I totally forgot this popular question, as it was often used in Bali and is also a common question in Turkey. Unfortunately, it’s NOT for making small talk, getting to know another better or to be kind. It’s actually very much business.
In many countries, all question being asked are to create an analysis on the potential customer. A profile. How rich are you, how much could you afford to pay for this item, how much money can they get from you.
I hate to be cynical, but let’s be real. Business is business. And with these people living many times off of tourism, these question are truly a part of their daily life and way of making a living, of survival.
But it suddenly hit me, about midday on our first full day in Istanbul and after we had left the Grand Bazaar. Nobody cares where we are from besides how much that equates to us spending in their shop.
Traveling with my mom, we both speak English but of course she has a distinct Russian accent, while I do not. When we say we are from Russia, even in Turkey people wonder why I don’t sound like a Russian speaking English. Also, being from Russia, like the USA, it often means that when you travel, you must have money.
So I decided to slightly exaggerate the truth and say we were from Ukraine. My grandfather was originally from there and it being a smaller country, people are more disadvantaged from that region meaning you won’t be upsold or abused in the bartering process. (As bad as usually and definitely not as bad as if we were to say ‘from the States’)
Next time you are asked where you are from… decide if you want to tell the truth or use this situation to your benefit. At the end of the day, we all have bills to pay so make sure you aren’t being worked and can still pay yours when you return from your vacation!