9 Common misconceptions about Istanbul

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The city is full of rabid dogs and cats.
The city indeed is full of stray dogs and cats. They are everywhere. Literally. You will see them sitting on cars, sleeping in parks, lying in doorways, sitting on street corners and hanging around in the middle of the road. But most of the strays are vaccinated and neutered or sprayed by the municipality and released back into their neighbourhood. Dogs are tagged and micro chipped with a record of their medical history. Locals take care of the strays by leaving water and food out for them and offering them shelter during colder months. We love our “pets” very much and generally they do not present a public health hazard at all, on the contrary.

Istanbul is the capital of Turkey
No, it’s not. Ankara is the capital of Turkey. I don’t know where this comes from and I don’t mind if you don’t know better, but I have people state that I am actually a foolish girl that doesn’t know she actually lives in the capital of Turkey. This I find quite worrying. Don’t we have all access to the internet nowadays?

After I get married I suddenly will convert into a Muslim to cover myself not only with a hijab, but also with explosives so I can go on a suicide mission

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In Istanbul everyone is an extremist Muslim
This means we can’t drink alcohol, there’s no pork and everyone is a terrorist. The question asked me most often is: “do you have to cover yourself”? I used to simply answer with: “No, of course I don’t”. Traditionally women weren’t even allowed to wear headscarves if there were working in the public sector (I mean, just saying.. Europe)? But a question that would be often asked after my answer was: “But if you get married..”? So now I just tell people straight away that after I get married I suddenly will convert into a Muslim to cover myself not only with a hijab, but also with explosives so I can go on a suicide mission. Seriously, I could write a book about the stereotypical imagery that comes to mind. It’s bothering me. A lot. First of all Turkey is a secular country, not a so called Muslim country and neither ruled by the sharia. Second of all do your research about Islam and treat people as individuals. Oh, and to help another misconception out of this world: No, men do not practice polygamy.

The city is dangerous, especially for women
I can’t seem to find the source, but statics shows that Istanbul doesn’t even make it into the top 100 most dangerous cities in the world when it comes to general crime. Domestic violence is sadly rising (42% of Turkish women said they had been physically or sexually abused by a male partner) but non-domestic violence is extremely rare. Personally I have never felt unsafe in this big city. During the day and at night I do go out by myself while wearing short dresses or skirt and I’ve never been assaulted. Well, maybe once. But this was in Kuşadası while being on vacation, I was being sexual harassed by a street vendor. The police took is very seriously and ultimately the matter was brought to court by government itself. And this one-off situation is outweighed by the countless times that Turkish people have helped me out one way of another. Of course you have to be careful, but you must be cautious everywhere.

Istanbul isn’t safe because it’s so close to Syria.
Please take a look at a map, Syria is located about 1,200 km away from Istanbul! Of course the current situation is critical and honestly during the coup I have been fearing for my life. The country remains in an official state of emergency at the moment and we have a tank accompanied by armed soldiers in the street of our salon which is within 15 minutes walking distance from our apartment. But this all has to do with our beloved prime minister and has no impact on tourists at all. Apart from that I can only say that the amount of threats coming from terrorist groups increased all over the world, not only in Istanbul. I would say that Istanbul is still generally safe. We are not at war people, we are not at war! You aren’t likely to be in danger unless you are traveling in the east of the country or get caught up in the middle of the turmoil or a protest, but changes for that are negligible.

Istanbul Stad

The weather is always hot
Um, I wish. At the moment of writing this I feel like as if I’m freezing to death.

The only food is meat on skewers
Or meat stuffed in any kind of bread. I’ve heard this so many times, it’s ridiculous. And although I must admit I am not too big of a fan of Turkish cuisine, it is very various and contains a vast array of delicious and regional specialities.

You can’t drink alcohol in public.
Um, yes you can. Alcohol is quite expensive tough, but easily available almost everywhere. Turkey even produces its own beer, wine and national alcoholic drink Rakı. Cheers!

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