ISTANBUL – A week spent in İstanbul and Büyükada, an island off the coast of the city, presents beautiful views and a plethora of cultural experiences.
But it does offer some points for consideration. The one we deliberated on was the stark contrast between the lifestyles of tourists and locals.
Walking around İstanbul, it’s easy to see that tourists live in luxury. The exchange rate permits them to convert their own currency to Turkish lira in a beneficial process. The cost of everything depreciates for them, and it’s easy to spend large sums of money without thinking about it much.
Tourists can stay at fancy hotels and eat at lavish restaurants because even though they are the most expensive places, it is almost nothing for them.
That is why some local business owners might charge tourists more than they charge locals because they have the power to spend more money. The tourist’s standard of living improves as something potentially unattainable in their home country may be available to them.
On the other hand, locals suffer from a continuously depreciating economy. Even bread has become a precious commodity.
An initiative called People’s Bread, which has sold affordable bread to Istanbul residents since 1977, still exists in modern day İstanbul. Recently, however, even that has become too expensive for some.
Another initiative, the Meat and Milk Institution, provides affordable and often reduced price products for all.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Turkish economy has gotten worse and worse. With the economy deteriorating and an unemployment rate of 11.3%, the situation for locals seems almost hopeless.
Locals are slowly losing purchasing power – even necessities are becoming harder to buy.
Political unrest has also led to the worsening of the exchange rate, a political atmosphere reminiscent of Stalin’s purges and political uncertainties have sent the value of the Turkish lira plummeting, rendering local business vendors helpless.
The severe contrast between the extravagant lives most tourists lead and the struggles of local people is truly a miserable observation.
But as the pandemic restrictions ease and Türkiye and İstanbul re-open to tourists, there’s hope for locals and local business owners alike as people once again come to visit from all parts of the world.
Erin Timur is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Cyprus. Naz Mergen is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Istanbul. Together they wrote this article.
Photos contributed by YJI Reporter Erin Timur of Cyprus, Junior Reporter and Senior Illustrator Parnian Shahsavary of Iran, and Associate Editor Mary Majerus-Collins of the United States.