10 Misconceptions about Turkey

1. "Turkey is full of war and violence"

You’ve heard it before, but you can’t hear it enough. You can’t believe everything you read in the news. But really more accurately, you can’t read about an event in the news from halfway around the world and expect that to be the only thing happening in the whole country. News sources have a very narrow lens through which they report.

Has Turkey experienced some acts of violence inside and a war on one of its borders in the last few years? Of course. But hearing about a murder in a city in the Eastern part of the country and therefore choosing not to visit a holiday city in the Western half is like hearing about a murder in Chicago (of which there are many and you likely don’t even hear about them all) and deciding to cancel your visit to Miami later that month…

The thousands of miles between Chicago and Miami are more than enough to cause us to not even think once (let alone twice) about how safe Chicago might be when we book a vacation in Miami. Thus, we would do well to adopt the same informed mindset to world travel, be it in Turkey or any other country around the world. Don’t allow the typical, narrow-minded American worldview to keep you from experiencing the beauty the rest of the world has to offer.

2. "Turks don't like Americans or Christians"

Of all the misconceptions on this list, this one might be the furthest from the truth. Turks LOVE Americans and welcome them with open arms. From the tourist-packed cobblestone streets of the old city to the neighborhood parks found all around the city, Turks will go above and beyond the call of Turkish duty to make you feel at home. This will include much doting on and watching out for your kids, as a Turk once dubbed this nation the “land of the children.“

3. "There are no English speakers in Turkey"

This one actually has to go hand-in-hand with how much Turks love Americans. Need directions? Need help with your luggage? Need advice for a good local restaurant? Most Turks in the hotel industry already know English.

But even if you’re out and about, just make a face like you need help, and the nearest shop owner will pull up a chair, offer you tea, and immediately track down the nearest English speaker (who is usually just a couple doors down) to get your question answered.

4. "Turkey is undeveloped and lacking in Western amenities"

All-inclusive five star hotels? We got ’em. Cruise ship ports? Check. Sandy beaches? Yep. Ski resorts? Take your pick.

And choosing between a beach vacation and a ski trip is a thing of the past when you visit Antalya. Book a transport for a morning on the ski slopes followed by an afternoon on the beach and topped off with a luxurious, all-you-can-eat buffet at your 5-star hotel in the evening. It’s all at your fingertips in this coastal city sitting at the base of the mountains.

5. "Turkey is chaotic and transportation is difficult and inefficient"

Not only does Antalya boast a robust and accessible bus system, taxis couldn’t be easier to hail. Just press the button on the nearest yellow taxi call box (usually conveniently located on the closest lamp pole and never more than a block away) and you’ll see your yellow ride pull up usually in 2 minutes or less. Taxis are cheap, busses are cheaper, and the tramway, which runs east-west across the heart of the city is cheapest yet.

Just like any major international city, Istanbul has its fair share of transportation challenges, but despite its population of 2 million, Antalya feels more like a laid-back beach town than a bustling city.

6. "Turkey is just like all the other countries in the Middle East"

If there were a way to offend the Turks, it might be to try to convince them that their heritage is not unique and richly varied from that of their Arab and Persian neighbors. Sure, overlap exists, but take a tour of the 7 Churches of Revelation (including the library at Ephesus), sample the many uniquely Turkish-style restaurants, and walk the short distance between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia (perhaps the country’s biggest symbols of its richly diverse religious past) and then tell the Turks that Turkey is not unique.

The nation truly sits as a bridge between East and West, and therefore a culture that is neither truly Eastern nor truly Western has sprung up. Moreover, thanks to its founding father Ataturk, the nation turned a big corner towards Westernization in the first half of the 20th century, forever shaping the trajectory of this nation and forging a fiercely Turkish identity out of the ashes of the Ottoman empire.

Oh, and by the way, the nation boasts a whopping 18 UNESCO World Heritage sights, with another 78 on the tentative list.

7. "Women have to cover their hair"

Women, you too can thank Atatürk for this one, as Turkey’s founding father not only ushered in a latin alphabet, but also empowered women in great measure. This includes the freedom to not wear a head covering.

While rural villages will usually find a majority of women still opting to don their head coverings, the streets of the Western cities find a more even split between women who cover their heads and women who don’t. Usually this split is reflective of age, as the younger generation is steering away from what they see as a cultural and religious thing of the past.

8. "There are only squatty potties in Turkey"

Maybe you know what a squatty potty is, maybe you’re hearing this phrase for the first time and get to use context clues, but either way, we have good news. Turkey has western style toilets! Sure, you can find a good ole fashioned squatty potty if you go looking for one, but it is not the norm, especially anywhere that remotely resembles a spot for tourists.

9. "The food will make you sick"

More good news… it’s not. Your chances of getting sick from food are no higher in Turkey. This is partially due to the fact that the water used to wash fruits and vegetables is not going to cause you to get sick. That being said, we wouldn’t recommend drinking the water regularly as it does contain a high level of metals that could eventually cause your body harm. But for washing veggies and brushing your teeth, it will do just fine.

10. "Alcohol is not allowed"

Whether you enjoy exploring the city nightlife or just like a good glass of wine at the end of long day of walking around ruins, Turkey (and Antalya in particular) has a plethora of alcohol options. Most all-inclusive hotels even include alcohol, so explore, hike, swim, ski or just relax to your heart’s content knowing that your evening beverage options are covered.

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