QUENTIN POULSEN Sometimes you need to get out of the city to understand more about a nation's culture. It is easy to blame a nation for the behavior of people in big cities. They can be rude, impatient, aggressive and dishonest.
But this is common in all big cities I have been to, from New York to ********* and London to Istanbul.
It is also only a small percentage of the people. But in a big city it can seem like a lot more, as we see this kind of behavior almost every day.
During my recent trip to Northern Cyprus I was reminded of the Turkish reputation for good hospitality. The people were mostly polite and helpful.
This is not so easy to find in the center of Istanbul where I live. People bump into you on footpaths, cars don't stop at pedestrian crossings, and taxi rides are not always pleasant experiences.
Sometimes as foreigners we blame Turkey for this. But then we remind ourselves that this is not Turkish culture. It is big city culture.
For the people of Istanbul, their lifestyle is probably becoming more similar to the lifestyles of people in New York and London than it is to the lifestyles of people in small Anatolian towns.
City populations have grown a lot in the last fifty years and today more than half of the world's people live in cities. By 2030 this is expected to be over 60 percent.
Cities bring stress, crowds, noise and pollution. People often live away from their families and can be more independent, ambitious and aggressive.
They also tend to rely less on people around them, which can make them disinterested, less caring and selfish.
I believe this does not reflect national culture but rather the difference between people who live in big cities and people who don't.
If I were to compare my foreign friends with my Turkish friends here, I would say there were differences. They know more about international culture and history, partly because they are travelers.
But they can be competitive with their knowledge. Most are talkers rather than listeners. They like to dominate conversations and they don't change their views easily.
People from North Europe, America and Australasia tend to be more polite than people around the Mediterranean, in my experience, but our behavior is also less open and natural.
The most polite - and friendly - people I have met anywhere, however, were definitely in China.
Quentin Poulsen is a former New Zealand journalist who has been teaching English and traveling for nine years.