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Turkey: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

Cultural Sensitivity, Middle East, Turkey, Turkey Add comments


Mosque in Turkey
Photo by David Spender

little mapLocation: South Eastern Europe and Asia Minor; bordered on the Northeast by Armenia, Georgia, and the Black Sea, in the East by Iran, in the Southeast by Iraq, in the West by Syria, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Aegean Sea, and in the Northwest by Greece and Bulgaria.

Capital: Ankara Climate: Typical Mediterranean climate of hot summers and mild winters Population: 71,158,647 according to 2007 estimates. The economy is industry and agriculture based. A growth spurt in private sector has added to the economic strength. Unemployment stands at about 10%. Ethnic Make-up: Turkish 80%, Kurdish 20%

Turkish PortReligions: Muslims 99.8%, Christians and Jews 0.2%. The secular government guarantees freedom of worship. It grants all religious groups the right to carry out evangelistic missions, but arrests of Christian missionaries by the police are common.

Language: Turkish, Kurdish, Dimli, Azeri, Kabardian Government: Republican Parliamentary Democracy

Travel Issues: Citizens of Austria, Belgium, Brazil, British passport holders of Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, U.K., and U.S. require a visa to enter Turkey but can get them at major ports of entry at the border, with a valid passport at hand. This would be for a maximum stay of 3 months. Anything longer requires a visa application.

Health & Safety: Visitors to Turkey are advised to take immunization shots against hepatitis A, typhoid, hepatitis B, MMR, tetanus and diphtheria. Malaria might be a risk if you intend to leave the trodden path and travel in the rural areas.

Brian Snelson
Photo by Brian Snelson


2 boys in TurkeyThe People: For the Turkish people, hospitality is a way of life and goes way back in tradition. They often go out of their way to accommodate a guest and make them welcome. They are very proud about their rich history and heritage and are happy to talk about it.

The Religion: The major religion is Islam and Christians are a minority.

Role of Family: They have very close and possessive family relationships. The seniors are respected and taken good care of till the end. Children continue to live with their parents till they get married and often their financial needs are met right up to then. This care and concern is returned in the old age of the parents.

Whirling DervishRecreational Activities: Strenuous physical sports such as mountaineering, winter sports such as skiing, and water sports in the Mediterranean coast are widely popular.

Anything else important for this culture: Always acknowledge and greet the senior-most person first. Jumping queues is not considered particularly rude, so it’s best to be patient.


Meetings & Greetings: Shaking hands is the ordinary form of greeting. Traditional values and norms of Islam guide everyday manners and behavior. If interacting with traditional people and elders, the Islamic greeting of Asalaam um alaikum is more acceptable. Women are less conservative than in other Muslim nations and may shake hands with males. Close relations kiss on the cheek as greeting and leave-taking.

Turkish Coast
Photo by Kusadasi Guy

ladies in IstanbulCourtesy: It is rude to sit with your legs askew. Always cross them or keep them together, especially if someone is directly opposite you. It is not courteous to inquire about female relatives, but it is acceptable to talk about family and children.

Gift Giving: This is not a particularly Turkish custom. But if you’re invited to someone’s home, it would be a nice gesture to carry some chocolates or candies for the family, especially if there are children in the house. Alcohol should not be gifted to Muslims unless you’re sure they imbibe.

Dress Code: Being a conservative community that values tradition highly, you would be well advised to abide by the prevalent dress code. For formal occasions and business meetings, men wear business attire complete with tie. Women may wear business suits that ensure their skirts are knee length or longer. Informal wear for women should cover shoulders, arms, and legs. In rural areas, a head scarf is advised.

Turkish HousesDining Etiquette: Always leave your foot wear outside when invited to dine at someone’s house. Take along a gift that is not too ostentatious. This should be discreetly offered to the host. Wait to be shown to your seat. There is a protocol to this based on hierarchy where the senior most person is seated furthest from the entrance.

If it is a traditional affair, you will be seated on carpets on the floor and eating from a communal dish. You will have to eat with your hands, and for this you should only use the fingers of your right hand. There will be a ritualistic washing of hands before and after dining.

Vendor in TurkeyVisiting a home: When visiting a home, you need to show your appreciation for the honor by giving a suitable gift. Do not offer flowers, but chocolates, sweets, and fruits are acceptable. Leave your footwear outside. You should accept the hospitality graciously and never decline any offer of food and drink.

Communication Style: A ‘Yes’ is indicated with an upward nod, and a ‘No’ is the same gesture with raised eyebrows followed by a hissing ‘tsk’. You can address a man by his first name, followed by ‘bey’ and a woman by her first name and ‘hanim.’ If the person has a professional title, make sure you use that.

Dos and Don’ts: Being a secular state, alcohol is freely available. But you have to keep in mind that Muslims fast in the holy month of Ramadan from dawn to dusk and it would be a good move on your part to not indulge in their presence. Refrain from conversing about contentious politics or current affairs.

Spice Market Istanbul
Photo by Brian Snelson

Man smiling by cocate
Houses by Veyis Polat
2 ladies by sly06
Dancer and boats by Kivanc Nis
2 boy by Alexander De Luca

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