• To-Go

Costumes and Traditions in Turkey

Updated: May 5

Home> Countries> Asia> Turkey> Customs & Traditions

Turks are well known to be very 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:

General Etiquette

  • In Tuks culture, it is considered rude to show or expose the soles of your feet to other people. Avoid pointing your feet towards other people when sitting down or crossing your legs around elders.

  • Similarly, it is inappropriate to cross your legs when facing someone.

  • People generally extend an offer multiple times. It is often polite to decline gestures initially and accept once the person has insisted. This exchange allows the offering person to show their sincerity in the gesture and shows the receiver’s humbleness.

  • Be sure to offer everything multiple times in return. If you only offer something once, a Turk may respond, “No, it’s okay”, out of modesty and politeness even though they meant to accept the second offer.

  • You may have to be quite insistent if you truly want to refuse an offer or gesture. Place one hand on your chest as you say so. If someone has invited you somewhere, you can make the same gesture and point to your watch to indicate you do not have time to stay.

  • It is polite to stand when someone elderly enters the room. If they do not have a seat, it is expected that they will be offered someone else’s.

  • It is considered rude/disrespectful to chew gum whilst talking to someone of higher status or on a formal occasion.

  • It is considered improper for a woman to cross her legs while sitting.

  • Ask permission before taking a woman’s photograph.

  • People rarely split a bill in Turkey. The person who invited the others to join them will commonly pay, whilst men are usually expected to pay for women.

  • You may offer to pay the whole bill; however, if your Turkish counterpart insists multiple times that you should leave it to them, allow them to pay. It can be a kind gesture to offer to take them out in return next time.



Family

Turkish culture is very family-oriented. There is a strong belief that people should maintain ties with their relatives and care for the parents and elders into their old age. Turks may live in their family home for a long time into adulthood and visit their family on a regular basis. One can usually call on extended relatives to provide emotional and economic support.

  • Turkish families have an average number of children is two.

  • Generally, the eldest people have the most authority and should not be disrespected or strongly disagreed with.

  • Most Turks will avoid arguing or smoking in front of elders and adopt a more formal approach towards them.

  • The eldest brother usually takes on the role of caregiver for younger siblings when parents are absent.

  • Traditionally, men are the providers of the main source of household income.

  • Women are generally seen as homemakers, managing money, cooking, cleaning, and hosting. In rural areas, they may also contribute to the household by engaging in much of the agricultural production, children’s education, etc.

  • The average age for marriage is 22 for women and 25 for men. Most Turkish marriages are conducted as a civil service in addition to a religious service (officiated by an Imam).

  • Among more traditional families, it is a strong cultural requirement that a woman must be a virgin/untouched before marriage.

  • Divorce is not common and most Turkish couples seek to avoid it if possible. When it does occur, the belongings and wealth of a couple are split equally between them.


Naming

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

  • Most Turkish names are composed of a [first name] [Family Name]. For example, Fikret Yildiz.

  • Women commonly take their husband’s family name at marriage or add it onto the end of their own. For example, if (Fatma Karabacak) married Mehmet Keçeli, she could be known as (Fatma Karabacak Keçeli) or just (Fatma Keçeli).

  • People are often addressed by their first name followed by “Bey” for men and “Hanim” for women. For example, “Mehmet Bey” and “Fatma Hanim”.

  • Kurds may follow traditional Kurdish naming customs and use their tribe’s name or their grandfather’s personal name as their surname.



Meeting & Greeting

  • When meeting shakes hands firmly. When departing it is not always customary to shake hands although it is practiced occasionally. However, some Muslims may prefer not to touch people of the opposite gender.

  • 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.

  • Women may only give a physical greeting to other women (i.e. with a handshake or kiss). Married women may be more hesitant to touch other men in greetings.

  • When entering a room, if you are not automatically met by someone greet the most elderly or most senior first. On 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 Alaikum (peace be upon you) or 'Nasilsiniz' (How are you?).

  • Other greeting phrases are 'Gunaydin' (Good Morning), 'iyi gunler' (Good Day), 'iyi akşamlar' (Good evening), or “Merhaba” (Hello).

  • Turks may call someone whom they are not related to ‘abla’ (older sister) or ‘abi’ (older brother).

  • People who have a professional title expect it to be used, e.g. Doctor, Professor, Lawyer (Avukat), or engineer (Muhendis).

  • It may be harder to end a conversation with a Turkish person than it is to start one. Farewells are typically continued as Turks have a tendency to restart conversation whilst saying goodbyes. The easiest way to end a conversation is to use a conventional expression that politely asks to leave with their permission – “İzninizle” (with your permission).


Visiting a home

  • Hospitality is a central virtue in Turkey. Turks are known to be highly generous to their guests, as hosting is considered an honor.

  • Some thought an unexpected guest as a guest from God’ (Tanrı Misafiri).

  • Turks regularly offer invitations for others to join them (e.g. at their table), consider that the firmer the invitation is, the more serious and polite it is thought to be.

  • People are expected to be punctual at dinners and intimate gatherings. However, it is appropriate to be late to parties.

  • It is considered a nice gesture to bring sweets, flowers or presents for any children when visiting someone at their home. However, Turks are usually less concerned with what you bring and more interested in socialization and conversation.

  • If the host has children take some expensive sweets or candy.

  • When 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.

  • If you bring alcohol or food to a gathering, you are expected to share it.

  • When you visit Turks at home you will take off your shoes before entering the home. In some cases, you may be given a pair of slippers to wear instead.

  • Tea or coffee is offered and drunk on all occasions (commonly traditional Turkish tea or apple tea). It is usually served in a small tulip-shaped glass with sugar. Expect to be offered it as soon as you sit down with a Turk.

  • In some homes, you may find that you do not interact with adult female family members during your visit. It is common for women to prepare and clean up after a meal while the men socialize with the guest.

  • Be careful what you compliment in a Turkish person’s house as they may feel enforced to offer it to you as a gift.




Giving gifts

  • Gift giving has no real place in business relationships or etiquette. Relationship building and the like will usually take the form of dining or sightseeing trips rather than rich gifts.

  • However, if a gift is given it will be accepted well. It is always a good idea to bring gifts from your own countries such as foodstuffs or craft items.

  • Formal gift-giving is appreciated, although not necessarily common or expected.

  • Gift wrapping and cards are not common.