Living or Travelling as a Solo Foreign Woman in Turkey
In the past year, across the world, much emphasis has been placed on safety for women when they travel or live abroad. Mainly arising from a few incidents in countries like India and even Turkey, the audience of the controversial debate seems split in two.
Some insist women who travel alone are asking for attention, so should bear the consequences of whatever happens, while female rights advocates insist it is the birth-right of a human-being, whether male or female to travel in peace and without fear.
The simple fact is wherever you are in the world; an element of danger is always present. Even in your hometown, you face the risk of being mugged or having your house broken into. A utopia on Earth where everyone can claim 100% safety does not exist. If there were, we would all be living there!
So what about the topic of foreign woman in Turkey?
What precautions should they take?
Is the level of danger any higher than the western world?
I have many female friends who live and travel around Turkey as solo foreign women. Most are from the UK and a few from countries like Germany or Switzerland. Strangely enough, they all have a common bond in that they feel safer in Turkey than they ever did in their home countries.
For this article, we hooked up with Natalie Sayin from TurkishTravelBlog.com, who lives on the Aegean coast in the small resort of Didim, and has travelled all over Turkey from the East to the West. She says that in 14 years of living in Turkey, she has only experienced one hair-raising incident and that was easily quashed by threats to call the police.
“There is of course, cultural awareness” she says.
“In the resort of Didim, I walk around in shorts and sleeveless T-shirts but I would never dream of doing this in more conservative places like the Southeast of Turkey where women generally wear long shorts, long sleeves and cover their hair with a scarf. To do so, is the equivalent of putting a massive flashing beacon on top of my head”
She also speaks about the general attitude to foreign women by men nicknamed as Turkish love rats.
“Unfortunately, some men specifically pursue foreign woman for romance, but their main goal is money or a visa out of Turkey. I know of many genuine holiday romances that have resulted in marriage and a happy life, but equally have heard many tales of deceit and lies.
Sadly, the women ripped off for thousands of pounds by their dishonest lovers, are often in too deep before they realise what is happening and by that time, it is too late. The money is gone or their lover dumps them once they reach their home country.
The warning signs are there though. Red bells normally include a huge age difference, claims of poverty, hospital bills that need to be paid for sick family members and often a loan for a new business.”
Travelling Versus Living
Once a foreign woman has settled down to live in Turkey permanently, she becomes part of the community and gets to know people, therefore it is safe to assume that risks are lower than if she were travelling around.
For a woman who wants to travel around Turkey alone, she should take the same safety precautions that she would do in her hometown.
- Only use licensed taxis
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers
- Don’t venture out at night into areas unknown
- Always let someone back home know where you are and which hotel you have checked into
- Keep in touch often with friends and family which is easily done with sites like Facebook
- Do not carry huge amounts of cash around.
Culturally wise in Turkey, there are also a few extra precautions you can take. Refrain from physical content with any man. This includes kissing on both cheeks that is a cultural tradition but only if the woman, knows the man as a family member or close friend.
Also be aware of your clothing, because while a glimpse of a cleavage from your t-shirt or dress is accepted in western worlds as the norm, in Turkey, it can send mixed signals to men who are not aware of western customs.
Natalie stresses that whichever destination you decide to visit in Turkey, you must research the role of women and cultural trends first, which will help you to blend in easily.
While bikini-clad women swarm the beaches of the Aegean and Mediterranean, visiting small villages in the middle of nowhere, is a huge indicator that they still practise cultural trends of clothing and women’s role in society. Your dress sense and body language should show respect for their way of life, therefore detracting attention from yourself.
To finish the discussion she says,
“Regarding women in Turkey, it is impossible to stereotype the country in one sentence. From the east to the west, traditions, cultures, religious influences and attitudes are immensely diverse. In places like Izmir, women work in high-flying positions of authority for major corporations while in the East, a woman will generally take pride in becoming a wife and mother only.”
Just use your common sense, pay attention to gut instincts but most of all, enjoy yourself. Millions of foreign women enter Turkey every year, and leave with nothing but happy memories of their time in the country.”