Culture and Customs of Turkey

Turkey is an Islamic country spanning the Eurasian continent, known as the "cradle of civilization". It has a long history of 6,500 years and the cultural and historical heritage of thirteen different civilizations. The geographical environment makes it have extremely rich tourism resources.


Hospitality is a distinctive feature of Turks and an important manifestation of Turkish culture. Whether it is for tourists who come to travel or long-term immigrants, they always hold a welcoming attitude, making newcomers feel good and comfortable.


1. Turkish clothing customs

There is a lot of emphasis on traditional Turkish clothing. Men's traditional clothing includes shirts, shorts, wool socks, and leather shoes. There are two kinds of traditional clothing for women, one is a headscarf and headgear, cotton shirts, and crotchless trousers are very wide; the other is "three heads", that is, a long skirt composed of three pieces of cloth, worn over the shirt and trousers. However, today's traditional Turkish clothing often only appears in rural areas, or on special days, people in modern cities wear ordinary skirts, shirts, etc.


2. Social etiquette: shaking hands or kissing each other on the cheek

In Turkey, hugs are reserved for close friends and family. If it's the first time they meet, they usually shake hands and say hello to each other. Turks also like to kiss on their cheeks, and kissing on the cheeks is suitable for any occasion where people greet each other. So don't be surprised when you see Turks kissing each other on the cheek, it's just a normal greeting to them.



3. Lifestyle: like to drink a lot of tea

Turkey is very fond of tea. It can be said that the first thing Turks do when they get up is to drink tea, and then they start to wash.


When in Turkey, you will hear the Turks often saying "AY! AY! AY!", which translates to "Tea! Tea! Tea!". Tea houses and tea stalls are ubiquitous in Turkey. In the streets and alleys of cities and towns, you will see tea deliverers walking around with tea trays and constantly shouting: "Freshly brewed tea!" "Afiyet Olsun!" (eat and drink well) Moreover, tea is not just a hot drink. In Turkey, it is a warm welcome in the homes of those warm hosts. Usually the first time after a meal is to drink tea, and then eat fresh fruit and sweets.



4 Be respectful to your elders

In Turkey, if you want to meet a friend's parents, you must add "teyze" (aunt) or "amca" (uncle) to their name. These terms are meant to show respect. You can also try paying homage with "abi" or "abla" (brother or sister). When you're out and about, you may hear men calling each other "abi", which is a bit like saying "brother" in the context of friendship.


5 Home visits with gifts

Turks are very hospitable and if you have just met a Turkish friend you will definitely be invited home. At this time, it is important to visit with a small gift: food or flowers are most appropriate, and it is best to avoid alcohol, as many Turks do not drink alcohol for religious reasons.


Turkish customs

  • 1. From cities to villages in Turkey, there are mosques everywhere, and the voice of praise to Allah came from the minarets 5 times. The mosque can be visited regularly, and women must wear a headscarf and a skirt when entering the mosque.
  • 2. Boys will be circumcised when they are about 7 years old. After the circumcision, the little boy wears a white robe, a crown, and a scepter. The person who accompanies the boy to be circumcised will have a close relationship with the boy throughout his life, which is equivalent to the status of the boy's father.
  • 3. The more conservative women in Turkey wear robes and headscarves, while the urban women prefer to wear tights to reveal their attractive body shape. Most women go out to work and take their husband's surname after marriage. Although most public places are gender-neutral, massages and haircuts must be separated from men and women.


Turkey travel taboo notes

Taboos related to religion and culture

  • Turkey is an Islamic country, and the work and rest time is the same as that of the West. Except for the need to take off your shoes and silence when entering the mosque, the domestic atmosphere is very free, which is very different from other Islamic countries in the Middle East.
  • The Turks are hospitable and courteous, and small gifts can enhance the friendship between new friends. Most of the Turks above the middle class consider themselves Europeans.
  • Turkish English is not common, except for tourist hotels, restaurants or shops, it is best to have a local translation for business affairs.
  • The Turks highly respect their founding father, General Kemal, and both companies and government agencies hang pictures of Kemal.


Etiquette related taboos

  • A wave of hands is the most common meet-and-greet etiquette, and pointing at anyone with your index finger or toe is considered rude. Blowing your nose in public is also considered a very rude gesture. In addition, couples should not be too intimate and indecent in public.
  • Tourists can dress casually in Turkey, but swimwear is limited to beach or swimming pools. Smoking in general is not restricted, but smoking is prohibited in cinemas, theatres, buses and shared taxis.
  • Turkey nods forward when expressing "evet", and "nods" backward when expressing "disapproval" (hahyur) and frowns upwards, or raises the eyebrows. Sometimes Turks also say 'tsk' to mean "no". Contrast this with 'I don't understand' if you shake your head from side to side. Raise your hand to your head to say 'thank you'. Sometimes there is a slight nod when expressing thanks.
  • In big cities, tourists are allowed to take pictures. But in more rural areas, you need to ask the person to be photographed before taking pictures, and only after permission. Especially when the person being photographed is a woman wearing a  headscarf.

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