We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Pretend to be Korean or American?

Which Istanbul hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Jersey City, New...
Level Contributor
149 posts
4 reviews
Save Topic
Pretend to be Korean or American?

Background info: I was born in Korea, and moved to US 20 years ago. My wife was also born in Korea and moved to US 8 years ago. We both speak Korean and English fluently. I have a US passport, and she has a Korean passport.

Now, we're visiting Istanbul for 4 days next week. I am a bit worried after reading about people who will harass you to bring you to their store, or men who may make romantic (they think) gestures at my wife. If we pretend to be Korean (from Korea), who do not speak English very well, and speak 100% in Korean to each other in public, would we be left alone a little more?

I am really really looking forward to visiting all the historic sights of Istanbul, but also want to be prepared for the not-so-pleasant side of this city as well.

Thank you.

Rosehearty, United...
Level Contributor
10,190 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

Thats a great plan, but I bet that at least one Turkish person will actually reply in Korean

istanbul
Level Contributor
2,989 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

On trying to drag you to their stores, it does not matter what nationality you are or what language you speak. If they think that you look like a potential buyer, whether you are local or a tourist, they will do the same in and around the Bazaar and around Sultanahmet. My advice is to have your grubbiest clothes on in those areas, and then theyy will not bother you.

In other shopping areas, even 100 meters below the bazaar, towards the shore, it is a totally different culture, and no one will harass you.

again, women chasers looking for easy relationships may be on the lookout for available, usually single, ladies in Sultanahmet area, and nowhere else. In nisantasi area, or if you go to Sortie or Reina at night, your wife will feel inclined to blinfold you.

You really do not have to worry. Even if someone manages to lure you into his shop, the most he will do will be to offer you tea and show you his wares.

And because you are evidently a couple, your wife will not be subject to any propositions.

London, United...
Level Contributor
6,598 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

If you speak Korean - you will find people who instantly detect that language and will respond to you in it! (we were once in almost the furthermost outputs on the Med coast (Kekova if anyone is interested), and in our party there were English and US speakers, Italians, Belgiums, Dutch, and a Japanese lady - and guess what? the 6 year old kids could suss us all out and speak in our languages - not just "hello" but able to give us a potted account of the history and traditions of their village in all languages. Oh and we tried them out in Spanish too!

I think Turks must be innately excellent speakers of foreign languages (just look at the perfect replies we get here on the English language forums for Turkey) and they love to practice and learn!

You WILL meet people in the stree, especially around Sultanahmet who will talk to you and then eventually mention their brother/cousin's carpet store - but you can always politely refuse! And in the meantime, maybe even engage in a bit of banter and teaching of Korean whilst engaging with some Turkish people!

Perrysburg, Ohio
Level Contributor
3,165 posts
21 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

As all the previous posters have said, you really don't have to worry. The not-so-pleasant side of the city really isn't all that unpleasant. It only consists of some Sultanahmet shop owners inviting you into their shop because they're trying to make a living selling their wares. A polite "no thanks" as you keep walking will suffice if you don't want to banter with them. As for your wife, as otherchelebi said, you have nothing at all to worry about. And yes, some of them will probably speak to you in Korean!

Stockholm, Sweden
Level Contributor
62 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

Dress up,dress down,it doesen´t matter,you are business.It does not help if you speak Korean,Swahili or Swedish. Just keep walking if you are not interested. I´m sure that you will have a pleasant time in Istanbul,it´s just a totally different country and culture than Korea.

I just love the place.

Concord, California
Level Contributor
1,268 posts
9 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

no one is going to literally "drag" you into a store. you have choice to enter or not. in all the times I went to the bazaar on my trips,no one did that. you can always smile politely and go on your way. as I have said here,and others,they are making a living and not doing this to harass you. everyone in every country has a different approach to doing so. this is not done in the states,so you are not used to it. buy what you want or not,you are under no obligation to do so. if you go looking for the bad side of a country,you will find it. try to keep an open mind and do not focus on what might happen to you.

as for wearing your not so nice clothes,I would not do that either.also,remember you will probably never see these people again,so don't worry about what they are thinking.

Mount Dora, Florida
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
Level Contributor
14,138 posts
243 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

So the bottom line here is that there is no way to make yourself immune from the quests of carpet salesmen. They earn a living by selling carpets to tourists, and regardless of what language you speak or what you wear, they will recognize you. And, I am confident that someone will speak Korean.

However, no one is going to drag you anywhere. No one has ever so much as touched me other than to extend a hand when they thought I might be in danger of falling.

As for romantic gestures towards your wife....so long as you are with your wife no one will approach her at all. If she were walking around as a single woman she would be wise to watch her body language...avoid smiling at men, making eye contact and responding to verbal questions.

I do not find the banter of the carpet salesmen to be unpleasant. They crack a few jokes, and tell you about their uncle who lives in Miami or Houston or, perhaps in your case, Korea. They invite you in to have tea, visit, see some carpets.

They are exceptionally friendly and you feel like you should go into the shop so they do not think you are being rude. Just shake your head, say no, keep walking. If you do not want to waste time visiting, keep walking as you say no. You may feel as if you are being rude, but you will continue to control the schedule of your day.

Do not worry about the "not-so-pleasant" side of the city. It is not nearly as bad as you think it is.

Sacramento, CA
Destination Expert
for Sacramento
Level Contributor
4,013 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

<no one is going to literally "drag" you into a store. you have choice to enter or not.> Not always true.

I and my wife have both been literally dragged into shops.

Me, in Cancun by a guy pulling on my shirt and calling me 'Meester Weeskers'. (I have a beard)

My wife, by a woman in Bangkok with Vice Grips for hands that left a mark on my wifes arm for hours.

Hey, it's all part of the fun.

You're Korean right? No matter what you do you're not going to look Turkish. You'll still look like a tourist. You'll still look like money to them.

If you've been in the U.S. for 20 yrs. they'll be able to tell.

I wouldn't worry about it much. Just go and have fun. I haven't been to Istanbul yet but even the shopkeepers that dragged us into their shops treated us with respect. I'm sure they will do the same in Turkey.

Istanbul
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
Level Contributor
36,567 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

Don't pretend anything. Just be yourselves like you always are, and everything will work out to be fine.

enigma...

Istanbul, Turkey
Level Contributor
17,579 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Pretend to be Korean or American?

If you try to cut yourself off too much from talking to people you will also cut out one of the most enjoyable things about Turkey-the Turkish people themslves!

After all the amazing things to see as a tourist the thing that endears Turkey to visitors is the people of this country.

Don't allow worries about carpet salesmen to sour your view before you have even arrived.They are just human beings trying to earn a living and as others have said just a polite no thanks is enough.

But from time to time allow yourself a few minutes to listen to the banter(perhaps in a trinket shop where the goods aren't so expensive!)chat to a shop keeper now and then.Often they can give you useful information and you will find them so friendly and cheerful.

You can find wonderful sites to visit in almost any country but what makes Turkey special is the warmth and hospitality of it's citizens.Enrich your holiday with a few minutes chat each day-you never know when you may meet a friend for life:)

As for your wife,if she behaves as a respectable well bred lady then she will be treated as such and with wonderfully flowery courtesy!Enjoy your stay in Istanbul.