Turkish culture: a guide to social traditions

Turkish culture traditions

One thing you will soon realize when visiting Turkey is part of the Turkish culture involves being very sociable. Turkish people love to meet new friends and think nothing of spending half the day talking to a complete stranger while putting the world to rights. People who come from countries that are reserved may be in awe of the friendly nature shown to everyone. With this in mind, I have put together a guide on Turkish culture and social traditions that you will encounter when visiting Turkey.


Hos Geldiniz

You will hear this phrase often in Turkey, more so if you visit the traditional Turkish restaurants and bars rather than establishments aimed at tourists. It means “welcome” and the phrase that you should return is “Hos bulduk” which means we feel welcome. Don’t get nervous if you forget this term or forget to say it as Turkish people realize that not every foreigner knows the Turkish language.


Men only

If you are a woman, the only establishments to be aware of are  Turkish tea houses. Culturally women do not go in there.  Instead look for a Turkish tea garden where couples and families will go. If you are in any doubt, take a look at who else is there. Countless amounts of tables filled with men playing backgammon means it is a no go area for females.


Social gatherings

You will probably find yourself invited to a wedding or a circumcision party by a Turkish person even if you have only known them for a couple of days. The motto here is the more the merrier and the word stranger is not even thought of. Whether alcohol will at the venue is dependent on the family and their background.

I am not going to write a long list of do’s and don’ts because the Turkish people just want you to relax and enjoy yourself. If there is anything you need to know at the time, then someone at the event will inform you of what is happening. As a present to give to the guest of honor, buy small pieces of gold from a jewellery shop or give them money. Wrapped presents and cards are not widely recognized in Turkey.


An Invitation To Their House

Turkish people invite anybody and anyone around to their house. It might just be for breakfast or a formal evening meal. Remember to say Hos bulduk when entering in response when they tell you that you are welcome. Shoes in the house are generally not allowed. Instead you will be given a pair of slippers.

Now here is what you do need to know. If you are going around for dinner, make sure you have a big empty stomach. Dishes after dishes will be wheeled out for you and Turkish people do not take no for an answer. The main meal will be big and then afterwards will be popcorn, nuts, fruits, cake followed by tea and Turkish coffee.

If the family is from a big city, you will probably  be seated at the table. However if it is a small village house, a big round stand will be placed in the middle of the floor and everyone will sit around that to help themselves to food in the middle. I have never yet been given a knife when at someone’s home, just a spoon and fork. If you really want to impress then at the end of the meal, say elinize saglik to the cook. This means health to your hands and is appreciation of a good meal.

When going round to someone’s house for a meal, I normally follow the women into the kitchen and I will help them to prepare the meal. During this time, men will be sat in the living room discussing daily events and gossiping. The same applies to clearing up after the meal.

If you want to help by washing the dishes, remember that Muslims do not believe in bathing or washing items in stagnant water. Therefore there will be a washing up bowl, but after they will rinse the plates and cutlery under a running tap. That is also the reason why you will not generally find plugs for the sink in hotel rooms either.

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