Turkey, officially known as the Republic of Turkey, is located in the northern hemisphere where the two continents, Europe and Asia meet. The majority of its territory extends over the Anatolian peninsula, whereas the rest lies on the Thrace, the edge of the Balkan peninsula. Three sides of the country is surrounded by sea; the Mediterranean Sea is to the south; the Aegean Sea and Archipelago are to the west; and the Black Sea is to the north. Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria are its neighbours.
Etiquette in Turkey
The Importance of Religion in Turkey
Turkey is a mostly Muslim country, and many Islamic customs are integrated into society and the etiquette practised on a day-to-day basis. First and foremost, dressing and behaving modesty is a sign of respect in modern Turkey. Outside of a tourist resort, if women in particular are not dressed appropriately, they can attract unwanted reactions from Turkish people. It is best if women try to cover their arms and shoulders, and wear longer dresses. Men should try to keep their shoulders covered when out in public, and it is best to opt for longer trousers in the less tourist-driven areas. If visiting a mosque, the dress code demands that women should cover their head, shoulders, arms and legs, taking care not to show ankles or feet. In both cases, shorts are not considered appropriate attire for men or women. You should be aware that during the month of Ramadan, Muslims will fast from dawn until dusk. Some Muslims may drink alcohol, but devout Muslims will not. You should avoid excessive drinking and associated loutish or overzealous behaviour, as it will be seen as disrespectful.
Body Language and Gesticulating
Turkish people have some decidedly different gesticulations, so it is wise to learn what these are to avoid any confusion or embarrassment. Firstly, be aware that some rural areas, where religion has more of an influence over everyday customs and behaviour, women and men are expected to keep some distance apart in public. Therefore hand holding, hugging and kissing are not undertaken. Even handshakes and eye contact between the sexes may be avoided. However in more urban locations, this is much more relaxed and there is a lot of integration between men and women. Handshakes and a kiss on each cheek between men and women are common forms of meeting and greeting.
Personal space between the same sexes is much smaller than in many Western countries, so you can expect to be bustled or shunted when queuing or in a crowded place. The way in which a Turkish person will indicate ‘Yes’ is similar to the Western practice, in that it is just a small nod of the head downwards. However, ‘No’ is indicated by a nod of the head upwards, often with raised eyebrows or a sharp intake of air through the front teeth. With sitting, the proper etiquette is that the soles of your feet, even when wearing sandals or shoes, should also stay flat to the floor, and should never be pointed directly at anybody. This would be seen as ignorant and disrespectful.
You might also find that you innocently make a vulgar gesture to a Turkish person, be aware that the ‘OK’ sign is actually a very rude and provocative signal, as is placing your thumb between your index and middle finger. Avoid these gestures at all costs!
Dining Etiquette in Turkey
If invited into a Turkish person’s home, the proper etiquette is to bring a gift with you to show your humbleness and gratitude. Small decorative pieces, sweets and pastries are the most common gifts, and you should remember to include children when offering gifts. Families are integral to Turkish society, so including the children will be seen as a very thoughtful and kind gesture. Alcohol may be given as a gift, but remember that not all Turkish people actually drink it. (Travel Etiquette)
Tipping in Turkey
It is customary to leave a tip in Turkish restaurants, bars, hotels but varies according to the type of establishment. In a basic lokanta, or cafeteria, you need leave nothing in addition to the bill. In a restaurant, if the service was acceptable, you would leave 10%, in a classier establishment 15%. Tips are rarely included in the bill. Taxi drivers do not normally except a tip, but they do appreciate it.