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Turkish customs you might not know about

When visiting Türkiye you may notice there are customs that are very different to what you are used to at home. Turkish culture has a set of social rules all of its own, which can be confusing at first.

Social Greetings

Turkish people often greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. If a Turkish person is greeting a grandparent or elder, it is customary for them to kiss the right hand of said person and place their head to the hand, as a mark of respect.

They also walk down the street with arms linked or wrapped around each other’s shoulders. This can apply to men as well and is normal social behaviour. If you are in an in-depth conversation with a Turk and they touch your arms or hands, it is just their way of emphasising their thoughts and opinions.

Turks smile less than Westerners

When you smile at Turkish people they won’t always smile back at you. They’re not being unfriendly, it’s just a cultural difference and smiling at strangers isn’t usual behaviour. Smiles are saved for close friends and family.

Never refuse a cup of tea

The drinking of tea (çay) is a national pastime and offering it to guests is part of Turkish hospitality. Refusing is seen as anti-social.  Once you have had enough, leave your teaspoon lying across the glass which means “That’s enough. Thank you”.

Don’t put your handbag on the floor

It is bad luck to put your handbag on the floor. There’s a phrase that’s been passed down through generations of women: “A purse on the floor is money out the door.”

Nowadays there are some very attractive handbag hooks available to buy.

Take your shoes off

It’s important to remove your shoes before entering a Turkish home so you do not drag in the dirt from the outside into the home. Some people bring along shoes for inside the house but you will always be given a pair of slippers or house shoes by your host.

Kolonya! Kolonya!

Kolonya (lemon cologne) is absolutely everywhere. It used for everything in Türkiye. Washing your hands before and after a meal, as a disinfectant, after shaving as an astringent and it is even said to be effective against insect bites.

A bit of a grilling

Turks are comfortable talking about personal details, even with someone they’ve just met. This can be alarming to someone from a more reserved country, such as the UK. As a foreigner, you’re even more interesting. Expect to be grilled about your marital status, age, number of children, job and salary. You can also expect all manner of questions about where you’re from.

Time is NOT of the essence!

Life in Türkiye is slower and more easygoing. Turks have a much more laid-back approach to time so if you arrange to meet up with a Turkish friend, expect them to be late. Getting used to this can take time for visitors who are more used to clock watching.

Sources: Property Turkey/Culture Shock, Turkey

This article was first published on 26 January 2017.

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Lyn Ward

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3 responses

  1. dear lyn i would like to no were i could hire a mobilty scooter at a good prie for 27days 26 july to 25augest 2023 staying in oludeniz were i have been going for 21years all ways use baris boat trip in fethiy look forward to your reply mr j boyle

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