'Are you French?'
Clearly thrown by our lack of resemblance to the hordes of overweight, tattooed English football fans who invade Altinkum on package deals every summer, our Turkish host has overlooked the obvious detail that we are, in fact, speaking English.
Don't get me wrong, we took it as a compliment.
'Nope, we're from South Africa.'
By now, we're getting pretty used to the baffled look which crosses his face. The fact that our beloved country appeared as Sauth Africa on the visa board at passport control, should have prepared us for the general confusion that the Rainbow Nation sparks in Turkey.
'Afrique? But you speak English... ' he says, pointing to his arm, which is a good few shades darker than any of ours.
After we whip out our drivers' licences to prove that we are really from the tip of Africa, the following incredulous exchange takes place.
'You born there?'
'Your parents born there?'
Once again, 'yes'.
'Your grandparents born there'
'Yes... (and pre-empting the next question) and their parents.'
Fellow Turks are summoned; the unbelievable story recounted; and delicious cups of sweet apple tea shared 'on the house'. This could, of course, have been nothing more than customary Turkish hospitality, but I like to put it down to the goodwill found in the unlikely meeting of cultures.
For the uninitiated, Turkish culture (well, that along the Mediterranean anyway) is almost as disorientating as the concept of white Africans. However, you can get by quite comfortably with a few simple guidelines...
1) Leering is a national pastime
If you are female (degree of attractiveness seems largely irrelevant), you will be leered at. Not discreet sideways glances, but full on stop-what-you're-doing-head-turning staring. The best you can do is drag along a male chaperone and hope like hell that the rubbernecking motorist doesn't crash his bike.
2) Turkish baths aren't all that hygienic
When in Turkey, do as the Turkish do... but be prepared to take a nice long shower when you're done. Our authentic bath experience involved: a frequently-used horsehair scrubbing glove, an ammonia-scented foam massage, and towels soaked in the sweat of others. Needless to say, we skipped the oil massage administered by half-naked Turkish gents. Yes, even when it was offered at a discount.
3) No sale is too small
My sister and I were ? literally ? chased around a posh jewellery store by an over-zealous salesman. We declined assistance; he ignored our polite rebuttal. We moved quickly to another counter; he followed us. We walked briskly; he walked briskly. We jogged; he jogged. We sprinted out of the shop.
Luckily he didn't follow us, because he would have stumbled across a pair of girls giggling hysterically on the pavement.
The key to navigating Turkey's gauntlet of salesmen involves (a) avoiding eye contact (b) politely declining invitations into the shop and (c) not being proffered the handshake. If you hit handshake territory, it is already too late. At this point you can either start running or accept the inevitable outcome that you will be relieved of some of your cash.
4) Volume control is overrated
Every resort, shop and restaurant competes with every other resort, shop and restaurant for musical supremacy. This manifests not in choice of music (which is generally a combination of English 'favourites' and Turkish pop), but rather in volume. A pair of earplugs probably won't go amiss.
5) Male belly dancers like glitter too
Strangely, we didn't encounter any female belly dancers. Luckily, our hotel's resident belly dancer wore enough glitter, gold lycra and coquettish charm for a bevy of beauties. We also came across a club where potential patrons were enticed by a group of lithe, oiled, dancing men. We may have stared. And no, staring is not the same as leering.
6) Traffic laws. What traffic laws?
An advantage of potholes is that they get rid of that whole left/right road dichotomy ? officially, Turkey drives on the right, but that's just a technicality. Apparently, potholes also eradicate the need for speed limits and seatbelts. It's all pretty African really. Your best bet is to hang on tightly, close your eyes, and hope that you've hopped onto the correct minibus taxi.
7) English invasion = cash cow
Western culture has infiltrated Altinkum like an insidious rash ? you can watch your favourite footie team, whilst tucking into a full English breakfast. And, if you never leave the resort's poolside, you might be able to avoid those quirky locals entirely. For those slightly less enamoured with all things British, the inevitable perversions of the Queen's language will provide ample entertainment. Just sit back, relax and enjoy that strawbenny, flemon and pipir mint cocktail.