Most people have been in an awkward situation where they’ve done or said something in a foreign culture only to realize afterwards that it was largely offensive or hilariously inappropriate. Blushing in embarrassment, these people would do anything to take back what they said or did.
Thus, to avoid stumbling into this minefield of embarrassment and overstepping a culturally “sticky” situation, specifically in the Turkish culture, one should keep these key points in mind.
Greetings or salutations are not a chore-like deed but rather a sincere and warmhearted act among the Turkish people. Generally, if meeting for the first time, people will simply shake hands. However, close friends will kiss each cheek of the other, but this is only among the same gender. For example, a guy will rarely greet a girl this way and vice versa. In a group setting, elders are always greeted first and should be done by kissing the elder’s right hand and then placing one’s forehead on the hand immediately after.
The Turkish people often beat around the bush when communicating to prevent offending someone, making it somewhat like a game to try and differentiate between what they are saying and what they mean. For example, the phrase “I’m sorry; I can’t” is often used as a polite way of saying, “I really don’t want to, but I don’t want to say it to your face.” Also, when something like a cookie is offered to a Turkish person, they must refuse it at least three times before accepting it. This is to prevent them from looking greedy or desperate and is culturally expected. Furthermore, when confronting close friends, the Turkish people often speak in riddle-like sentences. For example, instead of saying, “Your dog wakes me up every morning with his loud barks,” they would say something like “Your dog’s sweet barks in the morning are like music to my ears.” If ever given a compliment, think again; it may not actually be one.
The Turkish people often share meals together, and this is a significant part of the culture. If invited to someone’s house for a meal, one must take a gift, preferably something that will add to the occasion, like a box of pastries for dessert, although a home decoration is fine as well. Additionally, the host will always load food onto everyone’s plates to display their generous hospitality. If the guest doesn’t finish everything in his plate, it implied he doesn’t appreciate the meal, which is extremely offensive to the host. After the soup, main course, and dessert, Turkish tea or Turkish coffee will be given along with some chocolate, nuts, or fruit. An evening must end with fruit as this gives the guest permission to leave.
There are also several unspoken rules that are essential when in public in Turkey. Whispering and pointing a finger are considered extremely rude, but staring is acceptable. If one blows their nose with a tissue, it is seen as very insanitary to place the used tissue back into one’s pocket or purse. Furthermore, when entering someone’s home, shoes should always be taken off. The Turkish people are very hygienic. Some women are so obsessed with having a clean house they are considered to have “the cleaning sickness.” This is when they are so engrossed with having a clean house that they clean their house all day, every day. Thus, if one does not remove his shoes when visiting, he is indirectly telling the host the house is dirty, an extreme offense. Finally, children are almost worshiped in Turkey. Every adult has candy in his pocket or her purse to give to any children he or she meets during the day.
Hopefully these pointers will assist in avoiding those uncomfortable situations in the Turkish culture and eliminate a person’s desire to become invisible or hide under a rug. A final note: any late night singing in the shower episodes, especially “Let it Go,” are like birds chirping merrily in the spring–or are they?
Turkish Customs and Etiquette – The Istanbul Insider – Erlend Geerts – https://www.theistanbulinsider.com/turkish-customs-and-etiquette/
Guide to Turkey – Etiquette, Customs, Culture & Business http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/guides/guide-turkey-etiquette-customs-culture-business/