Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Too helpful?

It's a common Turkish trait....being helpful.   Everywhere you go in this country, people bend over backwards to help if you have a problem.  I think it's what visitors remember most about the Turks when they return home.

I've talked before about dolmuş drivers going out of their way to accommodate their passengers.  On Sunday I planned to bus over to Bodrum mid-afternoon and travel back in the evening with Mr A.  I waited at the village bus stop for the bus due at 2.30pm.   Before the dolmuş arrived the phone was ringing in the tiny office and one of the men from the teahouse popped over to answer it.  When the dolmuş arrived he had a word with the driver.  I got on the bus, paid my 1 lira which takes me to the main Bodrum road, a journey of 5 minutes.  However, the driver reversed the bus and set off back in the direction that he had come.  He carried on driving until we reached the next village...about 12 kilometres away, and a bit further till we reached a fish restaurant way out in the woods (a place I never knew existed, but think I'll visit some time). 

It would seem that the phone call was from the restaurant to say that two customers needed collecting to go to Milas.   When we arrived, there was no sign of them.  One of the passengers got off the bus and went to look for them...nothing.  We waited 5 minutes, then the driver went off to search.  He came back on his own and we waited a further 5 minutes.   Eventually, someone came out and informed the driver that the people concerned had managed to get a lift into Milas after all.

Wouldn't you think the driver would be a little upset or annoyed?  Not a bit...he shrugged his shoulders...reversed the bus and set off again.  My 5 minute journey to the main road took almost an hour.  I guess before I lived here, something like this would have annoyed me, but how can you be upset when someone is going out of their way to be helpful?

I've been over at the hotel with Mr A a fair amount this past couple of weeks and I've been observing this helpfulness firsthand.  If you are a guest in a hotel and you have a problem, your first port of call is Reception.  Guests latch on pretty quickly to the fact that if Reception don't respond immediately they can just take their problem to another member of staff...and another...and so on until they get what they want. 

Mr A works for the Hamam...his job is to sell tickets...that's it.  The running of the hotel and guests problems relating to their stay, are not his concern.  However, like everyone else here, he won't refuse to help if he can.  In the short time I've been there, I have seen him respond to the following:

"My aircon in my room isn't working"

"I'm not happy with my room, can you get me transferred to another one?"

"I've booked a day trip tomorrow, but I'm not feeling well, so will the rep refund my money?"

"I need to see a doctor"  (Mr A took this person to the hospital, and waited while they received treatment then brought them back)

"It's very windy and the umbrellas around the pool are blowing about...can you make them safe?"

"Where can I go to buy ...... ?(fill in the blank space with any number of items such as herbs & spices, shorts, sun lotion, medicines, etc)

I could go on...the list of requests for help is endless...and it's time consuming.  And I know that Mr A isn't the only one.  Everyone from cleaners, to bar staff, to waiters will be asked for help and will willingly give it. One of the Turkish reps actually took it upon himself to assist two guests to move to a different hotel.  They had been booked into this hotel by mistake.  Their own tour rep was unavailable until the evening and they were anxious to move, so he arranged transport and escorted them there.

It must be catching, because I was asked yesterday where the nearest ATM machine was situated, and having given directions and been met with confusion, I escorted the guest out of the hotel, 10 minutes up to the main road to show them where it was.

Coming from a country where it's more usual to get the response "I can't help's not my job" must be a refreshing change for visitors to Turkey to find that they only have to ask...anyone...and help is provided willingly.


  1. You're so right!
    And not just in Turkey!
    I'll never forget the kindness of our Turkish friends when Mr. Fly was in hospital in France,

  2. That's really interesting. I don't think I've ever paid attention to this side of the national character before, and I can guess why - except for the year my husband and I lived in Turkey, I only ever visited during the summers, with my sister. No matter how stuck you are, you just don't ask for help if you're two young, foreign-seeming girls (luckily we were never caught in any sort of situation where we needed real help).

    On the other hand, I just remembered a story my mother tells, of us driving from istanbul to Kusadasi many years ago. My grandmother would have been in her fifties, my mother in her early thirties, and my sister and I too young to remember. They blew a tire and waited by the side of the road for someone to stop and help them - and didn't have to wait long at all. The way my mom tells it "anything could have happened" but all that did happen was they got timely help.

    And another story! A couple of summers ago, my mother and grandmother were sitting on the verandah and caught sight of a BIG SCARY BUG on the wall. They were too scared to approach it so they flagged a couple walking past, who agreed to help. However, the man was squeamish and wouldn't approach either - it was the woman who attacked with her terlik and saved the day :-)

  3. Fly: Indeed yes I remember. You must miss them.

    Deniz: I'm sure your mother would have many more stories like these. Oh good for the woman who attacked the bug..the Turkish women are very capable!

  4. Turks are immensely helpful and will really put themselves out. Often if you ask the way, the person you ask will jump in the car and insist on taking you there! Bit disconcerting the first time ...

  5. That is a lovely trait to be helpful. I haven't any personal experience of Turkish people, but I am really interested to read about *what makes them tick & just the same as I am interested in all nationalities.
    I think that it is because my father used to get the National Geographic Magazine when I was small & I was always reading it!
    One thing I have to thank him for!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  6. Claudia: Yes it's happened to us several times. We've also had a helpful motorcyclist lead us to where we needed to go...miles out of his way. Nothing is ever too much trouble.

    Maggie: I am also very interested in different cultures. The differences are fascinating at times.

  7. You are right...the people in Turkey are extremely helpful and hospitable. When I go over in the summers anywhere we go lots of people shower us with gifts to take home....and go out of their way to help....
    I've lived in New York City and Toronto......very rude people and they just give you a nasty look or step over you and just walk by.

  8. Hi Erica. It makes a pleasant change to get away from the rudeness and unhelpful attitude doesn't it?

  9. Ayak. I have to disagree. At times I have stayed in hotels within the UK and I have found all staff extremely helpful. In the retail business, if you are looking for a particular item and ask a staff member to help, they stop what they are doing and take you to where you can find the item, not just give directions to it. In some stores you even get a personal shopper to assist you FREE OF Charge.

    As for the bus incident, what you describe is not uncommon in the countryside in that a driver will stop when and wherever you wish (even in Hampstead suburb gardens) I admit that they wouldn't do a 12km diversion to pick someone up because if they did, there would be chaos to the transport system.

    Finally, there is free bus help for those who need it (disabled/elderly) whereby you call 'dial-a-ride' that will come and pick you up FREE OF CHARGE and take you to where you want to go.

    In my opinion, the fact that someone diverted a bus full of people to be picked up and then can't be bothered to wait or even cancel the diversion perhaps shows a flip side to a coin.

    I hope you don't mind me giving my point of view but I get upset sometimes when people 'diss' the UK. When it happens,I do like to redress the balance. Brits are not perfect, but no country can claim that. There are good and bad all over the world. I know, I've experienced both.

    Wait till the 2012 Olympics. Then we will show the world what the Brits are capable of.


  10. Hi Jack..Of course I don't mind you giving your point of view. I welcome it, because it's always good to redress the balance. Of course there's good and bad in all countries and I often write about the negative stuff on here as well as the positive, as you may well have noticed.

    We all have different experiences, and it's clear that yours in the UK with regard to helpfulness have on the whole been better than mine..and I'm pleased to hea that.
    As far as the flip side of the coin regarding the bus passengers is concerned...I guess one could say that it was inconsiderate of the two people to get the bus diverted and then not cancel when they no longer needed it. I have no idea whether they attempted to do this, as the only means of contact would have been the bus stop office phone. But even if they didn't try, no-one seems to take offence...they're all too laid-back about life..perhaps a little too much at times!

  11. Hi Ayak!I feel like I haven´t read you blog for ages, but I´ve only been away for a week. :) It was an interesting discussion, this, about turkish mentality and helpfulness. I´ve also experienced the helpfulness. Last summer my son hurt his foot on the beach. I had to go to buy some patch. I asked a man at a souvenir shop where the closest eczane was. He left his shop and followed me some hundred meters til I could see the eczane. When I should buy the patches I didn´t have enough money - as a matter of fact not even half the sum. I hadn´t thought of it when I dashed away, I only thought about my son and his bleeding foot. I told the man behind the counter so. "I have to get my son some patches..." "Yes of course, take them, you can come back and pay later" he said.
    He was very surprised when I actually came back to pay. I don´t think he expected it.
    But on the other hand... about the helpfulness. Sometimes we´ve wondered if the turkish people find it hard to say no. They rather say "yes" even if they won´t be able to fulfill your wishes. Or is it just our caretaker at the area where we have our apartment? Once we asked him if he knew where a certain bank office was situated. "Oh yes", he said in a way that made me feel that maybe he didn´t know at all. And then he went for a map and his explanations were very diffuse. It was impossible to follow his instructions. We took a cab. So - why didn´t he just tell us, I´m sorry, but I don´t know. It felt like - he couldn´t help us, but he wanted to, so he tried anyway. :)

  12. Hi Selda. You make an interesting point..I think they do find it difficult to say no. I would even take it one step further in that they hate to be the bearer of bad news. Naturally this can cause a whole lot of different problems can't it?

  13. Some very interesting comments here. I have had good service in the UK and in France but it has been more of an exception than a norm and has basically been what the person has been paid to to do (and rarely in public service). In Turkey, I agree with you, Ayak, people go beyond the call of duty to help. I also think Selda has hit on a very intersting point - Turkish people do not like to say no. Although in your phrasebook you may find the word "Hayir" for no, you very rarely hear it. You will hear "Yok" (there isn't any) or occasionally "Olmaz" (it is not possible) but not the word No. This can lead to frustrating situations like Selda describes. How you wish your plumber had said at the outset that no, he couldn't fix it instead of trying and making it worse. On a day to day level though, I don't knock the UK any more than any country, but where would people go out of their cafe to the shop to buy milk for you since you ordered a milky coffee (not on the menu)? Where does someone go across the street to buy oranges because you have asked if they serve fresh orange juice? Only in Turkey.

  14. Yes! This happened a lot at the company where I worked. We had an American boss and Turkish-American boss, and a lot of Turkish employees. The bosses called a meeting one day to state "if you can't finish a job by a specific time, tell me! Don't keep pretending you can get it done and then not deliver. I'd rather hear Hayir than a lot of false promises."

  15. Vicky and Deniz: You are right...hayır is rarely used..yok being preferred. And Vicky I think you hit the nail on the head really .."going beyond the call of duty"

  16. Merhabalar,
    Bodrum ve Bodrum evleri bir masal ülkesine benzer, cok severim....

  17. Merhaba anneminkizıyim. Blog'uma hoşgeldiniz.
    Evet perili ev gibi görünüyor.

    (Can you write in English? I hope so, because then my followers can understand your comments...thankyou xx)

    Translation: Anneminkizıyim says she thinks that Bodrum houses look like those in a fairytale.
    I welcomed her to my blog and agreed that the houses do look like this

  18. Turkey is one of my favorite countries for that very reason... I always feel like a guest of honor no matter where I go. Of course, I've only gone as a tourist in tourist areas, and I'm not completely blind to the fact that they most likely want my money... but they've done with such flair and hospitality that I assume it's just part of who the Turks are! : )

  19. The Meanderers: Yes of course they are out to make money but they do it in such a charming way don't they?


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