Nosy Neighbors and Safe Streets

One of the first things I noticed about Istanbul was that it felt surprisingly safe. As a tourist, I felt fine walking back to my hotel at 2:00 in the morning. There were always people on the street and though it was often groups of men, somehow it didn’t feel threatening. Some might be leering but others had a more protective demeanor. If groups of men are hanging out on the street in America I would think they are up to no good, but here its generally groups of taxi drivers waiting for business or men sitting around drinking tea. I’m told its really easy to get guns here and Turks are known to be hot blooded, so at first it seemed very counterintuitive that rates of street crime were so low. I finally decided that it must be because of the nosy neighbors. Like many traditional societies, there is a ton of social pressure from the community, family, etc. If you have not yet purchased a carpet for your new apartment, the neighbors will be wondering why and discussing it. They may ask you about why you have been getting home so late, why you are not married, etc. If you decide to get divorced, neighbors you hardly know will invite you for dinner and try to act as marital counselors. People take an excessive interest in one another’s lives. The up side of this, however, is that they are paying attention to everything that is happening in the neighborhood. So everyone knows they are being watched and the last thing a nice (or even not so nice) Turkish boy wants is for someone to tell his mother and for her to be disappointed in him.