We Have No Stamps

Knowing how to speak Turkish would have helped.

Earlier today I went to the post office to purchase some postcard stamps. I’ve done this many times before in many different countries so it’s pretty routine for me. I even brought a postcard with me to visually explain what I wanted. Since there were no stamp machines I had to queue for nearly 30 minutes before I finally made it up to the counter.

At least they use a ticket system for queuing.

At least they use a ticket system for queuing, although I started with the wrong ticket type.

The attendant didn’t know any English which didn’t surprise me so I just pointed at where the stamp would go on the postcard and held up 3 fingers for the 3 stamps which I hoped to buy. She showed me on a calculator the cost (2.2 liras) then took my completed postcard and turned to the next customer.

Hold on there lady. Where are the stamps?

I tried in vain to explain to her that I wanted to buy stamps. She then put a 20 kuru (100 kurus = 1 lira) stamp on my postcard and ran it through a machine. So the stamp costs 20 kurus and I handed her 2.2 liras, which means she owes me 2 liras. By this point I’d given up on buying stamps and wanted my 2 liras back. Now there was clearly a language barrier between the 2 of us as I tried my best to explain using hand gestures and some English to say I wanted my 2 liras back. Finally she asked her disgruntled coworker in the next counter to help.

He turned to me and said in clear English “we have no stamps.”

I just saw her put a stamp on my postcard. What the hell is going on? We are in a post office, aren’t we?

After taking care of another customer she then pulls out some 20 kuru stamps and says that she’s only got 10 stamps for sale. But now I don’t want any stamps, I just want my 2 liras back! Her disgruntled coworker knows some English but is now completely ignoring us. Thankfully another customer comes over and translates for us. It turns out that there’s a 2 lira fee for sending a postcard, plus the cost of the stamp.

This is totally illogical. What’s the point of having stamps if you charge a flat fee? And why did the other guy tell me there are no stamps?

Either way, I walk out of the post office feeling defeated and frustrated at the nonsense that just occurred.

A refreshing fresh squeezed juice would do me some good. I stopped at a juice bar and ordered a cocktail juice. The attendant, in English, said “orange?”. I said “No, cocktail” and made a hand gesture to emphasize the no. “Cocktail” in Turkish is pronounced almost exactly the same as in English, and sounds nothing like “orange”. At the pick up counter, I’m handed an orange juice. It’s not what I wanted but it’s still refreshing. I give up.

Have you ever had what should have been a simple situation become complicated by a language barrier? Tell me all about it!

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