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Guide to etiquette in Turkey

19th July 2013

If you are fortunate enough to visit or reside in Turkey, there are some aspects you may not be aware of. This beautiful Aegean country boasts a food culture all of its own as well as that old favourite Turkish delight and some incredible coffee. 

Yet what rules are there on social etiquette? It’s time to put on your Fez hat and check out below what to look out for. 

GreetingIt is imperative you address people in the right manner. Aim to shake everyone’s hands whether there are men, women or children in attendance. It is certainly the done thing to shake the elder individuals in the first instance and again on departing. 

When you say hello to a native Turk it is usually common to address a male with the term 'bey' following his first name. Likewise for females, a ladies name should be followed by the word 'hanim' usually pronounced ha-num.

Tip: It is sometimes popular for both Turkish men and women to kiss on the cheek when meeting and leaving.

CommunicationBody language is another important factor in Turkish social etiquette. To spare any gaffes you need to listen up! If you want to agree with someone then tilt your head downwards whilst no is in the opposite direction. Got it?

In addition, Turkish people are not big fans of giving lots of personal space so things may become a little more intimate. If this happens don’t fret as this is the norm. 

Tip: Don’t put your thumb in the middle of the first two fingers on your hand. This can be misconstrued as an impolite gesture in Turkey.     

Corporate environmentBusiness etiquette is another area not to be frowned upon. The Turks take this extremely seriously, especially if you are late for a meeting. Punctuality is the order of the day.

The majority of Turkish females will shake hands with males. But, this might not be possible in more rural areas where individuals might be a little more reserved on religious grounds.

Tip: Business is definitely personal in Turkey. Converse about other matters aside from business as this aids in building trust and establishing trusted relations before getting down to the real nitty gritty. 

DiningHospitality or 'misafirperverlik' is considered to be one of the most important elements of Turkish culture.

Who knows you might be invited for a drink on your travels or be welcomed into a traditional teahouse known as a çayhane. 

If you are fortunate enough to wangle an invite to a proper Turkish home, then it is a real honour that you should take up without hesitation. 

Dinner is literally a real feast for the eyes. Depending on whether or not your hosts drink alcohol, be prepared to share in a small local tipple called Raký. 

This aniseed based drink is favoured among many Turks as an aperitif and is the ideal accompaniment with a host of seafood or meze dishes. 

Tip: If you find yourself in a rural home then hide your feet under the table. This is because the feet are deemed unclean and should be concealed.

Written by Simon Lazarus

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