Stepping off the plane and placing my first tentative foot on Turkish soil left me feeling a bit uneasy and out of my depth. This was my first visit to a Muslim country and although I was going to what was basically known as the Blackpool of Turkey, I still wasn’t sure what to expect. Whether I was going to wear the wrong things or say something out of line was on my mind, and I had been told to “be careful” by numerous people before I left the homeland which didn’t help matters. Be careful of what? However, almost as soon as I got out of the airport, I was greeted with people who absolutely went out of their way to help me. Taxi drivers smiling as they threw our suitcases on the coach, hotel owners offering to book us taxis, give us discounts on food and drink and anything else to make sure our trip was perfect. Heading down to the harbour and beach front, the shop owners and bar staff, although they were yelling at us to go into their shop or pub, when conversations were had, I realised that they were some of the nicest people I have ever met.
The same thing happened in Canada. Although I was less nervous about the cultural differences between there and England, I still had no idea what to expect when it came to what the people would be like. It took me less than five minutes to work out that they, too, would be some of the nicest people I had ever been in contact with. The taxi drivers, again, went out of their way to answer our questions, show us around and take us where we needed to be. The porters, hotel staff and waiting staff in the restaurants around where I was staying were helpful, cheerful, and exerted an aura of something that instilled a good mood in me for the rest of the day.
I still can’t answer that question. It remains true that the service I received in both countries is far superior to that which I receive in England, but saying that, if a member of the waiting-on staff back home asked me about my personal life too much I would get a bit suspicious and wonder what their motives were for asking. So, maybe it’s a holiday thing. You go to a foreign country where they quite appreciate the odd bit of tourist income. They want you to spend, have a nice time, go home and tell your friends, and maybe even come back. They want the reputation of being a really friendly people to make sure that the tourists keep flowing. Or maybe they really do just want you to have a fabulous experience in their country, in a place that they’re proud to work. Maybe they really are just that nice.
I have no idea. It is perhaps a combination of the two, but, seeing as I was a blatant tourist in both of these countries, I would need to spend a while in amongst the normal people to truly analyse the characteristics and the level of niceness that these people exert on a daily basis, to each other as well as the tourists. It was quite exhausting, smiling all the time and recognising how kind everyone was, but it was definitely a nice exhaustion. Nicer than having to argue with grumpy barmaids or difficult hotel staff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising by any means, I’m just on a mission to overcome my cynicism: so, can I push my sceptic alter-ego to one side? Can people really be this nice?