I have a love and hate relationship with tourists in Turkey. The same applies to living in a tourist resort.
I live in Ovacik, a pretty hillside village framed by mountains and pine forest 5 minutes from one of the most beautiful and photographed beaches in the world, Oludeniz. Ovacik itself is fairly residential and quiet, but Hisaronu, 5 minutes away, is one of the liveliest tourist resorts in Fethiye, probably along the coast. The summers, especially July and August, are packed. As much as I appreciate that tourism is the main business here and I long to see the numbers of visitors return to those we enjoyed in 2014, is it selfish of me to admit that there are a few things that really do piss me off when the tourists come to town? Well here goes, my rant on tourists…
Everywhere gets crowded.
There is a stark contrast between the summer and winter here along the coast. Summers are busy. Then, from the end of October through until April, most of the shops and bars are shut, the beaches gloriously empty and you only see the occasional tourist in town – it’s idyllic. It’s picture postcard bliss.
When I first came to Oludeniz in 1999 I, like many, fell for the charms of the area. The mountains, fresh air, warm weather and cheap living were just too hard to resist. I gave up my successful career in recruitment in the UK and I stayed. It was busy back then but the area didn’t attract nearly the tourist numbers of today. Oludeniz still had sand on the streets, the sweet smell of jasmine filled the air, Ovacik and Hisaronu were just starting to develop and, in many places, you were more likely to run across a goat than a milk-bottle legged tourist.
But now, during the summer, all the best places and our wintertime favourite haunts are packed. It’s hard to make your way through the sea of selfie-sticks, past the touts beckoning you in for a Full English, or through the market traders chanting that their ‘genuine fake’ Michael Kors bag is cheaper than Asdas. I completely understand why all this happens, that the majority of those in the area only have 6 months to make a years worth of money, but for someone living here, it’s annoying. Thankfully, over the years I have come to discover places a little off the beaten summer tourist track. These I will share in future posts.
People forget how to drive.
Turks are by and large terrible drivers (not that they would ever admit it!). The summer showcases this at its best. I could rant all day about the double-parking, lack of indication, jam-crammed cars traveling at 2mph and their addiction to the horn – if you suffer road rage don’t even consider driving here! Top this off with the foreigners who don’t don’t know the local road etiquette – that you drive straight onto a roundabout giving way to traffic coming in from the right, that there is a general disregard for pedestrian crossings and traffic lights and that it is commonplace for those in the right lane to cut across you on their crazy quest to turn left. Roads in Turkey during the summer, especially if it’s a national holiday, are chaos.
Tourists make the prices soar.
A few years ago Turkey was one of the cheapest holiday destinations around Europe – it still is if you have pounds or dollars in your pocket, but as a local on a locals wage, the sudden rise in prices over the summer months hits home. As a ‘yabanci’ (foreigner), even with a grasp of the language and a citizenship card stating you’re Turkish, you will never be classed a true Turk in the eyes of unknown traders. In Turkey, as is the case in many countries and tourist towns, there are three prices; the locals price (cheap), the tourist price (expensive) and the expat price (somewhere in-between). In the winter everyone knows one another so prices even off to a manageable sum. During the summer the out of town traders return, spot you don’t look like a local, therefore price you accordingly. The same applies to bars and restaurants, come summer, prices soar.
Tourists moan about the silliest things. This is Turkey, not the UK!
I have lived in Turkey a long time. I was a holiday rep for a couple of seasons, once for a cheapy package company, another time for a high-end operator. I loved both jobs and met some wonderful people. But I also met with some very odd characters. I can kind of understand the mischief and stupidity of the teenage or 18 to 30’s crowd – that’s not to say some of their beer-fueled antics were acceptable. But it constantly amazed me that many older, well-educated and more successful guests staying in the most luxurious hotels still compared Turkey with luxury resorts in the UK or the US. “THIS IS TURKEY. IT’S NOT THE UK. IT WILL NEVER BE THE UK. THINGS ARE DIFFERENT HERE!” I wanted to shout at them instead of smiling politely. The sausages here do taste different and may not be up to your local greasy spoon or bistro par – you are in a Muslim country, they are unlikely to be pork! Yes, during your self-catering villa stay you will find it difficult to find packet convenience food in Migros (Turkish Sainsbury’s equivalent). Other than pizzas, pre-packed dishes don’t exist here. You will, however, find an amazing organic selection of fruit and veggies at the local market and a heap of recipes on Google worth a shot at – failing that there are some fabulous restaurants. Yes, you may have slowed your speech down and repeated your request for directions three times in pigeon English to an old Turkish man on the street, but if he is still staring at you blankly or just offering you tea, he probably doesn’t understand. He is Turkish. He speaks Turkish. Accept his tea, smile politely and ask someone else! Perhaps the most ludicrous request I had as a rep was by a well to do older gentleman who was trying to escape the rat race in a traditional village. He demanded that I have a word with the neighbours of the hotel and ask them to be more considerate and stop the “incessant wailing at 5 am that set the cockerels of crowing and started the dogs barking”. He was referring to the local mosque! Ridiculous. If you want to be in England, stay in England. Surely you come to another country to embrace a new culture and explore different surroundings? Some of my guests left after two weeks saying how wonderful Turkey was but in reality hadn’t set foot outside their all-inclusive resorts. Yes, guest, your hotel was fabulous!
Some tourists have a total disregard for local customs and culture.
Turkey is a Muslim country and, although much of the coast is open-minded and used to foreigners, many locals are still quite conservative. Wearing g-string thongs and sunbathing topless will attract attention, especially on public beaches where local families and women in burkinis take their children swimming. Going to a public bar wearing nothing but your swimwear is considered rude. Would it really hurt to throw a T-shirt and a pair of shorts on? And drinking yourself into a paralytic stupor and throwing up on the street is neither acceptable or attractive – is it in the UK? Why do many tourists think they can do it here? It’s sad but sometimes I feel ashamed of the antics of my fellow countrymen.
Do you live or love Turkey? Do tourists annoy you? What are your thoughts? Please comment and share.
To sign up and receive posts as they are published, please enter your details in the box on the right. Please don’t forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter below. This is a new blog and hopefully will soon be filled with great content!