In Turkey, there’s a culture of beckoning potential customers into your shop or dining establishment, particularly in touristic areas.
It doesn’t matter if they appear to actually be interested in entering your venue, are engaged in a telephone conversation, or have just left your neighbor’s restaurant or shop–everyone is fair game to the calls of “Hello!” “Please stop by!” “Are you hungry?” “Have a look!” “Are you from Brazil?” “Bon soir!” Sometimes I get “Beyonce!”, “Jennifer Lopez!”, or “Naomi Campbell!”–you know, because the four of us look so much alike.
I usually respond curtly in Turkish with “Sağ ol,” (“No, thanks”) or, “Turist değilim” (“I’m not a tourist”), because that shuts them up the quickest. Sometimes I ignore them completely. If I’m feeling irritable, I might respond with an agitated sigh combined with a dramatic eye-roll.
Walking out of a restaurant with two American friends who were visiting Istanbul from California, we had to pass a gauntlet of about six restaurants and shops before exiting the alley. The first few annoyances were harmless, “Excuse me, what country are you from?” “Can you be polite to me, I want to just ask one question,” but as we progressed through the narrow street, the shopkeepers became more bold, bizarre and obnoxious as we ignored them, culminating in the final restaurant door guy saying, “The three most ugly girls in the world!”
Although I did reprimand him loudly, I wasn’t offended. I know he was coming from a place of hurt pride, boredom, and arrogance, because I happen to know I look *just like* J Lo, B, and Naomi.