Friday, February 1, 2013

(Update February 2016: Since this is one of my most popular blog posts, I wanted to write a brief update. I still stand by all my comments that Istanbul is still a relatively safe city, just like any other big city in the world. Be smart and make smart choices and you should be fine. We lived in Istanbul for 3 years and I’d happily live there again. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. 

Another related article published by a fellow Istanbul expat: Am I Safe in Turkey?.)

I’m going to stray away from my normal happy topics about the pazar, baking and our Turkey trips to talk about some local news. 

I’m sure you’ve heard about the missing American woman from New York in Istanbul. Local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigations have been searching for Sarai Sierra, 33, who has been missing in Istanbul since Jan. 21, when she didn’t return to NY.  I feel sorry for the family and hope she is found, but there are a lot of strange circumstances surrounding the story.

Since I’ve been following the story, I have seen and heard many comments online following these news reports and in particular comments being made about Istanbul, Turks and Turkey. Of course, this story is discussed quite differently among my expat friends and me here in Istanbul.

I’m quite angry and frustrated by these ridiculous, zero-fact based and ignorant comments. I have a difficult time believing these statements are being made by Americans whom have actually traveled to Turkey. Unfortunately, many of these comments are based on stereotypes.

It’s no surprise Americans have misconceptions about Turkey when less than half a percent of the population traveled to Turkey in 2011. Millions of Americans travel to Mexico and Canada every year while only a couple thousand visit Turkey.

According to 2011 statistics released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the top 3 outbound destinations Americans traveled to were Mexico, Canada and Europe. Mexico received 19.9 million U.S. visitors while Canada was visited by 11.5 million U.S. travelers. In third place, Europe received 10.8 million U.S. visitors. In fourth place, 6 million Americans traveled to the Caribbean.

In comparison, according to a Jan. 6, 2012, article in the Hurriyet Daily News, 733,193 tourists from the U.S. visited Turkey in 2011 compared to 619,000 Americans in 2010. That’s an 18.45 percent increase. 

In the past few years, Turkey and Istanbul have been declared top travel destinations by travel experts such as Travel & Leisure, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor. Last month, CNN placed Istanbul on its Europe’s 10 Hottest Destinations for 2013.
A view of sprawling Istanbul from the Sapphire Building.
For the record, I’ve lived in Istanbul as an American with my husband for nearly three years. I’ve gone out late at night in Taksim and met my girlfriends – by myself. I’ve never had any problems. I’m not going to walk down a dark, barren street by myself. I wouldn’t do that anywhere.

My husband has never feared for my safety nor NOT allowed me to go out by myself. (Some commentators have said men shouldn’t allow women to travel to Turkey by themselves. I hate the word – allow.) 

During the day in Istanbul, I walk around the city all by myself and sometimes with girlfriends. I’ve walked across the Galata Bridge dozens of times. I visit outdoor markets, small stores and the Grand Bazaar that are run by male Turks. I’ve never been assaulted. The occasional rude comment is ignored. I consider myself a big city girl and am smart about what I do. 
View from the Galata Tower over the Galata Bridge and Sultanahmet in Istanbul.
Generally, Turks are very helpful and kind people. They will go out their way to help you if you are lost and probably will offer you tea along the way.

There have only been a couple of occasions, on crowded buses and the subway, where I felt uncomfortable because a Turkish man was trying to get a little too friendly. Learn a key phrase like “Terbiyesiz” and shout it out.  People will assist you. And even if you don’t speak Turkish, you’ll be fine if you tell someone to F*** off in English.

Bad things can happen anywhere.

How safe is America?

For more than six years, I also lived in NYC, Washington D.C. and Baltimore in the U.S. Each of these metropolitan cities has bad neighborhoods where you just don’t go. I’ve been out late at night there too, but I’ve played it smart. By the way, rude and horrible men live in these cities too.

In fact, Baltimore has consistently ranked in the top 10 of America’s most dangerous cities, according to the FBI. Have you watched The Wire? In 2010, Baltimore's violent crime rate decreased about 5%, but it’s still plagued with drugs and poverty and ranks in the top 15 U.S. cities for all violent crimes but forcible rape. Despite these crimes, I’d move back to Baltimore in a heartbeat.

Do I need to mention all the gun-related problems that have happened in the U.S. lately?

Do you think parents in Newton, Conn., sent their children off to school knowing a crazed shooter would kill 26 people at this elementary school?

How about the mass-murder shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that killed 12 and injured 58 others last year?

How about the recent nanny in NYC and several parents who have drowned and killed children in bathtubs during the last few years in the U.S.?

I repeat – bad things can and DO happen everywhere.

Misconceptions about Turkey

Now, I’ll address some of the comments I’ve heard online recently and in the past by friends and acquaintances. 

‘Isn’t Istanbul a desert?’ I was asked this by an American woman at the Charlotte International Airport in N.C. last year. Nope! Istanbul is bordered by the Bosphorus, Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

Turkish women have no rights. In fact, Turkey granted women the right to vote in 1930 – while France and Italy didn’t until 1945. Isn’t that interesting?

Istanbul isn’t safe because it’s so close to war-riddled Syria. Please take a look at a map! Syria is located about 1,200 km away from Istanbul.

‘Do you ride a camel?’ I heard this one from a friend when I first moved here and laughed. The only time I’ve been on a camel is while sightseeing in Cappadocia, Turkey.
All Turkish men have harems. From 1453 to 1922, harems were part of the Ottoman Empire and the Sultans in power, but that ended when the Turkish Republic was established. I have heard of married Turkish men having mistresses, but that’s no different than American men having affairs either.

All women are covered and wear traditional burqas. While many women in Turkey do wear head scarves and long trench coats, you rarely see women wearing a full black burqa unless it’s a tourist from Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries. In fact, you’ll see plenty of modern-day Turkish women wearing short dresses or skirts and colorful high heels in Istanbul. Despite the uneven, cobblestone streets, Turkish women seem to love wearing insanely high heels.
Some of the more traditional women you'll see in Istanbul.
Daily life in Istanbul on Istiklal Cad. in Taksim.
Now, I’m not saying life in Istanbul or Turkey is fine and dandy for everyone. The city and country certainly is not without its faults and bad people. Minority populations such as the Armenians and Kurds have experienced terrible things here too. In the past few months, there have been four violent attacks against Armenian elderly women and an Armenian school teacher was killed

I also think the Turkish government has a fair number of issues, but I won’t delve into that topic. 

I repeat: bad things can happen anywhere.

So this is just my two cents from an American woman in her mid-30s who is living happily and safely in Istanbul.

Here are some interesting travel articles:

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Melissa Tz said...

Good post and it needed to be said.I have resisted commenting on some of the US discussion boards since it serves no purpose to try to provide facts to people who want to stay ignorant. And in fact distracts from the issue at hand that this woman is missing and her family is suffering. I find it shocking that in some commentaries people have said that Turkey treats its women as second class citizens and in the next sentence ay that no American woman should be "allowed" to travel by herself here. I too was a female solo traveler initially to Istanbul before moving here and have never had any issues except minors ones like you mention above. It is dismaying how parochial and backward our own countrymen can be. Thanks for posting this.

Unknown said...

Very well said Joy. I completely agree. I feel much safer here than in London. Because I am usually with children I have not actually experienced ANY strange behaviour towards me in nearly four years. Thanks for writing. We are just off to Denizen Coffee to get a 'pastry you can taste the butter in' fix!!

Alexandra said...

I'm a single woman living in Istanbul since 2007, I've lived in all kinds of neighborhoods here and one was even a a slum. I consider it 1,000 times safer than living in New York City!

Moe said...

Great points Joy! Living here for 5 yrs, I very rarely have problems and if and when I do, they're easily fixed with a bit of 'shaming'.

I've talked about this to death with our Turkish friends over the years, about the stereotypes and I guess the one defense I can think of for Americans is that Turkey, until recently with Syria and the missing woman, is just not in the news frequently enough to ever change the perspective. Also a friend suggested that also only the negative news is exported. Films such as Taken 2 and Skyfall have a chance to show a different side, but always stick with the romanticized-backward-almost-arab-like Turkey.

Cuisine de Provence said...

Bravo Joy - wonderful post. And it's not only Americans who have misconceptions, you should hear what some of our French or German friends say when we tell them how much we like to travel in Turkey...

Julia said...

Great post Joy. I was just so saddened to read the comments under the CNN report online. I can't believe people don't at least read up about a country before they write such silly things. I feel MUCH safer in Turkey than in the UK. Like you said, a lot of it is about common sense.

Hayley said...

I will be one of the statistics of Americans who traveled to Turkey in 2012. It was my very first trip travelling abroad somewhere. I could have have picked anywhere in the world and I picked Turkey without any hesitation. Not because it was becoming a top tourist spot but because of the culture, history and beauty. I absolutely loved my 2 weeks there. I was with a travel group that traveled all over the country. Within the group I was a single traveler. I walked through many places including Istanbul by myself, sometimes at night. Our tour guide said exactly what you are saying...don't go down dark alleys or side streets by yourself but you are find walking around. The key is common sense. There are places in the US that I would never walk by myself day or night. I pray this woman is found safely. I hate that Turkey is being dragged into a negative light.

Rebecca England said...

My brother has lived in in Fatih for many years. He loves Istanbul and Turkey. My partner and I visited him last summer; it was my first time in Turkey. I loved Istanbul and felt safe at all times, even in his most conservative neighborhood.

We traveled by car to Izmir, staying in small villages or towns. Every encounter I had with locals was met with warmth and helpfulness.

Turkey is one of the most amazing places I have ever been; I hope to go back soon.

Thank you for this blog - it helps me stay connected to my fond memories and the friends I made while in Istanbul!

Manya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I live in Istanbul with my American girlfriend, and while I agree that there are bad people everywhere, Istanbul is a place where my girlfriend is harassed, stared at and touched inappropriately by Turkish men on an almost daily basis. This doesn't happen in London and, to give one example, she is now at the point where when she's waiting for a bus she's got her back to a wall, eyes staring at the ground. We've had a bad experience with Istanbul, though I'm happy you haven't experienced the same things she has.

Helene Semmel said...

Good morning Joy. I always follow your posts with ineterest. And this current post is just great and accurate. Granted we wish the missing US Tourist will safely return to NYC. I've faced the same mis conception when I told few people I was going to Turkey last summer. And I politely told them to broaden their mind and vision. I was glad I did that trip with a good female friend of mine. As I told you people were super nice and helpful throughout the all trip, in the coutryside and cities. You just need to use your common sense as you would anywhere, and in any situation. And stop generalising without experiencing yourself. What I appreciate is when Friends here in NYC tell me I did convince them to go to Turkey on vacation. And I'm planing a shorter trip to Turkey in the spring, or early summer. et toc! Görüşürüz

jaz@octoberfarm said...

people are too quick to make comments before doing research. i've traveled all over the world and though i have not been to turkey, it seems very safe to me. i wouldn't set foot in mexico anymore! people are so misinformed! most people still call the czech republic czechoslovakia!

Unknown said...

Hi Joy!
Thank you so much for writing this post and sharing your thoughts. To be honest - I had not heard about the missing woman in Istanbul and I listen to the news on NPR everyday. It is sad, but you are right that it could happen anywhere - and it does happen everywhere - including in the US. I won't go read the comments on CNN or any other news site because frankly it will just enrage me and fill me with hate for ignorance.

Travel is a good cure for ignorance, but only if people will check their hang-ups and preconceptions when they board the plane and then not claim them at their final destination. The stats you mentioned show reality - most Americans can only be bothered to cross the border into Mexico if they will sit at a fancy resort sipping margaritas, eating Americanized Mexican food and drinking bottled water.

I have little hope that this culture of ignorance will change in American society - I can only try to change the few around me that are interested in learning a bit more with my blog. Just as you do with your blog. It's a good start! Keep up the good work :-)

Unknown said...

I did check out this news story on a Turkish news website, the Hurriyet,

There are some different types of comments there - people are worried for her safety, but mention that if a Turkish or Italian woman was lost in New York would the world care so much? Good food for thought. For those that may be interested in reading from a different perspective, I think the Hurriyet is a good place to start. Just wanted to share.

BacktoBodrum said...

A good, well informed post Joy. I have always felt safe in Turkey, even as a 30 years younger blonde. I'm sure there is a back story we don't know to this missing girl. It seems strange that she came to Istanbul, then travelled to Holland and Germany and then came back to Istanbul for a couple of days. I hope she turns up safe and sound.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Tacizci= the idiot who gets a little too friendly on the bus. Besides guys like him, I know Istanbul is safe for anyone. I lament every stupid film that throws stereotypes at an audience.

On the flip side, I'm always proud to like, post and share your adventures, Joy. Your stories show the world better. One person at a time, but one more than there was yesterday.

PS. I live in Charlotte. Who was that ignorant woman? I'll go set her straight. ;)

Joy said...

Thanks for the great discussion! Unfortunately, our internet is down at home so I can't respond to all your comments just via phone right now. Bare with me.

Ender said...

Hi, this is a really well written post. Long story short bad thing can happen anywhere. Currently I live in Sydney where is stated on the polls as one of the safest city in the world. A few months back,a brazilian tourist killed by police teasering 14 times.
I may suggest one or two things. if you encounter with a too friendly male in Turkey, don't hesitate to yell/shout to him publicly. This will discourage and humiliate him and my opinion on terrible incidents to minority groups is these attacks are not random, I reckon a group of people with some idiot ideology are behind this attacks, probably stupid nationalists.

Anonymous said...

Suicide bomber attacks U.S. Embassy in Turkey,0,7266474.story

Oh, and it is the young and healthy that are most at risk to be kidnapped into the sex slavery and organ trafficking gangs, many DO exist in Turkey. FACT.

Jan. 29 '13 Istanbul police dismantle a human trafficking ring in a joint operation [20 hostages released]

Jan. '13 Organ traders in Turkey kidnapping Somali students [22 Somali students missing in the last 14 months only!]

Furthermore Turkey is allowing militants and terrorists from many countries to come to Turkey and enter from Turkey into Syria where they are destroying that country and even looting whole factories and agricultural supply warehouses and bringing the items back to Turkey.

Turkey is arming these terrorists.

Anonymous said...

I was in Istanbul alone for a week in 2001 and absolutely loved it. I stayed out late quite a few nights and in general just hung out as I had little money. The only problem I had was the number of men asking me to go to dinner with them, like ten a day. I've never been a skinny girl so it's not normal that I get asked out constantly. But I must have been very alluring for Turkish men?

Karen said...

Joy, this is a terrific post which I will share widely. Aferin!

Catherine said...

Thank you for writing this, Joy! I've been traveling the world alone for 30 years, been coming to Turkey for 20 and have lived here now for 14. I've had major harassment and assaults elsewhere, but thankfully nothing that severe here. I am safer in Istanbul than when I lived in NYC, SF or LA. Yes, even here in Samatya, where those attacks occurred. Attacks which got neighbors protesting out on the streets, where police have added 100 additional security cameras this week and are actively patrolling, where residents - Turks, Kurds, Armenians, and me, the lone American - are horrified this would happen amongst us, in this village in a megacity. Protest over someone attacking elderly women in LA? Can't image that happening...

Manya said...

Sad to see that this young woman's body apparently was found today near the city walls. Hurriyet Daily News reports a woman answering her description was found with a driver's license. Again, this can happen anywhere. Turkey is a safe country. I feel safer there than in most big cities in America.

Unknown said...

I don't speak English well so talk to Turkish.
Çok teşekkür ediyorum Turkiye hakkındaki yazın için.
Malesef Avrupa ve Amerika'da Türkiye'ye karşı bir önyargı var.
Ancak seninde gördüğün gibi gayet modern,çağdaş ve bir o kadar da kültürel mirası ve zenginlikleri olan bir ülke Türkiye!

Unknown said...

Dear Joy, very well done for going ahead and posting such a well-written, sensitive piece. This poor woman somehow fell in with the wrong crowd for reasons that haven't been revealed as yet. A very tragic case indeed - in this country of 75 million we are not used to things like this.

Liz Cameron said...

A great post. Really comprehensive and right-on.

And it is with a blushing face that I admit that despite my years of travel solo all over the world - I have developed a fear of going out in Istanbul by myself. It's crazy. I'm not married to a man who has "allow" in his lexicon - and although he would defer to whatever I would want to do with myself re: going out of the house - I can't bring myself to do it much. Let me also say that I am married to a progressive man who is not religious in one iota of a way. He is not socially conservative - nor is his family - but they all have really resisted my wish to travel around the city by myself.

I feel as though I am "coming out" about this issue...and I feel like a total hypocrite for saying how I feel - given also that as a feminist academic who in part studies violence against women and is an activist in the US on that topic, I still can't get my butt out the door when in Istanbul!

...and the whole Sarai Sierra tragedy has brought it to a fever pitch for me. Clearly her death was an anomaly, she was in a major tourist area - and some questions about her activities remain for me re: things that might have put her at risk.

I hope you do not mind my comment - I guess I needed to put my own experience out there - but I really wanted to thank you for your thoughtful words - words I couldn't conjure as my experience is a couple of steps removed and different as much as I support all that you say so eloquently!

Be Better Together said...

Thank you for a well and honest post. I have been traveling alone for many years to different countries and I still amaze to hear rude comments and prejudice about other cultures,people and countries. I hate to hear the words you are not afraid of "those people" or "you better be careful because those people..." Those people had help me,guide and offer me their friendship. like you said is sad that this happen but it can happen in any city here in USA or any part of the world. I was born on a developing country and travel to others in humanitarian missions and I can tell you that I had found amazing friendships and kindness in many strangers.

Unknown said...

An interesting post. However, I think it's a little disingenuous to compare Istanbul to Turkey in this context.

Istanbul is a massive, sprawling metropolis, and to be fair, no matter how friendly and charming the Turks are whom you encounter in small Aegean villages, it remains appropriate for governments and authorities to provide adequate warnings to their citizens about travel to Turkey's largest city.

The Taksim-Bebek-Etiler triangle of wealth and higher level of education are simply not not to be found in most areas of the city. Outside the above neighbourhoods, Istanbul can be an intimidating place for the foreigner.

Most expats operate within a small section of Istanbul society and a true understanding of this city only comes after learning the language, a process for most that requires a couple of years.

Once you can communicate in Turkish with male Istanbullites, what comes back again and again is the frightening level of ignorance. This is not a prejudice. This is the reality in a country whose education system does not stretch minds very far.

I think the general Istanbul male has a long way to go before there is something even approaching equality in female-male relationships in this city. Male interactions with females are often painfully absurd to watch and this type of relationship is repeated across the region, not just in Istanbul.

However, in Istanbul you have the added disadvantage of a terribly large number of males with little or no education (translating as lack of respect for women outside their immediate family members), and I think it is prudent to advise foreign women from a Western upbringing to approach males here with care.

Whether a female feels safer here than walking among the backstreets of downtown New York or Sydney is irrelevant. Istanbul is enormous. It's still poor. On average, it's male population is extremely conservative. The average Istanbul male's education level is low and his social interaction skills with females is on par with other countries in the region. A similar reality exists in myriad metropolises across the globe.

Turkey is on the whole a safe country. However, every female is Istanbul should exercise caution when dealing with Turkish males. As a Turkish-speaking male expat I think women, especially if travelling alone in Istanbul, need to remain vigilant. This is not Kansas.

Joy said...

***We FINALLY have internet at home!***

@Melissa and Julia, Thank you! I completely agree with you about "allowing" women to travel here. Really made me angry! And Julia, hope you enjoyed the dessert!

@Alexandra, thank you for your comments. As long as you play it safe, I think you'd be fine just about anywhere.

@Moe, you are correct...sadly, Americans don't know much about Turkey and some tend to lump it all into a post 9/11 controversy.

@Barbara, Surprised to hear about the Germans because they are the number one tourist to Turkey!

@Julia, thanks! The first time we visited London, we got caught up in a riot! Talk about feeling unsafe.

@Strength for the Journey, thank you for providing your insight on your trip to Turkey! Happy to hear you enjoyed your time here. Spread the word and hopefully we can change some people's opinions.

@Becky England, Glad you experienced some of the Turkish warmth and hospitality! Hope you'll be back here soon!

@Simon, I'm very sorry to hear about your girlfriend's experience. She certainly should not have to put up with this behavior. She needs to yell and shame them....esp. if she can learn to say what would your mother think/say. I hope things improve for your stay here.

@Helene, I remember you recounting your lovely trip to Turkey when we met in person in NYC last year. Hope we'll see you here again soon. Cheers!

@Joyce, I hear you about Mexico...though Americans continue to travel there. The drug problem there hasn't gotten way out of control. I think I'll stay on this side of the "pond" for our travels. :-)

@Turkish Yazar, you are right! All we can do is to continue to share our positive experiences with others and hopefully some people will broaden their horizons about Turkey. Thanks for your wonderful comments and passing along the news link!

@Carolyn, thanks for sharing a new phrase with me! I've also learned my first Turkish profanity from a friend and hope I don't ever have to use it. Unfortunately, I think that woman was just passing through the Charlotte Airport. ;-)

@Ender, thanks for sharing your insight! When I shared this story with my parents in Nebraska, they also commented on how bad things even killings happen in my hometown now. So yes, bad things DO happen everywhere in the world!

Joy said...

@Anonymous, I wish you would leave your name if you are just going to leave news posts like this. I repeat, bad things do happen everywhere and in every country.

How about these recent news articles:
Selling American Girls: The Truth About Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

Super Bowl Is Single Largest Human Trafficking Incident In U.S.: Attorney General

Twelve arrested in US raid on Latin sex-trafficking ring

@Anonymous 2: Some Turkish men do find foreigners quite attractive and unfortunately, some think that we are "quite easy." Sometimes you need to have a bit of attitude and just tell them off.

@Karen, Catherine and Manya, thanks for your many comments! And I agree with you about the Samatya incident...maybe in my small hometown it would be enough to get people enraged but certainly not in a large US city.

@Limonata, Rica ederim! Burada yorum için teşekkür ederiz! Ben Türkiye'de yaşayan beğendim.

@Claudia, very tragic indeed!

@Liz, thank you for sharing your experiences! The next time you are here in Istanbul, you should look up one of us who lives here like myself, Claudia, Julia or contact us through PAWI. One of us gals would be happy to meet you and show you our side of Istanbul. I still feel like it is a safe place to live as a female.

@Felisa Hilbert, thank you for sharing your comments as well! As you continue to travel around the world, hopefully you can help modify people's opinions.

@James Heywood, I appreciate you sharing your insight about Istanbul.

I understand not everyone explores Istanbul outside of the normal tourist areas and perhaps that is outside of their comfort zone. But I still have felt safe as I've wandered through neighborhoods such as Balat, Fener, Besiktas, Uskudar, Kadikoy, Pangalti, Yenikapi, Bostanci and Fatih. I also don't wear clothes that may draw extra attention to myself even though my blonde hair clearly gives away my "yabanci-ness."

I feel that women - no matter where they travel - here, US, elsewhere - need to be smart and heed caution esp. if traveling solo.

Overall, I think Turks are very friendly and are willing to help out a foreigner - no matter if they are conservative or not.

Nicole Melancpm said...

I found your post and blog from a friend, Anita's feast, who read my recent article and posted me to your blog. I just wrote a similar post as well:
I couldn't agree with your post more! Thanks so much for writing it and I get so irritated by the good old ignorance, mostly of people who have hardly or never traveled. I only was in Turkey for a few days but loved it and also traveled to Morocco solo and felt very welcome and safe there. I lived in Chicago as well and now live in Minneapolis which used to be called "murderapolis" due to our high gun and gang violence. This stuff happens anywhere but I hate how our press and the ignorant comments makes everyone think that Turkey is dangerous and a woman should never travel alone. I just subscribed to your FB page and am looking forward to more updates! Nicole

Joy said...

@Nicole, thanks to Anita for connecting us! I enjoyed reading your post about traveling as a mom and agree with you as well. Even my small hometown in Nebraska has it's fair share of problems - meth and immigrant conflicts which have resulted in deaths. I can only reiterate that bad things can & do happen everywhere!

Please check out Nicole's post here:
Should a Woman Travel Alone?

jtingermany said...

Is it true that all American expats living in Istanbul are awesome? Because that was my main takeaway from my trip in 2012!

Great post, glad i got back to reading this again!


APRIL said...

I have lived in Avcilar, Yesilkoy and Yesilyurt in Istanbul and have traveled by walking, dolmus, train, and taxi all over Istanbul. I have gone from Istanbul to Ankara with the train alone. I never had any problems. Like you said Joy it is about common sense - don't go down dark or less populated streets, etc. I actually did have one incident where I had my daughter on my hip and my purse over my shoulder. I was on a bus going to the Galleria. A pic pocket almost had my wallet out of my purse and an older gentleman saw him started shouting at him and chased him off the bus. It is actually hilarious now when I think of it. I think your post basically said everything that needed to be said anyway. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Inevitably, there will be robbery and murder in any major city sadly. It goes without saying I had no problems in Istanbul. The population is huge and there is a small chance that you might run into someone who breaks the mould, that is most people there are nice and welcoming. Don't take risks! Please don't let bad stories put you off, it is a fantastic city and people!!!!

Unknown said...

Great post! I like to see foreigners making the most of this great city! Thank you Joy!

Joy said...

@JT, thanks for stopping by again! Of course, you got to experience Istanbul with us first-hand. ;-)

@April, thank you so much for sharing your stories about your life in Turkey! I agree. I'm happy that older gentleman helped you out.

@Anonymous, I agree, Istanbul definitely is a fantastic city! It pays to be cautious no matter what big city you are in even if you live there.

@Lale, thanks so much! I've really tried hard to get out and explore this vibrant city as much as I can.

bryan.edgar said...

I'm going on a trip to Turkey starting Thursday! I can't wait! Its a summer course at my community college so we are going to be moving all over. I can understand the ignorance part when my parents are scared for me because of the recent bombing near Syria, even when I tell them that we are going to be no closwer than about 400 miles from those areas. As a veteran I have lived in many different cities...I'm sure that Istanbul is no different, in that you just don't act stupidly. It makes me laugh when people say I'm crazy for doing this trip, and they don't even see that last Thursday a student disappeared right from my hometown, which isn't even considered that bad but its only safer than 12% of all the cities in the USA. I've been more scared walking through downtown allentown at night than I've been in any foreign city....pretty silly folr people to be scared by default. People need to stop watching the news. I swear they try to make americans too scared to ever leave the house!

Joy said...

@Bryan, Kudos to you for resisting what everyone else is telling you back home! Unfortunately, people are always afraid of what they don't know. I'm sure you will love Istanbul and Turkey and all it has to offer. The people are quite friendly as well. Iyi yolculuklar!

Travel to Turkey said...

We have traveled to Turkey with Right Travel and spend about a week there. We did not notice any such activity which would have made us realize that we were not safe there. The trip was a memorable one and well organized without any confusions.

Jennifer said...

As istanbul is one of largest tourist hub of turkey, so goverment should take some steps for the security of visitors from other countries.

Anonymous said...

Well said !
I just have a little remark : I think it will be preferable to use an other word than "traditional women" for women wearing scarfs or veils. It not what they may wear what define whether they are traditional or modern ;)
I hope you will get my point with no offence ;)

Thank you for your blog, it's always a pleasure to read it.

Unknown said...

"In the past few months, there have been four violent attacks against Armenian elderly women and an Armenian school teacher was killed. "

Mamma li Turchi!

Just like what Albert Einstein said, “It is harder to crack prejudice than an atom.”

Those Armenians killed by an Armenian Psycho. Just Google it!

I'm living in Istanbul and My both parents are Jewish.

LJTradcat said...

I'm British, living in Paris (France). I was in Istanbul for the first time just last week, with a female friend - my only real pre-conceived ideea was that I was expecting it to be as cosmopolitan as Constantinople and Genoa...I wasn't disappointed! I loved the way different religions and cultures blend together there, and seriously, felt much safer on the streets (even at 2 am!) than I have ever done in any city, whether in France or the UK. We had no harassment whatsoever...we had an amazing time and can't wait to go back!

Anonymous said...

I am an American married to a Turkish man who is also a citizen of America also and I really do feel strongly that a lot of Americans who know nothing about Turkey speak so poorly of it and the people. We are now a family of 5 and have been back and forth between istanbul and Las Vegas and I have been very open minded about our move and I totally agree with everything you have posted about this subject. I would love to follow and read your blogs. I decided to search for Americans living in istanbul as we are planning to make our final move by summer and I happened to stumble across your blog. He does have family there but it's nothing like making my own friends and even finding Americans or English speaking people there. So thank you for your blogs about your travel to turkey.

Joy said...

@Cynewyn, Just seeing your comment now. Happy to hear you had a wonderful visit in Istanbul! There are still so many places in Turkey that we'd like to visit too - the ruins of Ani, Trabzon, skiing in Kars and some of the other Lycian ruins. We never experienced any problems either, and I always made an effort to speak a bit of Turkish too. That always helps makes new friends! :-)

@Anonymous, Thanks so much for stopping by! You should also check out:
Captivating Cappadocia

Fellow blogger, Duke, and his wife have 7 children and have lived in Turkey for about 4 years now. He also might have some insight for you.

I think it would be a fantastic experience for your children to live in both American and Turkish cultures. There are many expat families/groups and international schools in Istanbul. The only thing I have an issue with right now is the corruption and chaos reining down from the government. Even reading about it all from afar makes me sad and angry.

Still, I'm already planning for my next trip to Istanbul in the spring to celebrate Lale Zamani with our friends!

Good luck with your move to Istanbul! If you have any future questions, please feel free to email me at:

Bizim gizli mabedimiz.. said...

If you want to learn more about Istanbul please visit

Anonymous said...

Well said thank you for your insight and honest report of such a beautiful city. I have been ready to visit her for many years and constantly been told Oh dont go.. but I have a love there and yes I will be going in March actually..

I thank you..

Joy said...

@Anonymous, thank you for your comments too! Istanbul is a lovely city and definitely worth visiting! I'm sure you'll fall in love with her too! I'll also be back in March for a visit! :-)

Rose marie said...

Than you so much for your comments. I am an American woman preparing to go to Istanbul in a couple of months to marry a Turkish man. We will be living in Istanbul. Needless to say, I've been kind of nervous about moving to Istanbul, as is my family. After reading your comments, I feel much better. Thank you.

Lynn said...

Thanks for posting Joy! I have to say, I have had uncomfortable moments in Istanbul with regards to Turkish men. I had a man in a scooter pull over and try to coax me onto his motorbike, I had a group of men holler at me while I was on a peaceful jog in the streets of Istanbul. That said. I believe it is a cultural difference. I'm an American woman, not used to men being so forward and making such eye contact. An uncomfortable eye contact and words spoken in a language I do not understand (which I choose to believe are them telling me I'm a lovely human being ) do not mean evil intentions are behind the actions. It is just...different. In the US, men show women they are interested in different ways., less forward ways. It is simply different there. It should be no more offensive. It is just disconcerting because we aren't used to it.

I love Istanbul. It is one of my favorite places to visit. I think women just need to understand a mans way of flirting there is different then in the US. It's more forward....but that does not make it aggressive or threatening. It is just different.

Songul said...

Im an Australian Turk and planning to move to Turkey this year. I get annoyed by Turks telling me im mad to leave Australia and live in a country obsessed with politics and citizens having no rights.

Im moving to Turkey as I believe its safer for my children, they're not going to be locked up indoors with ipods instead they can play in the koy, learn Turkish and our religion, experience people from all walks of life, actually meet less fortunate children and more.

But when I tell them all this, they tell me im being a selfish mum and not thinking about my childrens future.

Anonymous said...

"Various official statements on male violence contradict each other," says Cicek Tahaoglu, a reporter monitoring violence against women at Bianet. "According to statistics released by the Justice Ministry, 953 women were slain in the first seven months of 2009. On the other hand, Interior Ministry officials declared that 324 women were murdered in 2009."

Meanwhile, former Women and Social Policies Minister Fatma Sahin provided a different toll, the number of women killed in 2009 was 171.

Violence against women often involves concepts of "honour", which, according to watchdogs, reduce women to "property".

"A strong tendency… in all the provinces was to relate the concept of honour with women, women's sexuality and the control of women," said a 2005 United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) report, titled The Dynamics of Honour Killings in Turkey. The report stated that women, in order to be considered "honourable", have to be perceived as chaste, loyal, modestly dressed, and adhering to traditional roles.

Women who violate - or are thought to have violated - these norms can often face violence.

Traveling student said...

Well, you got rid of some of the misconceptions that I had.

Excel said...

I would like to visit Turkey with friends or fmaily one day

Tim said...

That's why people travel, to get rid of some of those misconceptions.

Unknown said...

I was in Girne Cyprus and Istanbul just a few weeks ago. As an American male I felt very welcomed and had no problems whatsoever. In fact everyone was very willing to help and was very friendly. The only thing that bothered me most were the relentless attempts to sell me a! I am now dating someone from Istanbul and look forward to being part of that country!

Alla Petrosky said...

Fantastic read material. I am planning a journey through Turkey myself. I am planning to publish photobook about my visit to Turkey. More details can be found

You can follow the progress of my trip here:

Anonymous said...

I live in Gemlik. I am here because I have given up on America and refuse to return. I'm a bit of a conspiracy theorist and do some research into many events, including about the New York gal who disappeared. I think that was psyops, of course, and nobody actually disappeared. But Gemlik is peaceful enough and a little boring without a car (I live in the neighborhood above Gemlik on a hill). So I don't get out much. Married to a very nice man and we have his 10 yr old son living with us. I have also never experienced anything negative in Turkey at all (I've been here twice before). I love it here and only regret that I don't know more of the language. Nobody speaks a lick of English here, and my precious husband, whom I didn't know much before marrying, only has about 25% English. So it's a little hard. And for the child's sake, we only speak English in the home so that he can learn, so I'm not getting ANY Turkish conversation, except for tv. But it's much less stressful than in America for sure. I wouldn't trade this little spot of paradise for anything else.

Tim said...

Dear Joy, I was searching blogs such as yours to be able to read about the experiences other people had re living in Istanbul. Amazing article. We are soon going to live in Istanbul and I wanted to hear some positive opinion beside millions of negative ones that I hear lately! We live in Melbourne with my two sons & Dutch husband who is trying to be supportive to realize this dream of mine. Time to time he is also effected by other's negative opinions which brings me into very difficult situation like I am forcing him into something impossible! Are you still in Melbourne? We are living in Carlton North where there are many amazing places for good coffee & cakes. As an Ankara girl, I would love to hear more about your experiences (if possible of course) re Istanbul. Şimdiden milyonlarca teşekkürler, Ayşen

Joy said...

Dear Ayşe, Merhaba! If you get this message, please get in touch with with me via email @ I haven't met any Turks here in Melbourne and I would love to meet up for çay or kahve! ;) We Live in Southbank, but I wander all around this city.

Cheers, Joy

BTW, I know of plenty of expats and Turks in Istanbul that I'm sure I could put you in touch with too. From what I understand, life has become a bit more difficult there bc of the current government and the lira weakening making things more expensive.

Joy said...

Merhaba! Yes I've been to Gemlik once and found it lovely. I would suggest learning some Turkish as it will make your local life easier. We loved Rosetta Stone, plus I did workbooks and took a group class too. Turkish is much easier than many other foreign languages. :)

Tim said...

Hi Joy! Thanks for the quick reply. I will send you a message :)

Khurram Saudi said...

What you think about recent bombs attack by terrorists in Turkey
Is it still safe to go their

Unknown said...

Yes, it is still safe to go there. I've been in Istanbul twice this year and and going back in August. I am a male and have had no problems in Turkey or Cyprus NRT. I think it is important to realize that being anywhere in the world these days are not without risk. Even in our backyards. I love Istanbul and will be looking to purchase a second home there.

Anonymous said...

Hello Joy and others,
I am thinking about moving to Eskisehir for the Fall/Winter and I am hoping to get some input from those of you who live there about the situation post-coup-attempt. What are your thoughts on this? How shaky is the political climate? Is there any sort of possibility the airports could get shut down for long periods of time or make it difficult for Americans to leave of their own free will or travel safely within Turkey?

I hope I don't seem ignorant, I just want to educate myself about the situation from an internal perspective. Thank you for any insight you have!

محمد العاني said...

hi Joy, Thank you for sharing your experience about living in Istanbul. Please can you suggest me the most safe zones in Istanbul. I'd like to moving to Istanbul, and from time to time I have to travel for my business. My wife with my little two babies have to stay alone. so I'm looking for the safest and the nearest to markets, kindergarten and such places. and again many thanks to you :)