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Being a Women in Turkey – Part 1

15th December 2015

The Turkish attitude towards foreign women is a complicated subject, and there isn’t one easy answer. As we discussed in our “7 Safety tips for Women Travelling Alone in Turkey” blog cultural awareness and being aware of your surroundings is key. 

However how exactly are women perceived in Turkey? Some people moving or holidaying in Turkey expect it to be quite westernised, but then again some people incorrectly believe women have to wear head scarfs. So which is it? And what should a women moving to or holidaying in Turkey expect?

A women’s life in Turkey
Many women travel to Turkey alone without incident, and find Turkish people (both men and women) to be very kind and accommodating. Of course there are occasions when women travelling or staying in Turkey have experienced some problems.

Women travellers in general (no matter whether they are staying or visiting) will be more at risk than men. A women in Turkey could possible experience problems like: harassment, unwanted advances, heckling and possibly even more serious crimes.

The cultural attitudes towards women in Turkey is a rather unique case, you can expect a significant contrast to how women may be viewed and treated depending on whereabouts in Turkey you are. Let’s look at some points you should consider if you’re travelling or staying in Turkey.

Dress Code: It’s impossible to make generalisations about the Turkish dress code, since most tourists travel during the spring and summer months you’ll likely want to dress loose and comfortable for the weather. Bikinis, shorts and summer dresses are all common sites in resort areas, but in the more conservative areas of Turkey this sort of dress will likely get more of a reaction.

If visiting a mosque then woman like men should make sure they follow proper protocol and practice and dress appropriately.

Flirting and Unwanted Attention: Whether you’ve relocated to Turkey or are simple just holidaying there, it’s likely that as a woman you’ll be flirted with at least once or twice. Must of the time this can simply be taken as banter and could even be perceived as a bit of fun. Turkish merchants and barmen are typically infamous for employing these tactics. See our blog on some of the funniest chat up line Turkish barmen use

However while this can be all in good fun at times it can also escalate into trouble quickly, western women are sometimes characterised to be promiscuous or easy, so some men may simply believe you’re playing hard to get. Situations like these (although rare) no doubt are very stressful if you at all feel harassed or uncomfortable just walk away. If they speak English then you could also attempt to firmly tell them you’re not interested.   

Cultural Differences: Never under estimate cultural differences. In rural areas of Turkey many women are more reserved and don’t often talk with people they don’t know. So it’s often a good idea to follow the same rule if you are in one of these areas.
You should also try to keep a formal attitude, you can still be polite and friendly but try to strike a balance between being friendly and coming across over friendly. You should also try to avoid staring at people and try not to smile at strangers.

There’s still more to talk about and you read about more important information women who are relocating or holidaying Turkey should know in part two of our Being a Woman in Turkey Blog.



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