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Turkish Etiquette Tips
Flying to Turkey? While some major Turkish cities are westernized, much of Turkey can still be conservative and traditional, so it's important to learn about their etiquette. Below are some etiquette tips to take with you on your trip to Turkey.
1. Dress Attire in Turkey
- DO dress conservatively for business occasions. A suit and tie will do. In cities like Istanbul where the summers get really hot, it is usually acceptable to not wear a tie.
- DO wear more conservative clothing outside of large cities, but shorts and short sleeves are still acceptable.
2. Table Manners in Turkey
- DO eat everything on your plate. Some Turkish hosts might be offended if you don't.
- DO put your knife and fork side-by-side on your plate to indicate you are done.
- DON'T use your left hand when dining. The left hand is considered unclean.
- DO be aware that smoking while eating is common and you probably shouldn't request that your dining partners stop.
- DO pay for the meal if you initiated the invitation. Splitting the bill is not traditionally done in Turkey.
- DO reciprocate if someone invited you out for a meal. Invite them out to a meal in return before you leave Turkey.
3. Tipping in Turkey
- DO leave a modest tip at a restaurant. Tips aren't expected, but they are appreciated. In fancy restaurants, you may leave a 10%-15% tip.
- DO round the fare up instead of tipping a taxi driver. For instance, if the fare is YTL 5.7 (Turkish lira), round it up to YTL 6 (Turkish lira).
- DO tip hotel porters 50 cents to a dollar a bag.
4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts in Turkey
- DO bring a gift from your own country, such as food or crafts.
- DO remember that Turkey is a Muslim country and not everyone drinks alcohol, so keep that in mind before purchasing an alcoholic beverage as a gift.
- DO give flowers, especially roses or carnations.
- DO give gifts such as pastries or home decor items, such as a nice vase.
- DON'T leave the children out when giving gifts. Buy them a little something, too! Candy makes a great gift for kids.
- DON'T open your gift until later.
- DON'T give a gift that is very expensive.
5. Body Gestures in Turkey
- DON'T stand with your hands on your hips or in your pockets.
- DO be aware that in more rural areas where people are more conservative, men and women are expected not to touch. Even shaking hands can be taboo.
- DO understand that "Yes" is a nod of the head going downward and "No" is a nod of the head going up, along with a sucking sound made between your two front teeth.
- DON'T point at someone with your finger.
- DO keep your feet flat on the ground when sitting. Showing the bottoms of your feet is considered insulting in Turkey.
- DON'T make the "OK" sign with your hand. It's a rude gesture in Turkey.
- DON'T put your thumb between your index and middle finger. It's also a vulgar gesture.
6. Greetings in Turkey
- DO shake hands upon meeting someone. Shake hands with everyone present, including the children, and shake hands with the elders first (except in very rural areas).
- DO exchange two kisses on the cheek with friends and relatives.
7. Visitor Etiquette in Turkey
- DO be punctual when invited to a dinner party.
- DO bring the host a gift.
8. Business Meetings in Turkey
- DO schedule meetings one to two weeks in advance.
- DON'T try to schedule appointments during Ramadan or during July and August, which is when many Turks take vacation.
- DON'T discuss business right off the bat. First appointments are often just to get to know each other. Engage in small talk about things such as soccer, families, and Turkish history. Avoid bringing up politics.
- DO have your information printed in English and Turkish.
- DO maintain eye contact during meetings. Turks take eye contact while speaking as a sign of honesty.
- DO create graphs, charts, and other visual items for a presentation.
- DO remain patient, as decision-making can be slow in Turkey.
- DO be ready to negotiate. Turks will often suggest something extreme in the beginning to see how you'll respond.
- DON'T use pressure tactics, such as imposing a deadline.
- DO use both hands when exchanging a business card.
- DO get business cards printed with the information in Turkish on one side.
- DON'T be late. If you think you won't be on time, call to explain why.
Turkey has many customs, some having to do with the fact that Turkey is a Muslim country. Because many of their traditions are based on religious belief, it's important to gain respect from the people of Turkey by abiding by their etiquette. Have a wonderful trip!