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Common Social Customs in Turkey

April 16, 2021
In a country like Turkey, customs are everything! The country has had a centuries-long history and an unmistakable heritage that has defined who they are. Of course, they'd be particular with their own culture! Add to that the conservative Islamic culture that has dominated it for so long. When you go here, you're expected to act a certain way so as to not offend anybody. There are certain customs you need to follow in order to have a safe stay here. Not to mention things you're better off avoiding as well. What are they, exactly? Here are some you should never forget to follow!
Common Social Customs in Turkey

Don't Get Too Caught Up with Personal Space

You should know this now: the Turkish can be touchy-feely. In fact, they practically regret the notion of personal space. This isn't to say that they'll be all up in your face, regardless of whether they know you or not. Rest assured, no one's like that here in Turkey! However, they do tend to get closer to people when greeting or talking with them. Though it's understandable that you'd get uncomfortable if you're not familiar with this sort of spacing, don't just outright reject the person right in front of you. At most, relay your discomfort politely and keep them at arm's length, at least!

Don't Touch People's Legs

With that said, no matter how close you are to another person, whether in proximity or familiarity, you never touch his/her legs in Turkey. Even though Turkish people tend to be touchy-feely, they mostly stay above your waist. Touching any part of one's body, particularly the leg, is considered sexual. And if you don't have that sort of relationship with or the consent of the person you're touching, that can be considered sexual harassment. Only when getting proper healthcare will a person be allowed to touch another person's lower body outside of intimate relationships.

Common Social Customs in Turkey

You Must Respect Your Elders

Turkey has a very hierarchal society which means respect is always given to elders. Even to those you don't know. When greeting and talking to an older person, always refer to them as “teyze” (aunt) or “amca” (uncle), regardless of whether you're related to them or not. You'd usually use this on your friends' parents or acquaintances that are a generation older than you. For those who are just slightly older, you should add 'abi' (brother) or 'abla' (sister) after their first names. These titles show respect and reverence to those older than you.

Remove Your Shoes in People's Homes

Similar to Asian countries like Singapore and Thailand, you're expected to take off your shoes before entering another person's home. Turkish people are very particular when it comes to keeping their houses cleans. They prefer you keep your footwear which, more often than not, probably has dirt on the soles, outside of the home. Many would even prepare special areas for guests to keep their shoes in. As well as special slippers you can slip into while you're inside their homes. This is also mostly because a lot of Turkish homes are carpeted too!

Common Social Customs in Turkey

Always Give Gold at Weddings

Invited to a wedding? Instead of giving silverware or furniture as presents, give them gold! It's customary for guests to give gold during a wedding. While in other countries, it's cash, Turkish people prefer gold because it never loses its value. And the type of golden item you give depends on how close you are to the couple. If you're a mere acquaintance or a 'friend of a friend.' gold coins will do. But if you're a close friend or even part of the family, you should give golden bracelets. Other golden goods will do but these two are the most common and customary.

Expect Bread Everywhere

Know that all the dinner tables in Turkey have bread. Turkish people believe that every meal should she bread. Even if the main course is far from what you'd pair with bread, you should still have some slices or a loaf on hand. So when you decide to invite people over for a meal, note that they'll be expecting some bread to go with whatever you're serving. Also, speaking of getting invited over, always bring a gift when you're invited to someone's home. Food or flowers will do. Avoid bringing alcohol as they won't accept it for religious reasons!

Common Social Customs in Turkey

Turkey is one of those countries that are very particular with their customs and traditions. If you don't want to stir the pot and risk offending anyone here, make sure you know what those customs are and follow them as much as you can!

Whether you're in your own luxury home, outside, or even someone else's home, never forget to follow Turkey's important customs!