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Doing Business in Turkey

Business Etiquette TurkeyA nation rich in resources, an established democracy undergoing liberal reforms and the possibility of joining the EU make Turkey one to watch for the near future. An already expanding export market based in the manufacturing industries means doing business in Turkey is rapidly being recognised as a lucrative venture.

Doing business in Turkey however requires understanding the people, culture, etiquette and approach to business. By acquiring cross cultural skills, international business people can maximise their prospects of success in Turkey.


This brief guide to doing business in Turkey offers some key tips on how to approach business in Turkey, the etiquette you should employ and how best to present yourself to your Turkish clients, colleagues or customers.

Doing Business - Meeting and Greeting

When meeting, shake hands firmly. When departing, it is not always customary to shake hands although it is practised occasionally.

In the business context most women will shake hands with men. However, this may not be the case in Eastern or rural Turkey where people are more conservative. If unsure, wait for the woman to extend her hand.

When addressing a Turk the most common method is to call a man by his first name followed by 'bey' (pronounced bay). So, Ertan Gonca, would be Ertan Bey. Similarly a woman's first name would be followed by 'hanim' (pronounced ha-num).

Where professional titles exist such as Doctor or Professor, always use them either on their own of before the first name. Curiously this is also the case with many other professions such as lawyers 'Avukat', engineers 'Muhendis' and managers 'Mudur'.

When doing business in Turkey, initial meetings should always concentrate on relationship building. Engage in some light conversation to establish rapport. Questions about children will be welcomed. The Turks are proud of their country and will enjoy answering questions on their culture and history although be sure to avoid political history. Most Turkish men love football (soccer) and usually support one of three teams: Galatasaray, Beºiktaº or Fenerbahçe. Asking after their team's recent fortunes will always produce lively and animate responses.

Doing Business - Entertaining

When doing business in Turkey it is likely you will be taken to restaurants. Turks enjoy food and the meal is a time for relaxing and engaging in some good conversation.

The protocol of Turkish hospitality dictates that the host always pays for the meal. The concept of sharing a bill is alien. You may try and offer to pay, which may be seen as polite, but you would never be allowed to do so. If doing business in Turkey the best policy is to graciously thank the host then a few days later invite them to dinner at a restaurant of your choice. It may be a good idea to inform the restaurant manager that under no circumstances are they to accept payment from your guests.


Doing Business - Negotiations

If you are going to Turkey to do business, know two things. Your success is defined by your ability to build effective personal relationships combined with a clearly outlined and well presented proposal.

Business is personal in Turkey. Although this is changing with the more corporate culture in some of the larger companies, many businesses are still family owned and run.

Turks will look at doing business with those they like, trust, feel comfortable with and with those that can provide a long term relationship. As well as looking to the person, Turks are also astute business people. Ensure your proposal clearly demonstrates the mutual benefit and profitability of any agreement or partnership.

Turks are primarily oral and visual communicators so in addition to written statistics, projections and the like try to present information vocally or with maps, graphs and charts.

If your doing business in Turkey involves negotiating, it may not always be necessary to focus on financial benefits. It is just as useful to point to areas such as power, influence, honour, respect and other non-monetary incentives.

Decision making can be slow. It is most likely that you will meet and negotiate with less senior members of a family or company first. Once you are seen as trustworthy and your proposal financially viable you will then move on to meet more senior members. A decision is ultimately made by the head of the family/company.

Prior to doing business or entering negotiations in Turkey know your target figure and work slowly towards it through meaningful concessions. When conceding ensure you present this as a favour and a decision made out of respect and liking for your counterpart(s). Try and concede only once you have gained agreement on a reciprocal concession on a separate or related issue.

Do not use deadlines or pressure tactics as the Turks will use this to their advantage and reverse the tactic by threatening to cancel agreements or end negotiations. Be patient.

Doing Business in Turkey

The above examples of differences in culture, business practices and business etiquette show the advantages cross cultural awareness brings. By tailoring your behaviour and approach to doing business in Turkey you maximise the potential of your visit.

Business Culture Guides

We offer free guides to doing business in many countries. Please visit Business Culture Guides for a full list.

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