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Costumes and Traditions in Turkey

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

Turks are well known to be a very for conservative to Ottoman and Turkmen People.

They pay great attention to their guests, hospitality, care about the preparation of authentic Turkish food, and how to serve it.

Here are some of the Turks Traditions:

Serving water with Coffee to guests

This habit dated back to ottoman era, the Ottomans served water with coffee when receiving their guests.

So if the guest drinks the coffee first it means he is full, otherwise if he drinks water first it means he is hungry so that the host will prepare food for the guest without embarrassing the guest to say he is hungry .

Turkish coffee and water

Greetings Etiquette

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

Friends and relations would greet each other with either one or two kisses on the cheek. Elders are always respected by kissing their right hand then placing the forehead onto the hand.

When entering a room, if you are not automatically met by someone greet the most elderly or most senior first. At social occasions greet the person closest to you then work your way around the room or table anti-clockwise.

Greet people with either the Islamic greeting of 'Asalamu alaykum' (peace be upon you) or 'Nasilsiniz' (How are you?).

Other useful phrases are 'Gunaydin' (Good Morning), 'iyi gunler' (Good Day) or 'Memnun Oldum' (pleased to meet you).

Exchange food dishes

This is not a strange habit to Arab society and it is not related to a specific occasion.

This habit becomes mandatory if your neighbor is sick otherwise dishes are exchanged on different occasions, especially during Ramadan.

The dish that arrives from one neighbor to another does not return to the owner empty, but must return it loaded with delicious foods similar to those received.

Titles Etiquette

The Turks always use the formal speech with others especially when they meet someone for the first time or when dealing with elderly and this means respect to everyone.

So when Turks are talking to men they call the first name followed by "bey" or "afendem" and the women they call her first name followed by "hanem".

Travel Habit

If a Turkish person travels, a family member sprays salt on his shoulder and spills water behind him after he goes

This habit signifies the salinity of his absence, and pray to travel and return smoothly and quickly as water returns to its streams.

Respect old people.

Older people are treated with full respect.

When you want to enter a room, before you enter, let the older person pass through first. Public and waiting areas, you always find Turkish giving priority to the elderly by sitting or relaxing first.

Drink Tea​

Tea is one of the most popular drinks in Turkey.

Your host will not ask you if you want to drink tea or not, but he will pour it for you by himself until you ask him to stop or to put the spoon on top of the cup.

Turkish tea


Horse meat and its milk are famous and favourite in Turkey.

This may sound strange in many countries, but it is inherited from parents who recommend horse meat and milk to their children.


Hospitality habits

If you were invited to a Turk's home for dinner. The most usual gifts to take are pastries, (especially 'baklava') and decorative items for the home such as ornaments or vases. Flowers are not usually taken to a host but can be if felt appropriate. It is best to ask a florist for advice on what is best to take. If the host has children take some expensive sweets or candy.

One of the nice habits of entering the house, take off the shoes outside before entering, and even if the owner asked you not to take it off, and there is usually when the hosts to offer you "slippers" to wear instead of your shoes.

The protocol of Turkish hospitality dictates that the host always pays for the meal. The concept of sharing a bill is completely alien. You may try and offer to pay, which may be seen as polite, but you would never be allowed to do so. The best policy is to graciously thank the host then a few days later invite them to do 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.

Turks smoke during meals and will often take breaks between courses to have a cigarette and a few drinks before moving onto the next.

Tea or Turkish coffee is served at the end of a meal sometimes with pastries. Turkish coffee is a national drink and should at least be sampled. It comes either without sugar, a little sugar or sweet.

Salty coffee

One of the old marriage habits in Turkish society, which is still applied by many girls as a test for the man and his desire to marry her.

When the groom's parents go to the girl house to propose to her , the bride prepares regular coffee for all guests, except for the groom's coffee, putting in his cup a salt instead of sugar as a test.

The percentage of salt that the girl puts in the cup varies according to the degree of her love for the young man and her acceptance of marrying him.

If the young man drinks the full cup without any complaining , it confirms his love for the girl and his desire to marry her.

If the bridegroom is disturbed by the coffee and does not complete drinking, it means that he failed the test.

Marriage Habits

One of the habits of engagement is to tie the bride's and the groom's rings to a red ribbon to indicate their eternal attachment.

At the engagement ceremony, the girl's father or mother cuts the red ribbon, which means the girl's parents agree to their daughter's engagement and get out of her family life to her married life.

Henna night

This night is before the wedding day night, it has a special rituals, relatives of the bride will sing sad songs, and remind the bride of memories and old things to push her to cry, as a sign of her grief on leaving her family home .

Then they prepare the "henna" in a special plate and when they put henna in the bride's hand her mother puts a piece of gold before putting henna in the bride's hand.

On a henna night, the bride often wears a red garment and a red scarf covering her face, which the bridegroom exposes later.

Red ribbon at the wedding

The wedding habits of many rural areas of Turkey, and in many conservative families, put a red ribbon on the waist of the bride after wearing the white dress, the girl's father or older brother wrapped around her waist as evidence that the bride is a virgin girl.

Mourning habits

His family and relatives read verses from the Qur'an on the dead and talk about his good qualities and achievements in his life and his impact on those around him. Family members do not wear colorful clothes or participate in any concerts or events, until their grief is gone.

They also put the shoes of the dead man or woman outside the house.


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