Traveling to Turkey… Visa Required.

Image: VBR

Are you wanting to travel to Turkey? Do you know the regulations to enter the country? Being a European can simplify your travel plans, but entering Turkey from non-European countries can be more complicated. A traveler from India, for instance, with a valid passport is also required to purchase a visa before entering the country. Further inquiry as to the details of how to obtain this visa reveals a dizzying array of advice on the best way to acquire the visa. 15 Euro / 20 USD seems to be the current going rate though other Half of the reports say that you must buy the visa in advance, half say that you get it at upon arrival and all have the first-hand experience to back it up. Accounts of the process makes one wonder if Turkish customs is not somehow a satellite office of the DMV. While Turkey’s official Ministry of Foreign Affairs website makes the process seem fairly straightforward it is notoriously outdated (even when it has “just been updated”) and the regulations are in a near constant state of flux, and are subject to change without warning. In reality it can depend on the particular official you get that day.

Fortunately, very few of the instances end in a traveler actually being denied entry into the country. There are a few general guidelines that will help streamline the experience as much as possible:

1. Bring cash! Visa fees are payable in most currencies – GBPs, Euros, and USD$. In true bureaucratic form, they do not accept their own national currency, Turkish Lira.

2. No dirty money – Turkish border officials are notoriously particular about the condition of the money: do not try to pay with torn, dirty, or defaced bills.

3. Most of the Turkish visas are single entry and once you exit the country re-entry is not allowed so plan accordingly.

4. Often tourist visas aren’t checked so whether you buy the visa upon arrival or in advance, if you are not asked to present the visa DO NOT SHOW IT!! This eliminates the process of being held up by any visa-related discrepancies or errors that may be present.

Traveling to Turkey can be very difficult, but some countries do no have it as hard as our above example India.  For instance, countries like Germany, Greece, France, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore, and as well as many other countries, have the right to stay in Turkey for 90 days without obtaining a visa.

But what about the United States?

Many have a false presumption by thinking Americans can travel as they please.  Even though it is not as hard for an American to acquire a visa into turkey, as it is for an individual in India, one should still do some searching before going abroad.  Most likely, if you are a traveler from the United States, you pay for a tourist permit or visa ($20) in order to enter Turkey.  One can do this right before entering the country.  There is an exception to this rule.  If a traveler is “arriving by cruise ship for a day trip to Turkey, you do not require a visa as long as you are not staying on shore overnight.”

Other rules apply to individuals who want to stay longer than a day, or longer than 90 days.  Staying for longer than 90 days requires a visa from a Turkish Embassy or Consulate before arrival.  And if one is planning on working or studying there, one “must also apply for a residence/work permit or Turkish ID card within the first month” of arrival.

Important! – Be sure to check the stamps on your passport, because you do not want to overstay.  Overstaying can cause serious problems, like a fine or being deported.

For more information, contact a US Embassy and check with specifics including the laws that may be foreign to you.

Safe travels!

Co-Written with Josh Cochran

Komödie vs. Comedy – Understanding German Humor

© Cinetext

Germany is experiencing the end of an era with the recent August 22nd death of Bernhard Victor Christoph Carl von Bülow, pseudonym “Loriot.”  For decades, Loriot has characterized and personified German humor, as well as confused and confounded American and British comedians.

It would be a decently safe assumption to say that Loriot lead and directed German humor.  His influence is massive and lives on even after his death.  Dieter Wedel, one of Germany’s most famous television directors (known for shows like Tatort and Schwarz Rot Gold) once said, “The Germans don’t have any sense of humor — the Germans have Loriot!” However, such a broad, sweeping statement also asks the question, what is German humor and why is it so widely misunderstood?

Loriot is known for his live action sketches, but even more so, for his cartoons.  His work reflects the mindset and pervasive “German” perspective on life and human interactions.  Most of his humor stems from problems with communication between individuals during every day life, the comedy therein coming from the staunchly formal nature of the German language.  Loriot was, as per usual with all typically German writers, a stickler for grammar.  In this sense, Americans attempting to understand German humor often deal with the problem of the fundamental humor being, so to say, “lost in translation.”

Many German jokes are based on double meanings, coming from German’s favoritism towards taking many words, ideas and concepts and crashing them into one (sometimes absurdly) long compound word.  The German language has very strict grammatical structure and often relies more on humorous ideas opposed to English’s reliance on wordplay.  Loriot brought a sort of inanity to his work with the juxtaposition of his character’s dignified behavior against the exaggeration of their features.  This is typified in his short sketch Herren im Bad.

For the original version (auf Deutsch) click below

Herren im Bad (Men in the Bathtub)

Seriousness combined a focus on banal flaws is a stereotypical theme in German humor.  This is also seen in the way that Germans observe and perceive the world and people around them.  I mean, there is no serious data to prove this and I’m being entirely subjective, but in my experience, Germans do not focus on personality flaws as something you can easily change, but instead as something that is a basic part of a person’s being.  You aren’t dumb because you don’t study, you’re just dumb because you are.  They’re not going to shun you for being a bit socially inept, they’re just going to accept that you’re kinda weird and run with it.  Needless to say, Americans generally DO NOT get this.

The problem with German humor, is that you need to understand German to get it.  You can’t explain or clarify the nuances of German diction or the play of grammar in English.  Comedy doesn’t translate.  Loriot’s genius comes from the fact that he was exactly as meticulous with his words as he was with his physical comedy.  He made fun of the narrow-mindedness of and excessive formality of German while maintaining respect for the language’s tone and essence.

In response to Loriot’s death, Germany’s president of parliament, Norbert Lammert, captured von Bülow’s lasting effect on German humor and culture stating, “Vicco von Bülow put his stamp on cultural life in Germany for decades and, as Loriot, helped Germans to gain a more relaxed view of their mentality and habits.”

Stefan Kuzmany, a correspondant from Der Spiegel(Germany’s top newsmagazine) summed it up nicely: “Abschließend bleibt zu sagen, dass Loriots Tod absolut nicht nötig gewesen wäre. Unsterblich war er längst. Er wird es bleiben.”  (“Loriot’s death was absolutely unnecessary.  He had long since become immortal. And will remain it.”)

Hitchhiking Still Sees Thumbs Up

It might be thought of as the best way to be killed by a serial killer in the USA, but in Europe hitchhiking is still trucking along.


Trying to get a lift from the outskirts of Stara Zagora to the city centre. Stara Zagora (Стара Загора), Bulgaria. Image © flickr/onnufry

In my father’s youth growing up in England, hitchhiking was a common way of transportation to explore Europe and the world if you were a student or wanderer on a low budget… or if your motorcycle broke down in Germany and you need to get home. Now there are more concerns about safety and the legality of thumbing a ride for your summer adventure – with many people preferring to travel via a rail pass. Yet this has not stopped the hitchhiker culture from continuing to roam.

While my father kept a written journal in the 1960’s, people are now blogging about their hitchhiking adventures. Inga of Latvia is currently chronicling her days hitchhiking from Cologne, Germany with friends she made on facebook. Even putting together a list of unwritten rules for hitchhiking successfully. She is now in Bratislava and will soon be on the move again.

Most posts I’ve found have centered on the safety of hitchhiking – the key part being to hitchhike only where it is legal (most of Europe, but not on highways or autobahns) and to be aware of who you are taking a ride from.

Hitchhiking in Amsterdam

Hitchhiking in Amsterdam, where they have dedicated places for hitchhiking in the Netherlands. Image © flickr/teppo

Of course with the wonders of the internet there are a ton of interesting guides for backpackers, including Wiki guides and more “organized” hitchhiking though ride sharing sites like, where a small fee is paid to the driver for petrol – but many still prefer the uncertainty of thumbing a ride old school, finding their way to the edge of town to catch a ride.

As much as I enjoy being organized, if I am going to backpack and wander across Europe, I’ll do it like my father did, experiencing the adventures good and bad that come with rides from strangers so I can have some interesting stories to tell later.

Mesut ist Deutscher

Since the highly controversial publication of Sarrazin’s book “Deutschland schafft sich ab,” Germany finds itself in the midst of a lively debate about integration.

One group of people that has been especially in the spotlight are the Muslims. Just a few weeks ago, when Germany played Turkey in a European Cup qualifying game, the debate reached soccer fans, because both teams had players of German-Turkish origin in their lines.

Mesut Özil (center) during the German national anthem. On the left is Serdar Tasci, who also is of Turkish descent.

Many Germans with Turkish roots also have a Turkish passport and thus can decide what country they want to play for. When Mesut Özil – who is at the verge of becoming a world-class player for Real Madrid – decided that he wanted to play for Germany instead of Turkey, many Turkish soccer fans were in total disbelief. Fortunately, he was mainly treated with a lot of respect for what he has achieved in such an early point of his career, and even Turks are proud of “their Mesut.”

Since then, Mesut Özil has become one of the prime examples for integration. He is portrayed as the friendly young man from a working class background who has truly embraced his German nationality. (And most importantly plays well for the German national team, one might think.)

For 22-year-old Muslima Kübra Yücel, this couldn’t be further from the truth. On her blog Ein Fremdwörterbuch, which was intended to be a blog about her life but now focuses on questions concerning her religious background, she claims that the current debate about integration is a farce.

Ich will nicht wissen, wann und unter welchen Umständen ich als Mensch mit nichtdeutscher Abstammung und nichtchristlicher Religion ein Du-bist-deutsch-Siegel bekommen könnte. Das sind Scheindebatten. Die Realität sieht so aus: Mesut Özil kann – wie übrigens viele seiner biodeutschen Kollegen auch – keinen grammatikalisch korrekten deutschen Satz hervorbringen, ich hingegen schon. Trotzdem gilt er als integriert und deutsch, ich aber nicht.[…] Großartig. Ich habe also einen deutschen Pass, engagiere mich hier, spreche die Sprache und gehe wählen. Aber das reicht anscheinend nicht. Leider kann ich kein Fußball.

[I don’t want to know when and under which circumstances I – a person of non-German origin and non-Christian religion – could get the you-are-German-predicate. These are make-believe debates. Reality is different. Mesut Özil cannot utter a grammatically correct sentence like many of his biologically German peers, whereas I can. Nonetheless, he is considered to be integrated and German and I am not. […] Great. I have a German passport, I am involved socially, speak the language and I vote. But that doesn’t seem to be enough. Unfortunately, I don’t play soccer.]

Kübra Yücel

This incident shows that the current debates about integration are merely touching the surface of the problem. (If you browse through her blog or the blog Just another Hidjabi by her friend Yasmina Abd el Khader, you will find many more.)For Kübra, the debate about integration is ridiculous due to the results and misjudgements about what it means to be integrated when it comes to celebrities (or someone with celebrity status).

She sees nationality as an empty term. She doesn’t say she is German, nor that she is Turkish. On the contrary, she feels that these terms only limit her in what she is and as what she is seen as. She wants to be seen for what she really is: her qualities, ideas, and her character. Maybe Kübra is right and thinking in terms of nationality is outdated. Europe is coming closer together and the EU has been an important step in this development. Furthermore, the western world shares both ideologies and values, and people travel freely between countries. The next logical step would be to include the remaining parts of the world, including the Islamic world. Both blogs give insight into the views of two young Muslimas and utter a call for an open-minded approach to people of foreign cultures in general. As Yasmina puts it: “Wir wollen keine Schubladen mehr.” (We don’t want to be pigeonholed any longer.)

The Longer, Quieter Way Around

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons' Sapphireblue

Imagine traveling the world on a motorbike, Ewan McGregor-style.

For ten years, you make your way through more than 69 countries and over 300,000 kilometers, meet hundreds of interesting people and take photos throughout your journey. You visit every state in the U.S., catch a ferry from Venezuela to the Dominican Republican, get thrown in jail for three months in Cuba and have innumerable adventures.

Now imagine that you are doing this without the ability to hear or speak.

That is the story of one amazing man, 69-year old Belarusian Vladimir A. Yarets. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

He recently returned to Europe from the U.S. and is now passing through Rennes, France, where my sister and her friends recently got to meet him. My sister, who is studying abroad in Rennes this semester, describes him as a “very, very animated and friendly” man. She said communicating with him was a lot like playing charades, with plenty of pointing and “grand gestures.” Like this:

As a friend pointed out, the trip is strangely similar to Ewan McGregor’s three-month motorbike tour in 2004, documented in the Bravo channel’s The Long Way Around series.

Just for the record, though, Yarets had the idea first (he started his tour in 2000). Sorry, Ewie.

But as amazing as his journey is, it seems that not every place he visits is entirely welcoming. London writer Peter Marshall laments the city police’s response to Yaret’s arrival in Parliament Square in April.

Despite the evidence of Big Ben behind him, Yarets wasn’t in London, but had landed on Planet Security, a make-believe world where a remarkable man travelling the world on a BMW despite his disability is seen not as someone to be welcomed and applauded (and I’m pleased to have shaken his hand) but simply as a security risk.

Still, according to an article from The Week, Yarets says through an interpreter that although many people are indifferent to his journey, there are always those who are friendly and happy to help.

One of these helpful people Yarets met in Singapore started blogging about it.

Interesting tidbit: the blogger says Yarets never asked for money, but when the blogger noticed that Yarets’ glasses were broken, he and his friends chipped in to buy him new frames. When they noticed his fog lights weren’t working, they found him a sponsor to pay for new lights. He even took this photo that explains why Yarets is making this long, dangerous, undoubtedly tiring journey.

Now doesn’t that just make you all warm and fuzzy?

On a sidenote:
Just one more reason to Study Abroad (yes, with capital letters) — the chance to meet insanely interesting characters like this Yarets fellow. But don’t take my word for it …

France’s Workout Plan

Just before writing this post, I was driving in my car and Lo! – a radio advertisement about a new and practically pain-free way to shed unwanted pounds pulsed through the speakers. A woman’s voice repeatedly said something along the lines of, “Call 1-800-588-SLIM today to get the body you’ve always wanted!”

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

After a silent laugh, I wondered if you’d hear an advertisement like this while driving through French cities and towns. My intuitive answer? Probably not. “Probably” being the key word…

Anywho… whether it’s diets, diet books, diet pills, protein shakes, exercise regiments, personal trainers or the like, Americans seem to have an obsession with fitness in a way that is foreign to the French.

In an article on the author writes, “The French don’t need to don lycra bike shorts or join a gym — exercise is a way of life. And because it is, it seems they can pass the beurre (butter) and secretly laugh at our American obsession.”

(Note: This “obsession” probably has something to do with the popularity of Barbie, GI Joe, Michelle Obama’s arms, and the $33 billion Americans spend every year on diet books.)

So, what seems to be different about the French fitness attitude?

Some call the secret to the naturally healthy French way of life the French Paradox – an idea comprised of about four key cultural differences from the American way of life: a varied diet, portion control, red wine consumption and daily exercise (i.e. riding a bike or walking instead of driving – but no gym)

In a article, Claude Fischler, a nutritional sociologist at INSERM (the French equivalent of America’s National Institutes of Health) says some of the paradox is myth. Nonetheless, he says the French eat “Comme il faut”“As it should be.” He adds that unlike American women, French women eat exactly what they want and don’t spend hours at the gym trying to get in or stay in shape.

However, from one French blog I came across, this American diet/fitness obsession seems to be infiltrating the non-chalante attitude of the French…

Valerie Orsoni, French fitness guru, CEO and Founder of and said on her blog: “Votre coach et vous – blog minceur – maigrir vite et bien” : translation :Your coach and you – slimness blog – lose weight fast and well,” Orsoni discusses her life, companies and most recently, a new television fitness program based on her last book, “Secrets de Coach.”

One of the subheads of this book, as well as her blog is “…sans régime stricte.”

Translation : “…without a strict diet.”

Hmm…sounds a bit like the “practically pain-free” weight loss radio advertisement I heard in my car earlier.

So, to all American women (and men) bombarded with “how to get fit” books, diets, pills and media in hopes to achieve the perfect body, or to perhaps unlock the secret to French attractiveness, internalize the words of one young, French, Marie Claire intern:

I’ll tell you the secret of the French sexy way of being: Everybody thinks that we are. We call it an idée recue, an accepted notion. No matter if we are blonde, brown, tall, or small, from the moment we start to speak with the accent, we become the natural daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Coco Chanel. We aren’t. Really.”



Yes, that’s right in Amsterdam you can go pee in the open on the sidewalk. Many might think this is a crude and disgusting way for a city to handle public bathrooms. However, the clever Dutch might be on to something. Not only are these toilets free but they cut down on public urination on streets and side walks. Amsterdam is known for its more open-minded approach to issues in society than most places. For example, its famous Red Light and sex district is home to many prostitutes and sex shops. It is also very popularly known for its liberal use of marijuana in many coffee shops scattered throughout the city.

Most bathrooms in Europe cost money and can be quite expensive depending on what city you are in. It is so rare that the BBC actually did a story on Paris installing free public restrooms in the city. In fact, free public restrooms might start becoming more popular in Europe because of the increasing problem of public urination. For example, a city in Ireland is having such a problem with people urinating in public that they proposed hiring urine wardens. They hoped to discourage people from public urination by handing out fines and reporting them to the police.

Amsterdam may be considered a visionary by not only creating toilets that are free to the public, but are also little maintenance to the city. They are becoming so popular, that there is a Facebook group for people who have used the urinals.

Two Americans who have a blog travel around the world and write about their experiences on a blog site I found called Travelpod. They blog about Amsterdam multiple times and take a few pictures of people enjoying the urinals.


The Dutch are also pretty creative, almost artistic, when it comes to urinals, they make sure people want to hit their target. In a blog I found called nudge writes about urinals that have a tiny black fly painted on the toilet to improve accuracy. The article jokes that the fly is there to give men something to aim for while they are using the bathrooms in airports and other public places.

Amsterdam may not be the first place to come up with this ingenious idea. In a blog called Say No to Crack, it cites China as the first place to install public urinals meant for out in the open daytime use. Germany also has similar free public toilets, although they are not quite out in the open as urinals in Amsterdam are.

Are these places on to something? Or is it too disgusting to imagine walking down the sidewalk and seeing someone peeing right in front of you? Either way, you have to admit it would be fun to try something so out of the ordinary.

But where are the free toilets for women? Well, I guess that will be Amsterdam’s next challenge.

For another perspective of the public urination problem check out fellow blogger Monica Germinario’s post PiPi Problem in France.

Now You Can Cop the Parisian Attitude!


What words just came to your mind?

Before you read further, take minute to let the various nouns and adjectives flow freely.


"The Shrug"

"The Shrug"

If you’re an American, there’s a good chance some of the negative words that just popped in and out of your mind were ones like arrogant, lazy, coward, dirty, anti-American, socialist (maybe even communist?), hairy and rude.

Now, I’m sure words like food, wine, fashion, Eiffel Tower, romance, cheese, art, tradition and maybe even fries came up as well.

But, for now we’re going to take a look at the role these negative descriptors play into France’s – specifically Paris’ – tourism industry.

Big surprise to me and maybe to you as well: Turns out, there are actually tourist manuals that help educate the Paris-hesitant traveler on how to “cop” the Parisian attitude.

Yes. It’s true…you too can now be as rude as some deem the French to be!

According to tourist agency,, “Parisians are well known for their rudeness to tourists and other foreigners. This has always been very frustrating, however, to the Regional Tourism Committee of Paris whose job it is to attract foreign visitors to the French capital. They’ve discovered over the years, however, that many tourists simply don’t want to go to Paris and be accosted by this legendary rudeness.”

So, several years ago, the Committee launched a “tongue and cheek advertising campaign [that] could best be described as an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach,” according to an article on The article’s author goes on to criticize the campaign saying, “Such an approach is so, well…French,” and asks, “When, exactly, did the lowest common denominator become ‘best practice?'”

The campaign is directed toward Brits who’ve turned to other tourist destinations where they can more pleasantly spend their spare pounds.

While offensive to some, some heavy-hitters in the tourism industry have welcomed the humorously helpful travel tips through the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach.

Fodor’s, for example, says, “The Web site, created as a marketing tool by a cheeky French tourist agency, is a clever attempt to make light of the quirks and tics that have come to characterize our friends across the Atlantic.”

Here are some examples of “Parisianisms” that can help you cope and blend in with the stereotypically rude culture:

1. The Pout: “Start by looking bored, then pucker your lips and shake your head slowly for impact.”

2. The Shrug: “Stick out your lower lips, and then reaise your eyebrows and shoulders simultaneously.” (See Image Above)

3. The indicator that someone should shut up (a.k.a. “tait-toi!”): “Hold your hand in the shape of an ‘L’; then bring your fingers and thumb together.”

Personally, I never felt the need to use any of these gestures, nor did I find it necessary to “cop” the Gallic, French attitude while visiting the City of Light.

However, for the nervous or hesitant tourist who is debating whether or not to visit Paris, humorous tips like these may help you make light of any rudeness you may encounter.

To take a peak into more aspects of French culture, please visit for an Englishwoman-now-living-in-Paris perspective.

Ooh-la-la: The French Woman’s Secret

Soon to have its stateside release on September 25, Coco Avant Chanel (a.k.a Coco Before Chanel) seems to be a film that will continue to perpetuate the French female mystique throughout the minds of American women.

Why aren’t French women fat? How did they come to possess this intuitive fashion sense? What’s their secret?

These are the questions that have been posed by a vast majority of American women for decades.

In an article in the Orange Country Register, Debra Ollivier, the author of What French Women Know, said, “I got kind of annoyed by the sort of ‘Ooh-la-la’ stereotypes that we’ve had (in America) for so long. It’s really not about what they’re wearing, it’s about what’s in their head.”

And judging from several other recent articles on French women, it seems what’s in their head is confidence: a daring attitude to make an impressionable, unapologetic statement regardless of popular opinion.

What’s in their head can, however, be reflected through what they’re wearing. Renowned French fashion designer Coco Chanel is the perfect example.

“She really wanted to have freedom from a man, and at first the only way she could find that freedom was through the clothes,” French actress Audrey Tatou, who plays Chanel in the film, told the Huffington Post.

“She was not impressed by anything or anybody, and I think this is a real way to feel powerful, to feel that you have the key to your life,” Tatou said.

It seems some of this empowerment has continued to mold the mindset of the French woman whose American counterparts tend to put on a pedestal.

Ollivier takes the concept of the French woman’s innate confidence a step further to explain why the book He’s Just Not That Into You – a hit in most Western countries, including the States – found little success in France. The French woman wouldn’t dwell on the man, according to Ollivier. “Because if he’s just not that into them, they just don’t care: ‘OK! Ciao!'”

So, is this attitude one of confidence or arrogance? Do you think American women lack the daring mystique of the French female, or is it just exhibited in a different way on the Western shores of the Atlantic?

French Finance: Islamic Intrusion?

France has the largest Muslim population in all of Europe, so it’s no wonder why the country has plans to become a hub for Islamic finance.

One problem though: Laïcité France’s strict policy on the separation of church and state.


According to one website, the French hold this division to an even higher standard than that of the United States and most other European countries.

“Given this outlook, some French fear the Muslim community here is seeking to nurture its own identity in a way that sets them apart from ordinary French citizens and undermines the unity of the nation. The way in which Muslims openly speak about religion, rather than keeping their faith to themselves, looks to these French as a challenge to the principle of laïcité,” writes one Reuters blogger.

But other commentators on the Reuters blog say there Islamic finance has nothing to do with propagating Islam itself. Some disagree, however.

One blogger harshly states, “This sucking up to Islamic money makes one want to puke. It was bad enough giving it to them in the first place; now let’s have some dignity and tell them to use the sandbank.”

Is this fair? Is this really more of a branding issue (i.e. including the word “Islam” in a bank title)? Or is this an intentional move for Muslims to make a bigger mark on French culture than the followers of other religions?

Feel the Beat of Humanity: “Diversidad”

Courtesy of Intercultural Dialogue 2008

Click above for the Diversidad single; image courtesy of Intercultural Dialogue 2008

If you want to have a 5-minute, artistic, cross-cultural audiovisual experience then look no further!

The European Music Office, a.k.a. EMO, produced a urban hip hop project in 2008 called Diversidad, which was created to promote dialogue and exchange through European urban culture…and MAN is this video clip musically and lyrically powerful – in several languages!

The project was selected for 2008’s “European Year of Intercultural Dialogue” and performances were held across the continent. Hip hop artists from Germany, France, Norway and Spain were just some of those involved in the production and performance of Diversidad, making it the first time the best artists of European hip hop were brought together, according to EMO.

Do you think we over here in America should do something like this? Is there a parallel to Diversidad in this country?

Take a gander at the video. You’ll understand what they’re saying even if you don’t understand all of the words.