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BLOG 9 Everyday Customs To Be Aware Of If You’re Moving To Turkey

12 May 2020 / Lifestyle



Moving to a new area is exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. Finding your feet in a different town, getting to know the neighbours, discovering local amenities – there’s so much to learn. If you’re also adjusting to a new country and an unfamiliar culture, that adds a new dimension to the adventure.

You may have enjoyed regular holidays in the same place for years but living there – permanently or part-time – brings fresh pleasures and challenges. Day-to-day life will be full of new rituals and you’ll get to know the area on a different level. If you’re buying property in Antalya province and looking forward to life in Turkey, there are a few everyday customs you should know about. You might have come across some of them before, but others might surprise you.

Take your shoes off

The ‘shoes off’ rule before entering a house is universal in Turkey, either just outside the door or in the hallway. Your host might offer you a pair of slippers to wear in their home, or it’s not uncommon for people to take their own with them when visiting friends. They might tell you not to worry, if they know you usually keep your shoes on inside, but it’s polite to follow custom and remove them.  

Never return an empty plate

Sharing food is a way of life in Turkey. Neighbours will often knock on the door with a plate of something delicious or leave a bag of home-grown fruit or vegetables on your step. Accept each gift gracefully, enjoy it, and remember you should never return an empty container. Instead, fill it with something you have made or, if you’re really not a cook, with shop-bought treats or fresh produce.

Everything takes time

Most of us are used to being in a hurry. We do chores quickly and move on. In Turkey, you’ll learn to slow down. You can still dash in and out of the grocery store, but other tasks take time. You might be buying furniture for your new property in Side, or dropping off your car for repair at the sanayi in Antalya - whatever it is, expect to be offered a glass of çay and invited to sit down. When you’ve finished, you’ll likely be offered another.

Expect personal questions

As westerners, we’re quite private. We’d no more think of asking someone else how much they earn than freely sharing details of our own salary. We don’t comment openly on personal appearance. There’s no such reserve in Turkey. You’ll be asked everything from how much you have in the bank to the cost of your new carpets. And if something thinks you’re too fat, too thin or look tired, they’ll happily tell you.

Have respect for your elders

Older people are treated with a great deal of respect in Turkey. In social situations, you’ll notice that when someone new arrives, they greet the eldest people in the room first. Often, they’ll kiss the other person’s hand and then raise it to their own forehead as a sign of esteem. As a foreigner you might feel uncomfortable doing this and it’s unlikely you’ll be expected to, but make sure you give older people their due. On public transport, give up your seat. Offer to help if you see someone struggling.

Honk your horn

It’s common to hear vehicle horns sounding on Turkey’s roads. While in some cultures this is considered a sign of displeasure, here it’s part of the driving culture. Drivers sound their horns to let people know they’re about to overtake, to tell you the traffic lights have gone green, and numerous other reasons that have nothing to do with any misdemeanour you might have committed. Horn-honking is also used to celebrate everything from a wedding to a victory by the driver’s football team.

Give up your personal space

You might be used to queuing, especially if you’re British. You’ll wait patiently in line at the ATM or supermarket, leaving plenty of room to ensure you don’t crowd the person in front of you. It’s time to change. There are queues, especially in official places such as banks where there’s usually a machine issuing numbered tickets. But if you’re buying a trolley full of groceries and someone comes along with only one or two items, don’t be surprised if they push past you to go first, encouraged by the cashier. Or, if they’re happy to wait, they’ll like to get up close while they do so.

Keep your smalls out of sight

In some parts of Turkey, it’s not the done thing to hang undergarments out on the line to dry after washing them – particularly female items. Of course, whether this applies will very much depend on where you live. If your home is a detached villa on a complex with other expats, it’s unlikely to be a problem. But if you’re in an apartment in a traditional Turkish community, it’s something to be aware of.

Eat lots of bread

Bread is a staple of the Turkish diet. Fresh, crusty loaves are readily available daily at every local shop, and families consume vast quantities with each meal. If you’re inviting Turkish friends to your home, make sure you’ve stocked up – it doesn’t matter what gourmet treats you plan to serve, they’ll still expect to see a basket of bread on the table.

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