Turkish Culture



  • Indirect Communication: The Turkish communication style is often warm and when first meeting people. People are generally cautious of offending anybody involved in the conversation and may talk in roundabout ways to avoid doing so. Criticism and disagreement are generally softened with vocal hesitation or terms such as “perhaps”, “probably”, “I guess”, “sort of”, “maybe”, etc. For example: “I guess there has probably been a mistake”. This form of communication is less assertive and weakens the force of negative/sensitive comments. As Turks tend to avoid openly disagreeing, they may be unwilling to discuss an issue and brood on the problem instead. After initially concealing their concerns, they may raise them unexpectedly at a later time. This being said, people are likely to become more as a relationship evolves. 
  • Communication Style: Turks tend to speak in quite a slow and drawn-out way. They may not leave gaps for you to interject and add your opinion. Try to exercise patience and wait for them to ask for your input instead of interrupting. 
  • Tone: Turkish men tend to speak with force, sometimes quite loudly. Women tend to speak in softer tones.
  • Humour: The Turkish generally have quite a relaxed sense of humour. Playful teasing and banter is common and accepted. 


  • Physical Contact: Turks are generally quite open, people. It is common for friends of the same gender to kiss during greetings, or hug one another. People are generally accustomed to seeing open affection between couples or children in public (e.g. hand-holding). However, physical contact between unrelated members of the opposite gender is less appropriate. Some Turks may comfortable with it, although others may avoid it altogether. After the first handshake (if there is one), a man and woman are unlikely to touch unless he is giving her physical assistance – for example, offering his hand to steady her or escort her somewhere. 
  • Personal Space: The natural distance that people tend to keep between one another is closer than what is common in many Western countries. For example, tables may be placed quite close to each other in a restaurant. If a Turk inadvertently stands or sits within your personal space, avoid stepping back or moving away as this may give the wrong impression.
  • Eye Contact: eye contact is expected throughout conversation. It conveys attentiveness and sincerity. Staring is not necessarily considered impolite. Turks tend to hold the other person’s gaze for prolonged amounts of time during serious conversations. However, devout Muslims may divert their gaze away from those of the opposite gender out of modesty. Women may also avoid eye contact with unknown men to avoid unwanted harassment.
  • Refusals: The informal way to say “no” in Turkey is to raise the eyebrows, look up and make a ‘tsk’  or tutting sound. This is not considered rude or an expression of annoyance. 
  • Shaking Head: Turks may shake their heads to say “please explain/I don’t understand”. Therefore, consider that shaking one’s head does not necessarily indicate a refusal or disapproval and might cause a person to repeat themselves to you instead.
  • Body Language: Avoid standing with your hands on your hips or in your pockets, especially when talking to those of a higher status or older than yourself.
  • Beckoning: It is polite to beckon by facing the palm of one’s hand towards the ground and making a scooping motion.
  • Expressions: Some Turks may give the impression of having a more ‘serious’ demeanour, smiling less frequently in public during first interaction with strangers. This is not thought to be rude, rather the social expectation. Indeed, the Western tendency to automatically smile a lot can be thought of as somewhat insincere. Furthermore, consider that smiling casually while passing a stranger can be misinterpreted as suggestive and provoke catcalls for women. 
  • Feet: It is considered rude to show or expose the soles of your feet to other people. Avoid pointing your feet towards other people when sitting down or crossing your legs around elders.
  • Gestures
    • It is common for people to raise their hand with the palm facing up and fingers touching the thumb to show appreciation for something. 
    • It is an obscenity to make a fist with the thumb protruding between middle finger and index finger. 
    • The symbol for ‘Okay’ (with the forefinger and the top of the thumb meeting to form a circle, with the other fingers stretched out) has offensive connotations relating to homosexuality in Turkey. 
    • Do not click or snap your fingers and then slap your hand onto your fist. This is also very rude.

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