I am Finland born Lebanese. I have arrived at Istanbul Turkey yesterday night and intending to stay here for a week. Today I went to a restaurant for a breakfast. A waiter on the other table was 'interviewing' a guy [from Czech Republic] with an intention of showing how friendly the people are (like "what do think about Turkey / Turkish people", etc). Then another waiter came to me after I settled, after asking what I want to eat then started to ask where I am from and I said Finland. He reacted as if he was offended. Literally. Then he said "No, what is your nationality?" with an unfriendly and emphasizing tone. Then I said "my parents are from Lebanon." When he returned to tell my food order, I don't know what the other guy asked (most probably about me) and the waiter said "Lebanon" with a disappointment tone. The other one were still 'interviewing' the Czechs for about 5-6 minutes. They are behaving like blonde hair blue eyes people are superhuman and the rest people are subhuman!! Again literally. I don't why should I say I am Lebanese when I know little Arabic and have never seen Lebanon, and obviously there is nothing wrong for being from Lebanon or any other country.

Not only me that I am so offended by their behavior but also the Czechs guy was uncomfortable too, obviously, though he was staying polite. Very unexpected rude behaviors started from the moment of my arrival so the restaurant is a fraction of what I am experiencing. I am buying food from supermarket now because when I said to someone in hotel about what happened he said that all restaurants are behaving like that! Also I searched internet I found this and this and this.

I can't be ignoring to them not only I have a shy personality but also I don't know them when I will eat the food they prepare (I feel ashamed to write that. But also I can't survive on supermarket unbearable foods).

Are there any ways to eat good foods in Istanbul and avoiding unfriendly behaviors? Thank you very much. Please help me!

Edit. It wasn't about Lebanon, it's about Arabs. No strong/complicated ties exists between Lebanon and Turkey. I am leaving this unique country tonight much sooner than I had scheduled and will never come back.

  • 4
    Re. the question itself, I can't give any proper answer as to why people might be behaving so strangely and rudely or how to avoid it, but if you want a very nice and welcoming restaurant to improve your mood and confidence a little, I'd strongly recommend Galata House, a long-standing family-run cosy Geogian/Turkish restaurant with a reputation for hospitality in a very historic and attractive part of town. Nov 12 '18 at 9:56
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    Sorry for what you have encountered. After Syrian refugees settled in Turkey, lots of Turkish people became prejudiced (some are even racist) against all Middle Easterns and/or Arabs. This is one of big disappointments with my home country.
    – user63373
    Nov 14 '18 at 16:07

The history between Turkey and Lebanon is...well...complicated.

It's possible the waiters have some political leanings or connections to past events where the two countries have been at odds.

Either way, if you're worried about similar situations in the future, just don't mention your Lebanese history. You don't have to lie, just omit that fact. "I was born and raised in Finland." (another probing question) "Finland is the only place I've ever known."

Note, there is a slight possibility someone will identify your genetic lineage through some physical trait. If that happens, gauge their reaction and act accordingly.

  • 6
    Just an hour ago some Turkish guy told me "we don't want to live here" after I told the story. I provided links which include many comments from many nationalities. So whether someone down-votes your answer probably is not fair judgement; either he/she is Turkish or never been there.
    – user83709
    Nov 12 '18 at 12:53

Simply eat at a place where the employees don't have the opportunity to interact with you other than to take your order. For example I can't imagine McDonald's employees having enough time to entertain visitors so you'll be safe from any prying questions. You could also grab some meals from a busy street vendor or just buy something from a supermarket. Another option would be to visit a Lebanese restaurant (Google Maps finds at least a dozen options in Istanbul). I highly doubt anyone would offend your roots in a place like this.

Finally, remember that you are free to say whatever you want to strangers. Give them a fake name, a fake nationality, a fake country of origin. I personally do it all the time for fun, even though I'm a regular Caucasian guy facing no racism in my daily life.

  • 15
    The suggestion to eat at McDonald's is not responsive to the question about "ways to eat good foods."
    – phoog
    Nov 12 '18 at 13:22
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    @phoog McDonald's has plenty of healthy options nowadays. Avoid the fries and the soft drinks and it's no worse than your average restaurant.
    – JonathanReez
    Nov 12 '18 at 13:24
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    I'm not commenting on the healthiness of the food, but its quality.
    – phoog
    Nov 12 '18 at 13:30
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    @phoog again, nothing inherently wrong with McDonald's food. They probably have better ingredients than your average cheap restaurant. And I've offered alternative options in the rest of the answer.
    – JonathanReez
    Nov 12 '18 at 13:32
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    It hardly seems worth travelling at all if one is going to eat exactly the same food that one can get back home. Nov 12 '18 at 13:43