A short guide to Turkish culture

When visiting a foreign country it is important to consider their cultures and traditions. It can be possible to offend people, and even get arrested, if the correct social expectations are not practiced. Of course, there will be a bit of leeway with tourists when it comes to social niceties, but there are unfamiliar laws established in some countries which could lead to imprisonment. As a Muslim country Turkey does adopt cultural differences to those familiar to most Britons. We have compiled a few tips to help you get by, socially and culturally, within Turkey.

Hos Geldiniz

The Turkish locals are, generally, an extremely happy group of people, even to tourists. Hos Geldiniz is a phrase which is heard often within traditional Turkish restaurants and bars to be found off the beaten track. The phrase Hos geldiniz means “welcome” and should be acknowledged with Hos bulduk which means “we feel welcome”. While it is polite to use this phrase, don’t panic if you forget it or don’t remember to say it. The Turkish locals understand that not every foreigner has knowledge of the Turkish language, but an attempt would be appreciated.

Turkish tea houses

Although Turkey does exist within the twenty first century, some of its traditions may feel regressive to tourists. Traditionally, women are not allowed to enter Turkish tea houses as they are a male-dominated area. This may be difficult for us to get our heads around, as we live in a society which strives for equality, but it is a cultural tradition within Turkey. It is often best for tourists to avoid the traditional tea houses and search for tea gardens instead. Turkish tea gardens welcome couples, families and women, unlike the tea houses. If you are ever in doubt as to where you will be welcome, survey the establishment before entering it. If is filled with men playing backgammon, women are (unfortunately) not welcome.

Turkish homes

As Turkish people are extremely friendly and welcoming the chances of being invited into a Turkish home are high. If this occurs, there are social traditions which should be followed in order to avoid offense.

Firstly, shoes are often not allowed within Turkish homes as a mark of respect for the host and hostess. If this is the case, you will generally be supplied with a pair of slippers to wear throughout your visit.

Secondly, as with the tea houses, there are established roles for males and females within the home. As Turkey is a traditional, Muslim country it is expected that the women do the cooking and cleaning for the family while the men sit, play games and discuss current affairs. If you are easily offended by prescribed gender roles, it is probably not advisable for you to enter a Turkish home! There is no offense meant by the gender roles, it is simply tradition.

Thirdly, if you are invited into a Turkish home, remember to say Hos bulduk once you are welcomed in and elinize saglik once you have enjoyed the hospitalities of the host and hostess. Another thing to remember is that Turkish meals, especially celebratory ones consist of multiple courses and no is never an acceptable response to the offering of food! So make sure you don’t fill up at the start of the meal.