The personality traits of a gentleman, smooth talker, romantic, and extreme flirt are all wrapped together to give you the typical Turkish man. At first encounter you will be charmed, wooed, and certainly enchanted by his “going-out-of-their-way” hospitality and attention. But be cautious. Some men have ulterior motives, and some will definitely get you into trouble.
When I first came to Turkey, I was given no warning about how typical Turkish men would act. I wondered if they would be anything like American men, the only type I knew, or if the culture would alter their personality completely. I had heard stories of getting lots of extra attention from men if you were naturally blonde or red-headed, but that seemed normal since those are very distinct foreign looks. Nonetheless, I had a rude awakening about the characteristics of typical Turkish men within the first month I lived in Turkey.
I didn’t date much in high school or at university, and I wasn’t given much attention by men. All of that was fine by me. I am a self-proclaimed bookworm and nerd to the core, so nothing could keep me from the gorgeous university libraries or research lounges. My experience with speaking or talking with guys all came from my two best male friends and my two big brothers–obviously nothing romantic or flirtatious there.
Furthermore, I thought that having tea or coffee with a new male friend would mean nothing because how could tea or coffee be anything but harmless?
Now, this type does not describe all Turkish men, because I have met some really great male friends while in Turkey. I’m also not trying to create a stereotype about typical Turkish men. These are simply my experiences in my small city outside of Istanbul. Not all of these traits or experiences are only a result of Turkish-ness. Some of the stories that I have heard have been due to women beginning the flirtation themselves, and some men have a view of all Western women as being the same as women in movies.
That being said, here are three things I have learned about typical Turkish men:
1. Typical Turkish men are persistent.
If you are casually asked to have coffee or tea, and politely decline, that may stop them—for a few minutes. Even if you haven’t tried to give them extra attention, some take even simple eye contact, a small laugh at a joke, or just the fact that you are alive as an acceptance to their marriage proposal. If you say no to them once, they will ask again, or they will lie low until you notice them again.
To me this was so bizarre because in the States most men get anxious even asking a girl out (kudos to those who have the courage to take that risk). Once they’ve been shot down they don’t attempt again. The only way to deal with Turkish men’s persistence is to grin and bear it. Soon they will find another girl and/or you will begin dating someone, which will turn them away because…
2. Typical Turkish men are jealous.
This does not solely go for Turkish men; this is true for men and women here. Jealousy is part of their culture and a fact of life. If you are dating a Turkish man or woman, there are no other men or women that exist anymore. Now in America and in the UK, jealousy is a green monster that most people have a strong distaste for.
Here in Turkey, if you are not jealous of whom your partner speaks to, looks at, or hangs out with, it is the equivalent of raising a small flag that states, “I don’t love him/her.” It also doesn’t matter how many times you try and explain the cultural difference—they won’t change their minds. Because of this jealousy you have to be careful of who you hang out with because…
3. In Turkey, everyone talks.
If you have tea with a guy after a class and someone sees you together—and they most certainly will—within the hour your classmates, your school, and all of your friends will have found out. There have been instances where I have been walking around town and I ran into one of my students. We decided to chat for awhile, usually for them to practice English. By the end of the day I would be asked by either my boss or friends if there would be a date soon.
So what can you do? You continue to live life.
The attention is going to come, and you have to accept it. In the beginning you think you are royalty, but the best way to make sure you are safe is to use common sense. In Turkey there are different social norms that you have to follow. Here it is all about being continually conscious about what others are thinking, both if they see you alone with someone, or if a guy is asking you to hang out.
At the same time, typical Turkish men are not always to blame. My personality can, at times, seem very social or flirtatious because I am a bit sarcastic. Sometimes I come across as initiating, while really I’m just trying to be myself. Therefore, while a lot of the bad press about typical Turkish men centers around jealousy and persistence, it is a two way street—with a misunderstanding of both sides’ social norms and cultures.
Top image by Let Ideas Compete (Creative Commons)