A large number of people from Bulgarians and Greece take buses on weekends to travel to the western Turkish province of Edirne for shopping.
In the face of strong interest from neighboring countries, the city’s businesspeople have put price lists in Bulgarian and Greek on their shop windows. Even Bulgarian online shopping websites have been launched and little “dictionaries” have been prepared to help potential Bulgarian and Greek customers.
Bulgarians and Greeks are traveling to Edirne just because they find goods sold there are “cheaper” compared to products sold in their hometowns thanks to favorable currency rates.
They generally buy fruits, vegetables and clothes at the open-air market while they purchase souvenirs from the shops at the Arasta Bazaar. From the stores along Saraçlar Street, they buy cosmetic products.
Most of those shops in Edirne have at least one employee who speaks Bulgarian or Greek.
“We sell products normally sold for 100 Turkish Liras for 70-80 liras in this shop. That is why they come all the way down here for shopping,” said Güllühan Ali, who is a Bulgarian citizen of Turkish origin. She works at a shop that sells cleaning products.
Fuat Tekin, who runs a cosmetics products shop on Saraçlar Street, one of the busiest streets in Edirne, says there have been lot of visitors from Bulgaria and Greece.
“Our prices are much lower than the prices of products sold at duty free shops. Bulgarians come here on weekends while Greeks travel to Edirne for shopping on weekdays. Some of our customers stop by two times a month,” Tekin said.
“I came to Edirne with a couple of friends. First, we took a tour in the city and now we are doing some shopping. Everthing is cheaper here compared to Greece,” said Maria Papadopulo, who traveled from the Greek province of Thessaloniki.
Overcoming language barrier
Inevitably, locals and foreign visitors have communication problems due to language barriers. In order to ease such problems, the business cooperatives have distributed Bulgarian dictionaries to shop owners.
“We have had a small ‘shopping’ dictionary with 250 Bulgarian words inside prepared to help local businesses. Shop owners learn those words by heart and better communicate with their customers. Soon we will distribute a similar Greek dictionary,” said Bülent Reisoğlu, the head of the Ulus Bazaar Tradesmen Cooperative.
“When a customer asks for the price of a product, I open the dictionary to find the related word in Bulgarian. We communicate better this way,” said Bayram Ihlamur, a local tradesman.
In order to lure more visitors to Edirne, they are promoting the city through public campaigns run in Greek and Bulgarian ads, according to Recep Gürkan, the mayor of Edirne.
“A Bulgarian visitor on average spends some 100 levs [$58] on shopping here while a Greek shopper spends on average between 50 to 80 euros. Local business owners and Bulgarian and Greek visitors have friendly relations. If a customer does not have enough money on them, the shop owner says ‘you can pay next time,’” said Gürkan.
He also noted some local businesses have launched Bulgarian websites, which allow potential customers to check the prices online. The businesses also promote their stores with Bulgarian and Greek posts on social media.
İdris Emen – EDİRNE – hurriyetdailynews.com