No, I’m Not Japanese. And No, I’m Not Gonna Shag Your Shop Assistant.

“Konnichiwa”

“Ni hao?”

Regardless of your true nationality, ethnicity or language—if you’re an Asian, you’ll hear a lot of random greetings thrown at you by eager shopkeepers who hope you’ll stop at their shops.

I’ve been greeted with at least 5 different languages in different Istanbul stores. Never mind that I’m not Japanese, or that I don’t speak fluent Mandarin. Some Asians would take this stereotyping exercise as a personal offense, but I’m willing to overlook that.

You see… the thing is, Turks are friendly people.

Whether it’s genuine or just a bait for tourists to spend more, that’s fine—I’d take that over grumpy and rude shopkeepers… anytime. A little effort at hospitality goes a long way. Well, except for that one funny time when I’m strolling through the Spice Bazaar and they get friendlier than usual.

Spice Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Spices are not everything they were selling here.
The Spice Bazaar sells everything that can “spice up” your life.

And here’s the little conversation at one of the shops:

Me: “So what do you have here?”

Shopkeeper:Everything. Come inside, I’ll show you.”

The shopkeeper began rambling about shiny rings and some nicely-patterned scarves.

Me: “They look nice, but I’m not interested in buying them.”

The shopkeeper continued to talk about carpets and lamps.

Me: “Nope, I’m not interested in them either. But thank you.”

Realizing that this shop doesn’t have anything that I’m likely to buy, I started walking towards the exit door only to have the shopkeeper pulling me back for one last persuasive attempt.

Shopkeeper: “You haven’t looked at everything, Sir. Look at this one, we’ve brought this young, good-looking man here for you.” *pointed at his shop assistant* “If you want, we can send him back to your place.”

I smirked and turned back towards the door again.

Shopkeeper: “Very strong man.”

And those were the last three words I heard as I walked away.

Everything, indeed.

[PS. I have nothing against any of that, just to be clear. It just felt surreal… to have the whole shits and giggles which sounded like a prelude to cheesy X-rated script, lifted directly from those B-movies (you know… like those involving nurses or pizza boys, whatever floats your boat) happening right before your eyes.]

What’s the most bizarre conversation you’ve ever had with locals when travelling overseas?

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