Istanbul: Touts, Tips and Levels of Rapport.

turkish rest tout

Turkish Restaurant Tout

This article was written during a working visit to Istanbul, Turkey. in June, 2013. There is a mixture of topics that I hope you find interesting & useful.

Definition (verb) : To describe or advertise boastfully; publicize or promote; praise extravagantly.
E.G., a highly touted restaurant.
Definition (noun) : A tout is any person advertising, promoting, or otherwise discussing a commercial business (often without disclosing that they are being paid to do so).

In this brief article I intend to discuss six different areas:
1. Dealing with touts.
2. Levels of rapport.
3. Avoiding being ripped-off with a common technique.
4. Tipping.
5. Turkish wine & beer.
6. The Grand Bazaar.
7. Foreign exchange.
8. Public Transport in Istanbul

One of the things that I love about being an international consultant is that I have the opportunity to travel to different countries and observe & study, at first hand, the different communication styles in a wide range of both business and personal contexts. I have just had the experience of working is Istanbul, Turkey,  after an absence of more that 35 years. It is still a fantastic, fascinating and complex city which combines the old and the new. However, I have seen an interesting and yet disturbing change in the communication styles with foreign tourists which may adversely affect the overall perception of the city.

1) Dealing with touts:    

Galata Bridge Restaurants

Galata Bridge Restaurants

In the main tourist areas of Sultanahmed and the Galata Bridge, there is a great deal of pressure to sell and a vast range of competitors selling the same products so there is now an un-ending stream of shop & restaurant touts (all male) pestering tourists with one objective: get you into their shop or restaurant and spend money. There are also street vendors who try to sell you their products. They all possess a whole range of tactics that tend to “violate” our culturally imposed “Levels of Rapport” (see below). Many people find it difficult to respond appropriately to the often relentless pursuit of these touts & sellers – especially if you appear to be an easy “victim”.

The tactics that these touts tend to use vary depending upon their foreign language skills. Many of them in the main tourist areas appear to be multilingual while those in less popular areas tend to rely on a very basic vocabulary to try to “sell”.

In general, the steps the touts use tend to follow these basic stages:
Step 1: Identify your nationality (often based on stereotypes) & language used.
Step 2: Pretend previous contact via the use of first names: In rapid fire succession, they use the most common first names used by your nationality to try to get you to respond on a personal level!
Step 3: If the previous steps do not detain you, they move on to the “Direct body block / confrontation” they will physically block you passage to try and divert you into their shop or restaurant!
Step 4: They try to shake hands with you. This physical contact is used to personalize & humanize the tout and makes it much harder to resist their spiel.
Step 5: The penultimate stage is the “Hand in front of your face”: they will approach the potential client and (aggresssively) raise their hands, palms towards you in an effort to stop your progress, make you pay attention to them, and follow their instructions!.
Step 6: The action of last resort is for them to physically take your arm and literally try to pull you into their restaurant or shop! What would you do in your country if someone tried this technique on you?

Techniques to use against them.
– The best & easiest technique is to totally ignore them.
– If with someone else, continue talking to them.
– Avoid giving ANY verbal response: (no jokes or “smart” comments) as it encourages them to apply greater pressure.
– Continue walking without deviation from your course.
– Avoid reading the menu / taking a flyer or business card, etc.
– Never shake their hand or have any physical contact with them as this personalizes them in your subconscious mind.
– Do NOT look back at them afterwards.
– in summary, keep them at 0% rapport (see below).

NOTE: Many of these techniques can also be used against door-to-door sales people (mobile phone service providers, energy suppliers, etc)  or anyone else that you do not want to interact with.

2) Levels of Rapport.
There are various methods of classifying the levels of rapport that are possible. This is the model that I feel is both simple and accurate.

Sample situation: We are at a bus stop early in the morning, other people join the queue waiting for the bus. We do not know anyone and no one knows us. There is no rapport with anyone.
(Other situations might include our first day in a new gymnasium, the first time we use a local swimming pool, etc.)

At the most basic level we have 0% Rapport:
– We do not look at them or acknowledge them in any way. For us, they do not exist.

At the next higher level we have minimal rapport (which might occur after a couple of days of seeing the same person every day)
– We look at them and possibly nod our heads &/or smile: we recognize that they exist and that we are sharing a similar space. We probably do not talk to them.

The third level of rapport may be reached after a few more days of “contact” with the person.
– At this stage we initiate, or respond to, non-intimate & neutral verbal communication: the weather, the delay between buses, or any other topic which does not include intimate personal information, just facts & information. We might exchange names at this level.

The fourth level of rapport can occur after a period of time at the previous level.
– At this level we start to open-up a little bit more. We subconsciously feel that we have a “connection” with the person and we tend to reveal more personal information and expect to receive the same kind of details from the other person. This might include ideas & opinions (both positive & negative) We tend to look for similarities between us and them.

At the fifth level we have rapport that includes the expression of feelings & emotions. I am like you. we are similar.

The sixth level deals with authenticity & congruence: I am being sincere & honest and I accept you and am being myself when we interact.

Full 100% rapport occurs when we have a close & harmonious relationship; a high level of trust & empathy and mutual understanding.

3) A common rip-off technique so Beware!
One of the most common tricks used to rip-off tourists is called “The Confusion technique” and consists of the salesman talking about prices in Euros (or any other currency) and then suddenly changing to Turkish Lira and talking about, for example, 50 TL vs 15 Euros (fifty vs fifteen). There are many words that, (especially when mispronounced by non-native speakers of English,) may sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things. In addition, the sellers tend to have strong accents which adds to the difficulty of understanding them. Finally, to top it all off, they start using a calculator while talking to the potential buyer. There is so much going on visually, verbally and physically that many people get confused and end up paying too much for their purchase. It is a joy to observe from afar but hell when you are involved in it!
Recommended Solution: As soon as the charade starts, leave or accept the consequences.
Alternative Solution #1: Recognize the game and play by YOUR rules and only work in one currency.
Alternative Solution #2: Stay and play mind games with the salesman and “may the best player win”.

4) Tipping in Istanbul:
Many restaurants are now adding a 10% service charge to the restaurant bill without informing the client until the bill comes. Pay it if you feel the service has been worth it. If it has not, don’t!
There is too much competition for clients for the restaurants to become upset if you do not want to pay the service charge.  Normally, people leave what they feel is appropriate. Only Americans leave 15% or more. It appears most other nationalities leave much less.

5) Turkish wine & beer: 
Wine and beer are available in most restaurants that cater to tourists. However, in restaurants close to religious buildings alcohol is not usually available.  Turkish beer is very good. Turkish wine is  expensive for the quality provided. A “Cheap” bottle of wine costs around 40,00 euros. Most wine is a mixture of different grapes which produce some interesting taste sensations. There is a drinkable Merlot (called ANGORA) available for around 40,00 – 50,00 euros! If you are a serious wine-lover, we recommend that you buy your wine in the duty-free in the airport before you leave.

6) Avoid The Grand Bazaar:
It is one of the worst places to be besieged by touts and all of them promising that they “don’t haggle” as their prices are fixed and fair!  If you enter the bazaar at door 7 and walk straight through it and leave at door 17, in the shops in the street in front you can find the same products much cheaper – with little or no haggling.

7) Buying Foreign exchange.
Buy your Turkish currency when you arrive in the country. Buying it before you leave your own country can cost you a lot of money: in Spain, for example, the bank exchange rate plus commission can cost you up to 18% of the money you change! In Spain, avoid Bankia! The rate in Istanbul airport is NOT the best one available so wait until you arrive in the centre of the city and then use an authorized money-changer.

Public Transport in Istanbul is Great Fun!
We took taxis twice in Istanbul. The first time was organized by the Hotel and both the trip and the price where as agreed. The price was based on the taximeter which showed 15 TL and that is the sum we paid. However, on the return trip, we decided to catch a taxi at the taxi rank in front of the museum we had visited, we asked the first taxi driver for a price and he quoted us 30 TL. We then asked the second driver who quoted us a price of 25 TL. We then approached the third driver and offered him 15 TL as that was what we had paid to arrive at the museum. With an expression of disgust on his face, he agreed to take us back to our hotel for that price. However, when we arrived back at the hotel, he rudely told us to get out and sped off. Obviously, he did not like haggling (& losing)!
However, in the city there is a great network of trams that are excellent: clean, rapid, and reasonably priced. (3 TL per trip). We recommend that if your hotel is a bit outside the main tourist areas, you find out where the closest tram stop is and that you use the tram network in your trips around the city. They are a great way to see the city!

I hope the tips given here help you to enjoy Istanbul and avoid some of the inconveniences & problems of the city.

Your feedback would, as always, be appreciated.

© Ian Brownlee, July, 2013.


About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
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One Response to Istanbul: Touts, Tips and Levels of Rapport.

  1. Mrudulaa Mudaliar says:

    It is very useful and would keep in mind whenever our family travels to istanbul

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