11 things you MUST know before you meet a Turkish person

In Turkey, hospitality is everything. Welcoming someone is a cornerstone of Turkish culture, with Turks believing that visitors should be treated as guests sent by God. Traditionally hospitality has meant welcoming Turkish friends and family, but tourism has changed this. 

Surprisingly, mass tourism hasn't dimmed the Turkish desire to welcome people, and in the 21st century Turks are keen to show off their home and their country to foreign visitors, learning about their cultures and ways, just as visitors learn about theirs. welcome has meant friends and family.

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Handshake in Turkey

1. Greet people with a handshake or a kiss on each cheek

Huggers: rein it in. In Turkey, an embrace is reserved for close friends and family. If you are meeting someone for the first time, a handshake is perfectly acceptable. Turks also favour a cheek kiss, and a kiss on each cheek is appropriate in just about any situation where people are greeting each other. In the case of acquaintances, if a kiss is going to happen then men prefer women to initiate the greeting.

Turkish tea

2. Prepare to drink a lot of tea

Tea is more than just a warming beverage. In Turkey, home of the hospitable, it's a sign of welcome; less about refreshment and more about friendship. You'll usually drink tea after a meal with fresh fruit and sweet treats. And if anyone's ever settled in for an extended bout of haggling at a Turkish market, you'll probably remember tea making an appearance there, too.

3. Don't worry if you're late

If it's a social occasion, you wouldn't be considered rude if you turned up late. Conversely, if you're hosting, you can expect a few stragglers. In Turkey, time is seen as a little more fluid, unless it's a business meeting, when you are expected to be on time.

Turkish hospitality

4. Be deferential to your elders

If you're meeting a friend's parents, add "teyze" (aunt) or "amca" (uncle) after their first name. These terms are a show of respect. You could also try "abi" or "abla", big brother or big sister, to show deference. You might hear men call each other "abi" when you're out and about, it's a little like saying "bro", in a friendship context.

5. Weddings mean gold

If you're heading to Turkey for a matrimonial event, be aware that gold has a special significance at a wedding. Guests give the bride and groom gold coins, and family gift gold bracelets. Gold is fixed to the silk sashes around a bride and groom's neck. There's a simple and rather universal reason for this: gold is seen as a nest egg, one that will never lose its value. 

6. Cover up at the mosque

While Turkey is secular and modern, most of the population is Muslim. As with any religious place of worship, you must show respect. Women should cover their heads, as well as arms and legs. Men should also ensure their legs are covered.

7. Shoes strictly off

House proud Turks would never wear shoes inside. Leave your footwear at the door. Your host might even provide some slippers.

8. Bring a gift

Turks are a hospitable bunch and if you make an effort to befriend them you're bound to be invited home for a gathering. When you do, it's important to bring a small gift: food or flowers are most appropriate, it's best to steer clear of alcohol as many Turks don't drink for religious reasons.

Turkish hospitality

9. The host always pays

This is vital to remember if you're dining out with your Turkish friends! Whoever does the inviting is generally the one who pays. Splitting the bill is almost unheard of: it's understood that the guests will reciprocate the invitation in the future. 

Turkish meal

10. Don't forget the bread

Turks believe that a meal isn't a meal without bread. It's not as though it's difficult to find: fresh, fragrant-smelling bread is found on just about every street corner.

11. Beware of faux pas

Refrain from pointing your fingers at anyone, don't blow your nose in public, don't sit with your legs apart (that goes for men and women). Don't disrespect the Turkish flag, or Ataturk. It's best to steer clear of religion and politics with new acquaintances. But don't stress: Turks are friendly and tolerant, and your indiscretion will be put down to your foreign status and gently corrected. 


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