Table of Contents
Cultural Taboos in Turkey You Should Know and Avoid
Turkey is a wonderful country, and Turkish people are super friendly and welcoming. But like every other country in the world, there are some things you should avoid doing in public. Because this is a culturally rich country, you would do well to be respectful of the traditions. And also respect the values held by the Turkish people. That being said, there are some cultural taboos in Turkey you should know and avoid.
Related Article: Living in Turkey as a Foreigner.
Turkey, located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, is a country rich in differences. Turkish people are kind and hardworking; however, you should be cautious of local taboos like any society. We’ve compiled a list of essential cultural taboos in Turkey that every ex-pat should be aware of.
The Cultural Taboos of Turkey
Sex: This is a subject that is taboo in every other country in varying degrees. Turkey, being very family-oriented and reverent towards elders, it is taboo to talk openly about sex. Especially in front of elders or children. There is a certain distance of respect between the genders, which should not be crossed in public.
Islam: You should never disrespect the religion of the people and talk bad about Muslims. If you happen to travel to the country during the holy month of Ramadan, avoid eating or drinking in public during fasting time. Not that it’s illegal or you will be apprehended for doing so, but it is just respectful towards the fasting Turkish people. They will appreciate you for it.
Arguments: Do not get into any arguments with the Turkish people. They are passionate about their history, politics, country, and religion. If you say anything bad, it can quickly go from just a disagreement to an argument to a full-on fight. You can participate in friendly discussions but avoid being assertive with your opinion, especially when something about the country.
Turkey’s Cultural Taboos Are Nothing Extreme
Using the word taboo is probably a bit harsh because the Turkish people really can be called sensitive. And which country is not sensitive about their culture, history, people, religion, and values? Turkey is a peaceful country overall and welcomes all its visitors with open arms.
You have to visit the country to know exactly how special it is. Just be respectful of the country and its people, and you will be respected and honored more in return. These are some of the sensitive cultural taboos in Turkey that you should know and avoid.
Other Cultural Taboos in Turkey
Don’t leave much room for human interaction: Interpersonal space refers to the space between two individuals conversing. In comparison to other cultures, it is usual in Turkey to leave minimal distance. As a result, don’t be alarmed if someone approaches you too closely!
Keep an eye on your nonverbal communication: We pay relatively little attention to our body language throughout a discussion. It’s second nature to us since we’ve been taught it since infancy. Motions, on the other hand, are culturally molded, and you should attempt to avoid making gestures that are insulting to Turkish people, such as: making an “OK” sign with your hands, pointing at someone with your finger, especially while you’re sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop.
Be patient: Turkey may not be the best country to do business if you need to conclude a deal quickly. Things take time in Turkey. Make no attempts to set timelines or get right into business discussions. Allow for small conversation and a real interest in the culture of the country.
Cultural Taboos in Turkey to Avoid
Sensitive Topics: Football, politics, money, and historical events in which everyone has a different interpretation of what occurred are all delicate topics to avoid in Turkey, just as they are in other nations. When a Turk has a strong view on a topic, they will seldom discuss it. Even while conversing between themselves, a conversation may quickly devolve into a disagreement, which eventually escalates into a brawl. If you want to learn, ask questions, but don’t express your ideas, particularly if you don’t live in Turkey.
National Pride: Still, in delicate topics, patriotism is strong in Turkey, and “Turkishness” is a heated subject in certain circles. The topic is anything to do with the Turkish nation. The flag, for example, is greatly revered, and sitting on it or using it like clothes on any part of the body is considered insulting. Many secular Turks also hold Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder, in high regard, and his image or anything like him should not be exploited. Visit Turkey on October 29th, Republic Day. You’ll see the Turkish flag flying from balconies, workplaces, and even across streets, giving you a fair impression of how patriotic Turks are. Schools and businesses are also closed to commemorate the Turkish nation’s independence.
Family Matters: In Turkey, the family is the foundation of society. A Turk’s cause for being is their parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Everything a Turk does centers on their family, and mothers are especially valued. Elderly relatives are treated with respect, and they should be welcomed first when entering a place. Children are appreciated for their innocence and status as the generation after them. Never treat a Turk’s family with disrespect. Also, keep in mind that just because they criticize their family doesn’t imply you can.
Cultural Business Taboos: Turkey has risen to prominence on the world stage as a major participant in business and the economy during the last two decades, but the culture around who and how they conduct business remains largely unchanged. The first guideline is that business is about more than just making money. It’s all about creating bonds with others and getting to know and trust them. As a result, pushing them to sign on the dotted line for a lucrative agreement is futile. The Turks would prefer to walk away. Also, don’t be offended if your Turkish business colleague arrives late; punctuality isn’t frequently practiced in Turkey. Finally, avoid discussing business or financial matters with strangers or in public where others may hear you. Among all Turkey’s cultural taboos, this is a certain way to sabotage your new business connection.