Tackling Turkish Tinder: 15 First Dates

Everybody’s doing it. Or so I’d been told. Acutely aware of the boundaries imposed by my inherent shyness, clumsiness and geriatric bedtime, I’ve never really warmed to the idea of casual dating, let alone ultra casual online “dating”.  But when an unfortunate—or fortuitous, depending on how you view the glass—opportunity presented itself (read: losing an un-loseable bet), I surrendered to the Tinder gods and dove right in, a little nervous, a lot skeptical but with my mind and heart wide open. Because after all, isn’t everything in life better when you have someone to nap with?

Much in the way every Istanbul experience is amplified, magnified and presented in HD, so too was my brief brush with the city’s Tinder-sphere. The highs were unexpectedly high, the lows disappointingly low. I also came face to face with a handful of weird prejudices and preferences I never knew I had (music director at SushiCo? No thanks. Student at Hogwarts? Yes please. Geeky lover of TEDtalks? Sign me up.) More importantly, I had a ton of fun. So even if you’re happily single, like so many Istanbullus are, this app might be worth a swipe. You never know who might be waiting just outside that comfort zone.

Read on for a (stereotype-laden) glimpse into the trials and triumphs of Tindering in Istanbul, ranked from least to most unexpected.

  1. The Wham Bam Thank You Man

It comes as no surprise that, although Tinder has evolved somewhat, there are still men (and, we can safely presume, women) out there using the app for its original purpose. Luckily, these guys are quite open about their intentions. With NSFW profile pictures (there is no way to un-see) alongside descriptors like “Just XXX” and “If you’re looking for something meaningful, don’t bother,” they’ve got no time to waste on pesky things like conversation or dates. But, for those in search of a little string-less fun, Istanbul’s Tinderverse is chock full of options.


  1. Mr. Fib-ulous

Relationships are complicated. And so is this man’s relationship with the truth. The puppy he’s holding in all his photos? His mother has it for the week; she loves dogs! The adorable little girl? His niece, naturally. Pay no mind to the fact that he takes her to and from school every day. That’s just how generous he is with his time. YES, that’s really him in his profile photos, and not a 1980s snapshot of Harry Hamlin. How dare you even ask. Oh, and of course he’s 26 – he just looks 47.

  1. The Cheater

It just might be every wannabe lothario’s dream come true: a dating app that alerts him to any (Facebook) friends he may have common with a potential target. This special guy’s got hoes in different radius codes, and no risk of accidentally hooking up with someone who knows someone who knows his main squeeze(s). Well…almost no risk. He’s just got to remember not to leave his phone face up on the table where unexpected calls from “My Love” are visible for all to see.

  1. The Visiting Academic

Tinder is abound with this older, less inebriated version of an Erasmus student. Because of Istanbul’s high concentration of universities and research centers, you’re extremely likely to encounter a laid back graduate student looking to expand his social circle. He’s smart, well spoken and has plenty of free time, which makes planning for that first date quite easy. Plus, if you’re curious, he’ll happily talk at length about his research topic. (I bet I know more about the origins of Byzantine poetry than anyone reading this post.)

  1. The Traveler

It’s been said that travel brings love back into your life. (Yes, yes I did just sort of quote Rumi in the same blog post about Tinder that also references Ludacris lyrics.) Well, Tindering in Istanbul makes that a real possibility. Thanks to the city’s transit-hub status, you’re highly likely to come across this worldly, well-travelled man while he’s in town for a few days. The Traveler’s European manifestation is typically in his mid-twenties, speaks several languages, and is a big fan of museums. His American counterpart is warm and friendly, often works for an NGO, and is fascinated by the price of beer in Istanbul. Just to be on the safe side, try to ask him how he feels about a US-Mexico wall before you meet in person.

  1. The International Man of Mystery

This gentleman may be hard to find out in the wild, but luckily for local Tinder users, concentrations of this rare breed are quite high here in Istanbul – and they’re fairly easy to spot, if you know what to look for: tall, stoic, expensive haircut, tailored suit, and shiny, shiny shoes. He’s surprisingly sweet and his life of mystery has left him a little lonely. He typically hails from Western Europe and/or Scandinavia, with a job straight out of an erotic novel (think financier, CEO, private jet pilot)—in short, Tinder gold.

  1. Boss Bey (Man About Town)

Meet International Man of Mystery’s less accomplished younger brother. For those of you in search of someone to take you on a tour of Istanbul’s hottest spots, look no further. As evidenced by his nightclub and yacht-laden profile photos, this man always goes big and never goes home. He won’t even entertain the idea of meeting for coffee—coffee dates are for amateurs. It’s either Ciragan Palace, a film premiere, or a fleet of Fashion Week parties. Take your pick.

  1. Mr. Surprise Approach

No cause for alarm, ladies and gentlemen. The surprising element in this man’s approach doesn’t involve dark alleyways, but rather a head-scratching introduction followed by a series of equally puzzling and/or offensive one-liners. For example:

Match #3: You look like you’re living in a tree house, Lady Pleasant.

Me: (forget how technology works and legitimately wonder for a split second if this man can see me through my phone)

Match #14: Ho, where you from?

Me: (turns off phone)


  1. The Abbrevia8tor

I get it. Istanbul is a hectic place. He just doesn’t have an extra 0.5 seconds to include the letters y and o in the word “your”, so I don’t want take up any more of this busy guy’s time. Call me picky, but I like a man with a firm grip on spelling and grammar. (See? Weird prejudices.)


  1. The Professional Athlete / Model

Superior physical specimens have trouble meeting new people, too. Or didn’t you know? Just ask this handsome fellow. It’s hard out there for a 6’9” “basketball player” and “catalogue model.” If you like space in a relationship and are looking for someone whose schedule involves “away games” and/or “shoots on location”, you’ll be pleased to know that Tinder is replete with options. And anyway, who wouldn’t want a man who could theoretically make you breakfast using eggs cracked against his own abdomen?

(*quotations used in this section denote information that should be taken with a giant grain of salt) 

  1. Mr. Sensitive

One would think that the mere act of creating a Tinder profile might thicken your skin a little, right? Not so with this gentle soul. If Mr. Sensitive sends you a message that you don’t promptly respond to (because work is particularly crazy and then your iPhone battery dies way too early in the day), this handsome stranger will disappear from your list of matches within hours. Poof! You’ll never know what might have been.

  1. Your New Husband

Surprisingly, there are plenty of men in the Tindersphere looking for real relationships…or one size fits all insta-partners. But be warned – some have been to the Steve Harvey school of how-to-commit, and aren’t afraid to show you what they’ve learned, even after just one date. Bottom line: if you don’t scare easily and are searching for a long-term partner, he might just be one quick swipe away. What are you waiting for?

  1. The Pilot

So you’ve always wondered just how much turbulence is too much turbulence. You’re in luck! Tinder Istanbul offers the chance to ask someone who actually knows the answer. You may be surprised that a good 1 in 10 male Tinder users based in the city are pilots! (I will now refrain from making Mile High Club references. You’re welcome.) Of course, this figure may also reflect the fact that “pilot” is the absolute perfect cover for a man who disappears for days on end and is free for coffee in the middle of the day. Hmm.

  1. Mr. Darcy

Good news. Chivalry is alive and kicking in Istanbul. Various incarnations of this gentleman appeared unexpectedly during my Tinder experience, but I thought he deserved a category all his own for reminding me that  (feminists, avert your eyes) it’s lovely to have a door held open and someone insist on paying for your drink every now and then.

  1. The Perfect Stranger

If you’ve ever seen You’ve Got Mail, then you know what I’m talking about: instant textual chemistry. First, you’re chatting casually about where in the world you’ve lived and travelled, seamlessly side-stepping that awkward small-talk phase. Twenty-four hours later, in between LOL-ing at new inside jokes after texting all day, you’re planning your first real, live meeting (and actually feeling excited about it!). But you get stuck late at work and reschedule, then the next night he’s in your neighborhood and wants to meet up nearby for drinks, but you’ve got dinner plans on the other side of town. Then, two days and too many missed connections later, because you never got around to talking about work (wretched small talk), you find out he’s flying out the next morning to a war-torn country 2,239 miles away—the war-torn country where he works/saves lives. And just like that, he’s gone. Maybe in another lifetime your paths will cross. But until then, you’ll file him away in your memory under Best. Tinder. Match. Ever.

Sally moved to Istanbul from Toronto in search of adventure and creative inspiration. She's currently enjoying plenty of both.


  1. ‘Legit’ is a very widely accepted abbreviation, so much so that it’s made it into various dictionaries. I liked the article until I read that patronizing line. I thought, surely there’d be more abbreviations in the subsequent messages, but no. These are the kinds of things that bother me.


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