Guide To Turkey – Etiquette, Customs, Culture & Business

Welcome to our helpful guide for Turkey. Should you be looking to travel, live, relocate or do business here, we will give you a helpful head start on understanding the country and its cultures.

 

Facts & statistics

Turkey (officially the Republic of Turkey) is situated mainly on the Anatolian peninsula in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe.

The Capital: Ankara
Main Cities: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmire, Gaziantep, Adana
Population: 75 million
Size: 783,562 sq km (302,535 sq miles)
Major Religion: Islam
Main Language: Turkish
Climate: Various – Turkey has seven distinct geographic weather and climatic regions.
Life Expectancy: 75
Dialling Code: +90
Emergency Numbers: 112 (Ambulance), 110 (Fire), 155 (Police), 158 (Coastguard)

 

The Currency

Currency: Turkish Lira
Symbols: TL
ISO 4217 Code: TRY
Central Bank: Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey
Currency Sub-Units: Kuruş = 1/100 of a Lira
Denominations: Notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 TL / Coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 Kr. 1 TL

 

Local culture

Turkish culture has undergone a huge amount of change in the last century. It may be the only country that contains every extreme of Eastern and Western culture. Pre 1923, the Ottoman Empire was a multi ethnic state where people were not allowed to mix with each other, meaning that they would retain separate ethnic and religious identities within the empire. After the fall of the empire, the Turkish republic adopted an approach which forced all cultures within it’s boarders to mix with each other with the aim of producing one national and cultural identity. However instead, what resulted what a culture with many shades of grey as the traditional Muslim cultures of Anatolia clashed with the cosmopolitan modernity of Istanbul and the West.

 

Clothing

Women’s attire consists of baggy trousers (Turkish şalvar), a long skirt, robe or dress, a shirt, a jacket, a wide belt, or piece of cloth worn as a belt, a scarf or other headdress, socks and shoes. As well as in other regions of Turkey, in Eastern Anatolia women wear many layers of clothes. Men in Turkey also wear Turkish şalvar and may add a traditional loose coat, called a jubba over the şalvar.

 

The Turkish Language

Turkish is the official language of Turkey, and it’s also an official language of Cyprus. It’s also spoken in small groups of ethnic Turks in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and some other regions of Eastern Europe. Turkish is also spoken in Azerbaijan.

Other languages spoken in Turkey are Kurdish and Arabic, as well as some other minority languages.

 

Written Turkish

Until 1928 Turkish was written with a version of the Perso-Arabic script known as the Ottoman Turkish script. In 1928, as part of his efforts to modernise Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk issued a decree replacing the Arabic script with a version of the Latin alphabet using 29 letters, and this has been used ever since.

 

Etiquette & customs

The Turkish are renowned for being extremely friendly, polite and hospitable people. If you are invited into the home of a Turkish family, be sure to take them a gift (chocolates, flowers, or something from your home country). It’s wise to avoid alcohol as many Turks don’t drink alcohol due to religious reasons.

The elderly are greatly respected in Turkey and it’s usual for younger people to offer their seat on public transport.

 

Religion

Islam is the religion of approximately 98% of the population of Turkey, and the main division in Islam is between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day – at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. The exact time is listed in the local newspaper each day. Friday is the Muslim holy day although this is not practised in Turkey. Most males will however attend the congregational afternoon prayer. During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or even chewing gum.

 

Business meeting advice (if doing business in Turkey)

First Meetings

Greet your potential business partner with a firm handshake. When greeting women, you should wait for them to offer their hand first. Always greet the eldest person first; Turks hold great respect for the elderly.

Business is a serious matter and should be treated as such. Initial meetings are formal so you should avoid coming across as too casual and friendly, even if you have developed a relationship on a personal basis already.

The initial meeting is usually a chance to get to know each other on a business level, so don’t expect any business decisions to be made in the first meeting.

If a business card is offered to you, this could be a sign that the Turks are interested in developing the business relationship further, so ensure that you offer your card in exchange, and take the time to read their card before putting it away.

 

Business Meetings

Make sure you book your meeting with plenty of advance notice, ensuing that you avoid any Turkish holidays or the month of Ramadan. You will be expected to be punctual, however this may not be reciprocated.

It can take a long time for any decisions to be reached in business so be prepared for several meetings to take place before you are able to meet with the people in positions of power, who are the decision makers. Turkish people do not appreciate being rushed, or being given “the hard sell”. They don’t like pressure or deadlines, therefore you must be patient. Expect to be subject to a thorough negotiation process and be prepared to compromise.

 

Names

When greeting Turkish people in a professional setting, formal forms of address should be used; the first name is never used on its own. The title (e.g. Mr, Mrs) is added to either their first name (given name) or their surname.

A Turkish name consists of the given name (usually just one or two names) and a surname. Married women may carry both their maiden and their husband’s surnames, and since 2014, women are not obliged to take their husband’s name at all if they prefer not to. They can continue to be known only by their maiden name if this is their preference. During recent times, many of the given names are unisex. Turkish names are often words with specific meanings in the Turkish language, and these names can either be modern names or can be derived from ancient Turkic mythology.

 

Management advice, when managing Turkish employees

This section will be particularly helpful if you are relocating to Turkey and intend to work.

The business culture in Turkey tends to work on a hierarchal structure with each person having a very distinct role within the business. Show respect to older people and people more senior to you by addressing them with their title and surname initially, and let them take the lead as to when it’s appropriate to address and be addressed on a first name only basis, once a personal relationship has developed. As we touched upon before, Turks do not like deadlines so you will need to be patient and don’t expect decisions to be made quickly. Even if you’ve set deadlines well in advance, you need to be flexible as the norm for these to be moved back.

As in other hierarchal based work places, the manager is usually expected to adopt a paternalistic role to their team, meaning that their concern for their employees often goes above and beyond the work place only.

 

Relocation advice

Visitors are able to stay in Turkey for a maximum for 90 days in any period of 180 days, and visas need to be applied for prior to entering the country. If you are looking to make a permanent move to Turkey, you need to obtain a relevant work of residence permit in advance.

The cost of living is more reasonable in Turkey than its neighbouring Europe countries.

The healthcare provided in Turkey may not be up to the standards that Westerners are used to, but good private facilities can be found on the larger cities.

Working with other cultures can be a challenge – Cultural Awareness Training can help.