1. Prepare to have a photo album exclusively of Turkish men (See below.) Women with a camera should be prepared to take pictures of men of all ages who enjoy mugging for the camera. They are not shy about asking to look at the digital photo and will suggest a few more shots. They will also offer their creative directing skills free of charge. We received many business cards with requests to email the photos they insisted we take with them and to post them on Facebook.
2. Do a lap before committing to touching anything. Get an idea of what is in the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. There are a lot of beautiful things and they are available in high volume and ubiquity. Have a stealthy plan for entering the markets to get a feel for the variation in prices and quality of products. Loitering with no plan will lead to the store owner insisting on taking you on the long tour of his store. On this tour he will present every last thing possible to buy and will make note that he does take plastic.
3. Limit the number of times you respond to the shouts from store owners. Expect to hear: "Bonjour!" "Hola!" "Bongiorno!" "Shalom!" "Hello!" and wherever else they guess you are from. They will ask: "How are you?" "Where are you from?" "Where are you staying?" all conversationally. For some, this is their friendly sales pitch, for others it is a way of determining how much money you might have so they can adjust their prices accordingly. They will all insist: "Please may I invite you to come see inside my store." They will also offer a tea or a coffee. For those who enter, it is totally fine to accept. (Note: The sign of a real friendly gesture is to be offered cherry tea.)
4. Accept an ugly American charge in certain scenarios. It's impossible to not be considered rude. Unless spending the day talking to 500 people and walking through hundreds and hundreds of stores with the same products is your forte, we suggest averting eye contact, offering a toothless, closed-mouth smile, and pretending you don't speak any of the languages they shout out.
5. Don't settle for the first price; haggle! When you find something you want in the store of your choosing and of the exact quality you like, don't accept the first price. We weren't afraid to cut the price in half and use a little charm. The reaction by most shop keepers is positive. It's like a game, and even a dance based on how enjoyably, knowledgeably and wittily they feel they are challenged. Haggling over the difference of a 1 or 2 Turkish Liras, however, is tacky. It's fighting over 64 cents to $1.28!
Bottom line: enter with confidence, don't overpay and have fun!
Shira Levine's trip to Turkey was made possible by the Turkish Culture and Tourist Office.
· Turkey Field Trip [Jaunted]