Turkish people can be portrayed as kind and friendly people. They tend to be warm individuals with outstanding empathy skills and a sense of helping others.
Moreover, Turkish culture is a unique concept blending Europe, Asia, and the Middle East all together. This reflects on many aspects of Turkish culture and customs, from cuisine to lifestyle.
Turks tend to be more formal and traditional in their dealings with foreigners such as North Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, or visitors from some other countries. They believe in helping others, especially those visiting their country.
So, don't be reluctant if you ever need help or want to interact with Turkish people! Luckily, many people in tourist areas can speak basic English. However, it is advisable to learn some common Turkish phrases. As a bonus, Turkish people will appreciate your linguistic endeavors and be more inclined to communicate with you.
Religion and Beliefs in Turkey
One of the biggest misconceptions about Turkey is that it is an Islamic country with camels and people wearing religious garments. While Islam is the dominant religion in the country, and there is an Arabic influence, Turkey officially does not have a religion or belief system in place.
Most Turkish people consider themselves a mix between Europe and Asia rather than the Middle East. This is also the case regarding Turkey's geographical location and the origin of Turkish people.
This belief reflects in people's lifestyles. Turks can be considered European regarding profession and life culture and Asian when it comes to family life and customs. That's why Turkish people are one of a kind and offer a unique perspective to the world around them.
Turkish Dress Code
Another characteristic of this cultural influence can be seen in Turkish people's clothing attire. Most Turkish people dress close to what you expect in a European country, except religious people and those in rural areas who dress fairly modestly. However, even these people dress rather differently than what you see in Islamic countries.
For tips on Turkish dress codes, see What to Wear & Pack.
There are so many different traditional foods in Turkey originating from the multi-cultural society of the Ottoman Empire (Ancient Turkey). Turkish people love meat and poultry. Surprisingly, although Turkey is surrounded by the sea, Turkish people don't enjoy a wide variety of seafood and are rather picky about fish.
When it comes to breakfast, Turkish people choose to eat a heavy and nutritious breakfast with eggs, olives, bread, jams, tea, and sucuk(sujuk). It is definitely recommended to try traditional Turkish breakfast if you can!
On special occasions, most Turkish people enjoy an alcoholic drink along with their meal. Turkey has its own national drink called Raki (a kind of spirit consumed after mixing with water). They also enjoy drinking Raki with cheese and watermelon (interesting as it is!)
In general, in the regions in the west of Turkey, including the Aegean Region, Mediterranean Region, and Marmara Region, meals are based on olive oil with lots of vegetables, fish, and poultry and are similar to those in Greece and the EU.
Meanwhile, in the regions in the east of Turkey, you can expect meals based on meat and spices. The most famous is the kebab, and Iskender Doner. These meals are similar to food consumed in other Middle Eastern (Arabic) countries.
Etiquette When Visiting Turkey as a Tourist
When you need assistance, Turkish people are glad to help those in need. You can always count on locals and shopkeepers to ask for help, and they will assist you.
When visiting places of cultural and religious importance, it is advisable to dress modestly. These places have an important place in Turkish people's hearts and deserve to be treated with consideration.
When shopping, please remember these people try their best to help you. Turkish shopkeepers rarely try to rip off tourists and typically give fair prices. Tips of 10% or 15% are always appreciated when receiving great service!
When using public transportation in Turkey, it is advisable to be respectful and quiet as possible. Turkish people don't speak loudly with others or on their phones on such occasions and expect the same from others.
The friendly nature of Turkish people also reflects in the Turkish language, with many politeness phrases used daily for greetings, farewells, mealtimes, condolences (even if one breaks some belonging), and even well-wishes when one gets a haircut or emerges from the Turkish bath! The legacy of flowery Ottoman politeness lives in the hearts of the Turkish people.
You're most likely to notice the difference in body language in Turkey compared to your country. Let's have a look at the commonly used gestures;
Yes: head nodded forward slightly
No: head and eyebrows lifted, lips make 'tsk' sound
I don't understand: head wagged from side to side
Come here/follow me: hand waved downward in a scooping motion, with word Gel gel! ('Come! Come!')
This tall/high: hand-held palm down above a surface (counter or table or the ground)
This long: flat hand 'chops' forearm at the proper length
Explore the Unique Culture of Turkey
Turkey is an amazing country with unique culture and customs and a blend of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. People in Turkey are kind and helpful, looking out for others around them.
From Turkish cuisine to lifestyle, Turkey offers many unique experiences to try firsthand. Remember to blend yourself into the local culture and enjoy the beauty of Turkey.
—by Can Turan