your experience since I lived for a few years in Colombia and the same can be said for the men there. As a young woman that is where I learned to trust my gut feeling and when you get that awful knot in your stomach that’s when you know it’s time to bounce. Not a fun experience at all. Both my sister and I grew up in Canada and when we moved to Colombia we were so used to being carefree about how we dressed when we went out-this is were the problem begins if you are not used to it. Wearing shorts to go shopping to a mall or anywhere outside your own home is a big no-no anywhere in Colombia, the men act almost caveman-like and can make you feel very uncomfortable right away. At the end we had learned how to use their weakness to our own advantages like for example if they approached us at a restaurant, we might strike a conversation with them, not too friendly but enough, and since they have this macho thing going, they would insist in paying the bill (o

  6. Hailey
    Hailey
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    I traveled to Istanbul last December, with a female friend. While we fell in love with Istanbul, we found that we were constantly harassed by men. This was especially true in the Sultanahmet area (I like your ‘beware of creepy men’ advisory!) We were there in off-season, so there really weren’t that many tourists, and the men in front of restaurants were always pestering us to eat and the comments were always directed to us as women. Additionally, men would try to follow me and my friend back to our hotel late at night, (mostly in an effort to get us to come out with them) and we would often zig-zag our route back, so no one would know where we were staying. Stephanie, I think I was in your situation so many times in my short visit to Istanbul! I was always lying about my plans for that night. If you are going to Istanbul, beware that we will be asked out multiple times by multiple sketchy men.

  7. Catherine
    Catherine
    March 13, 2011
    Reply

    Yes, women do have to be cautious in the resort areas (the guys who work there tend to be from the rural areas and flock to the resorts looking for foreign women), but I too have a great Turkish husband – going on 12 years now. Please don’t say we haven’t found love – I know of far too many genuine marriages! And it has little to do with Islam either.

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