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BLOG 8 Turkish Proverbs that Reflect the Countrywide Culture

11 March 2020 / Culture


Turkish Proverbs to Use in Everyday Life

When it comes to Turkish proverbs, expect a vast variety covering many topics. While a few are confined to the history books, many are still used today, and they represent common-sense and practical advice to any situation. Often worded in a simple, but hard-hitting truth, in most cases, we can find a similar example in many other cultures around the world.

For travellers and expats looking to settle and live in Turkey, the Turkish proverbs themselves are about much more than advice. They give great insight into the cultural heritage and identity. Additionally, anyone looking to learn Turkish would enjoy brushing upon them. In this article, we look at some of the most popular and the meanings behind them.

Turkish Proverbs to Use in Everyday Life

1: Bana arkadasini soyle, Sana Kim oldugunu soyleyeyim - Tell me who your friend is, and I will tell you who you are

Turks have a high moral code of what is right and wrong, with no middle ground at all. They also believe in long-term friendships, especially men, who often refer to each other as brothers. For this reason, a strong belief is that the company you keep reflects your character and personality.

There is not any room to budge either. Depending on your friends, you might find yourself ostracised from certain social circles. Likewise, another proverb says “Dost aci soyler” which means friends will never sugar-coat the truth for you. So, do not worry about the company you keep, because Turks will tell you in no hesitant terms.

2: Caysiz sohbet, aysiz gok yuzu gibidir – Conversations without tea are like a night sky without the moon

By now, you have heard about the Turks obsession with tea. Across the country, they drink thousands of cups every day. This proverb draws similarities between how the moon makes the night sky shine and tea is the perfect bond between families and friends. When two strangers meet, they form a friendship over a simple cup of Turkish tea.

Many tourists also experience the importance of tea. For example, in places where they go shopping like the Grand Bazaar, venders will offer the beverage, that is an integral part of culture and traditions. Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say the country would be outraged without it.

3: Bir Kahvenin Kirk Yil Hatiri Vardir - Coffee has a 40-year memory

Look behind the meaning of this proverb to understand what it means, but as per the first two examples, it refers to drinking coffee forms bonds with families, friends, and strangers. It is not about the coffee, but the memory of that moment that will last 40 years. While not as drank as much as tea, Turkish coffee is also an integral part of its culture. To understand its importance, remember the Turkish proverb that says “coffee should be as black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love.”

4: Bekara kari bosamak kolaydir – It is easy for a bachelor to divorce

In Turkey good character is often judged on humility. In this example, a bachelor can divorce without pain and heartache because he has never been there and got married. This proverb is a prompt to put yourself in other people’s shoes, and, if you cannot say anything good, say nothing at all.

5: Nazar degmesin - Don't be touched by the Evil eye

In this example, Nazar refers to the Turkish evil eye, a common sight in homes, offices, and shops all over Turkey. The meaning behind the eye is to ward off jealousy; hence Turks give it as presents, anytime someone has good fortune. In this example, the proverb reminds us to be happy for those who achieve happiness, and not to be jealous of their special moment. An example would be a jobless person watching their best friend receive promotion at work, a or a girl who is jealous because her friend is marrying first.

6: Armut agacin dibine duser - A pear drops to the bottom of the tree

This one is very similar to example number one, and the English equivalent would be that the apple never falls from the tree. This suggests that we inherit our parent’s characteristics and isn’t said in a nice light. Like Turkish society can judge you from the company you keep, it also applies to a family’s reputation. Turks place honour and pride high on a list of good qualities, hence being born into a family with an undesirable reputation is a curse.

7: Pireyi deve yapmak - Don't make a flea into a camel

The English equivalent is don’t make a mountain of a molehill. Turks are good at sorting problems out and, pious Turks always display gratitude for what God has given on them, regardless of the situation. So if you are a bit of a drama queen, expect little sympathy in Turkey.

8: Tereyagindan Kil Ceker Gibi: It is like Pulling Hair Out of Butter

This strange example refers to the Turks insistence not to over-complicate things. They are hard workers and firm believers in just doing what they need, and nothing more. Someone who is an expert at their job and seems to complete it with little effort would use this proverb. The English example would be “it is easy as one, two, three.”

You Might Also Like to Read

Turkish Superstitions: From the number 40 to the concept of jinn genies, Turkish superstitions can sometimes be just as bizarre as the English equivalent. This two-part article lists some of the most common notions to chat with your Turkish friends about.

Turkish Traditions: If this whirlwind cultural journey about Turkish proverbs excites you, the long list of traditions varies from region to region and covers all major life events including childbirth, weddings and even buying a new car. This is a great starter guide for anyone looking to live and work in Turkey.

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