There are very few times it has been advantageous to be Russian, but while traveling in Turkey (and Thailand) I found it incredibly helpful, as many of the languages being used on signs and translations were Turkish, Arabic and Russian, sometimes there wasn’t even English present.
The streets are filled with many Turks, but even those living in Turkey, may have originated elsewhere.
For example, our host at Bucoleon Palace Hotel was named Tony and said he was from London, but now lived in Istanbul. Many Turkish men we met our first day spoke Russian fluently. The most fascinating to me, traveling in this European and Asian medley was that even when I saw someone on the street who looked like they were from somewhere in Asia, nope, fluent Russian speaker.
Historically, when the fall of the Soviet State occurred in the early 90’s, many Russians began the tourism discourse, by coming to Turkey to purchase stock and return to Russia and sell it; shoes, clothing, everything! The lack of availability and options, plus high costs in Russia made Turkey a destination hotspot for those buying surplus to sell back home. Now, 20 plus years later, it has left a mark on this local culture, as many of the Turks have learned to speak Russian, and most surprising- they did it purely from practice on the streets and a personal desire and drive to learn the language. Like our server at dinner, Murad, who spoke incredible Russian and was self taught. He told us that the school system is not very good in Turkey, if you want to have kids, you would most likely send them to private school, if you could even afford it. Murad had learned the five plus languages he spoke, in addition to Turkish, all by talking with tourists who came to visit. Talk about dedication!
I look forward to the next week of meeting more local people and learning about their lifestyle. But I am happy to feel so comfortable traveling as two women here, with my mom, since our mother tongue has come in so handy.
Welcome to Turkey!