When I moved to Turkey 22 years ago, all I knew and heard about this amazing country was the endless cups of tea, the kebabs and the Grand Bazar. But if you really want to get under the country’s skin, below are some less commonly known things about life and culture in Turkey.
It’s fair to mention from the beginning that this blog post won’t focus on public relations activities or the differences between cultures when it comes to developing PR campaigns (like we’ve done in the past), but I feel that despite of this apparent lack of focus on the discipline of PR, as a specialist working in one longstanding local PR agency, I can still make it obvious to foreign companies looking do quality international PR work how important it is to intimately be aware of the cultural differences and the local sensibilities. It’s more than just knowing the language and certain appealing customs, loving the food, the tea and the climate; to understand the substance of a culture is to immerse oneself in its values and even question them with local eyes, should something like this be possible.
So here they are.
1. Turkish people are extremely hospitable and hot-blooded. Even if you are meeting someone for the first time, you may be invited to fancy dinner or lunch to his or her home. They are open and generous and you are called “Misafer”, guest, so you are high-valued guest and it will be an honour for them to invite you and take care of you.
2. Most business appointments will take place on time, but traffic in large cities may cause few minutes and sometime over one-hour delay. So if you have meetings in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, you may want to consider traffic as you schedule your appointments.
3. If you are invited homes, do not enter without taking off your shoes. They will have house slippers ready at entrance; so remove your shoes and use one of those slippers as you enter the house. Thus, the dust and dirt of the outdoors is not tracked inside. Once inside, you will be offered cologne, in Turkish “Kolonya”. It is a tradition that lives on in being offered after sweets on “bayrams” and as something that should definitely be presented to guests to sprinkle on their hands.
4. In Turkey there aren’t any camels and people do not speak Arabic. The official language is Turkish. Foreigners coming first time to Turkey, expect to see camels lined-up outside hotels and resorts, but since Turkey doesn’t have a desert, so no native camels either as in most Arabic countries.
5. The Turkish stereotype with fighting and aggressive behaviours is so persistent especially with the widespread of the Turkish series and movies. But you have to know that not all Turkish men have moustaches and that the Turks are so friendly and love to joke and laugh.
6. In my first year in Istanbul I was surprised to see that some workers and post office employees all come to stop for a tea break. Specially brewed tea is a Turk’s most accepted favorite beverage and is called ‘ÇAY‘ in Turkish and pronounced ‘chay’. For sure, drinking tea starts with breakfast and goes on all during the day and night; at any time for any occasion. Now there are Starbucks and other coffee chains in Istanbul offering other forms of tea and coffee but still traditional tea is popular. In the evenings beer and raki are consumed as Turks enjoy their night.
7. As you socialize with Turks the first question that they will ask you: “Who’s your favorite soccer team?” They love football, and at the end of a successful match it is common that the fans will drive around honking their horns and chanting their team’s jingle.
8. Even for a first interaction with a Turkish person, a typical conversation might go like this: “Where are you from?… Are you married?… Do you have children?… How old are you?” If you come from a different culture these might seem like very personal questions. Turkish people are more comfortable talking freely about personal details, even with someone they don’t know well.
9. One last thing, be careful as you cross a big city street as this can be dangerous. Always use marked pedestrian crosswalk. Unless stopped for a traffic light, the cars have the right of way. As a general rule, drivers are supposed to give way to a pedestrian but, unfortunately, not all drivers do so in Turkey.
I hope you found these short tips useful. Head over here, if you’re looking for PR agencies in Turkey.
Author: Jack Jacobs, Managing Director Pro Media
GlobalCom PR Partner in Turkey