Turkish Culture & Customs

Last Updated on April 30, 2019

Turks tend to be more formal and traditional in their dealings with others than do North Americans, Australians, New Zealanders or visitors from some other countries.

The legacy of flowery Ottoman politeness lives (if in faded glory).

The Turkish language has many stock politeness phrases to be muttered on appropriate occasions: greetings, farewells, at mealtimes, condolences (even if one breaks some belonging), and even well-wishes when one gets a haircut or emerges from the Turkish bath!

For tips on Turkish dress codes, see What to Wear & Pack.

Body Language

You’re most likely to notice the difference in body language:

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

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