Turkey

Turkey Do’s

  • Do remove your shoes before going inside a mosque. Women must cover hair and dress modestly. Men should not wear shorts.
  • Do be aware that it might be difficult to find food during the day in remote villages. Shop ahead.
  • Do wear more conservative clothing outside of large cities. Shorts and short sleeves are still acceptable, though.
  • Do be aware that in rural areas where people are more conservative, men and women are expected to behave very modestly when showing any form of affection toward the opposite sex.
  • Do learn gestures of the head for “yes” and “no”, which can be very confusing. “Yes” is a downward nod of the head and “no” is an upward nod of the head while raising eyebrows and clicking the tongue. Shaking your head might not be understood as “no”. Try to learn the Turkish words evet (yes) and hayir (no).
  • Do be polite. Turkish customs place great emphasis on manners and politeness. It might come in handy to memorize some phrases or at least the words tesekkür ederim (thank you), lütfen (please) and pardon (excuse me).
  • Do tolerate that abstinence from alcohol is greatly encouraged in Turkey as in many other Muslim countries. Although some Turks consume an occasional glass of wine – being drunk is considered a disgrace.
  • Do be aware that smoking while eating is common and you shouldn’t request your dining partners to stop.
  • Do take off your shoes before entering a home.
  • Do bring a modest gift. Keep in mind that many Muslims adhere to an abstinent lifestyle – a bottle of alcohol is thus not an ideal gift. Giving money is considered rude.
  • Do finish your plate. If you leave food on your plate, it is seen as a sign that you didn’t like the dish and risks offending your host.
  • Do bargain. It’s regarded as a polite gesture and a form of dialogue to negotiate the price before buying.

Turkey Don’ts

  • Don’t talk loudly – it’s a place of worship. Try to avoid visiting a mosque on a Friday since it is a day of prayer.
  • Don’t walk directly in front of someone who’s praying or, according to their belief, his prayer won’t be counted.
  • Don’t offer people food, drink or even a smoke during the day. The month of Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, when devout Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until dusk. Show some courtesy while eating in public during the day.
  • Don’t be offended, if you are a female travelling with a male companion, when Turkish men talk only to your companion. They are not being rude but rather protective of your honour.
  • Don’t, if you are a male, talk or sit next to a single, young Turkish woman. She might feel threatened.
  • Don’t make the “OK” sign with your thumb and forefinger. It’s considered obscene in Turkey.
  • Don’t berate Kemal Atatürk. Turkish people have a deep respect for the Founding Father of the Turkish Republic, and they wouldn’t tolerate even a harmless joke about him, much less any form of derogatory discussion about his achievements.
  • Don’t blow your nose or pick your teeth while sitting in a restaurant, cafe or bar. Turkish people find this just as impolite as burping openly. Go to the bathroom if you have to blow your nose or if something is stuck between your teeth.
  • Don’t show the bottom of your feet to anyone when sitting down. Since it is quite common to sit on cushions or carpets on the floor, try to sit cross-legged or with your legs to one side.
  • Don’t start to bargain if you’re not willing to buy the product in question. If the merchant gives you a price and you tell him yours in return, you have automatically entered into a business transaction.
  • Don’t buy stones or fossils. They are considered cultural artefacts and it’s illegal to export them. You could be forced to pay a fine or even end up in jail if caught going through customs with stones or fossils in your luggage.
  • Don’t take pictures of people without asking permission. Older people, in particular, are afraid of the camera and consider it “the evil eye”.
  • Don’t take pictures of any woman wearing a veil, people praying, or any kind of military facility.