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BLOG Cultural Taboos in Turkey

22 June 2018 / Culture

4 Cultural Taboos in Turkey to Avoid

This is part two of a series about the culture of Turkey. If you haven’t already read it, part one is here. In that article, we discussed the diversity of Turkish culture and heritage from the east to the west of the country.

While there are some common traditions including tea, the love of food, and daily greetings, regional customs and traditions vary greatly and learning about them is a terrific way of seeing Turkey beyond the pages of a travel book.

It is also worth mentioning that over the last decade, cultural rituals have changed. As Turkey modernised itself and entered the global stage, the younger generation has started breaking away from rigid traditions to form their own identity, separate to their parents and grandparents.

So, you might not see cultural traditions in all areas, especially in large cities like Istanbul that is the shopping, nightlife, arts and music capital of Turkey but one thing that has withstood the test of time is certain cultural taboos.

Generally, when it comes to tourist and foreigners, Turks are extremely easy going and don’t expect a lot from people who are seen as guests in their country. However, it doesn’t hurt to know the cultural taboos that can stop chance meetings from turning into lifelong friendships.

4 Cultural Taboos in Turkey to Avoid

Sensitive Topics

Much the same as other countries, sensitive issues to avoid in Turkey are football, politics, money and historical events of which everyone has a different version of what happened.

If a Turk has a steadfast opinion on a subject, they generally won’t debate. Even when talking among themselves, a discussion can become an argument which then turns into a fight. Ask questions if you want to learn but avoid voicing opinions especially if you don’t live in Turkey.  

National Pride

Still talking about sensitive issues, patriotism is alive and kicking in Turkey, and “Turkishness” is a hot topic in some circles. The subject relates to anything about the Turkish Nation. For example, the flag is highly respected and sitting on it, or using it as clothing for any area of the body is disrespectful. Many secular Turks also highly respect the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his picture or anything resembling him shouldn’t be misused.

If you visit Turkey on October the 29th which is Republic Day, you’ll get a good idea of how patriotic Turks are because the Turkish flag is displayed everywhere, from their balconies, offices and even across streets. Celebrating the independence of the Turkish nation, schools and business also close.

Family Matters

The family is the backbone of life in Turkey. Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins are a Turk’s reason for existence. Everything a Turk does revolves around the family, and mothers, in particular, are revered.

Elderly relatives are given much respect, and when walking into a room, they should be greeted first. Even children are adored for their innocence and place as the next generation. Never disrespect a Turk’s family. Also remember that if they talk ill of their families, that doesn’t automatically mean you can.

Cultural Business Taboos

Over twenty years, Turkey has emerged onto the global market as a key player in business and economy, but the culture about who and how they do business with is still much the same as before.

The number one rule is that business is about more than money. It is about forming relationships and getting to know and trust partners. So, rushing to get them to sign on the dotted line for a lucrative deal is a fruitless endeavour. Turks would rather walk away.

Also, don’t be annoyed with your Turkish business partner if they arrive late, because punctuality isn’t widely practised. Lastly, don’t discuss business or money issues with outsiders or in public where other people can hear you. Out of all, the cultural taboos in Turkey, this is a sure-fire way to destroy your new business partnership.

Further Reading About Turkish Lifestyles

Easy Ways to Learn Turkish: We list six brain hacks, so you can speak fluent Turkish in next to no time.

Famous Films and Soap Operas of Turkey: Across the world, Turkey has made a name for itself because of the dramatic films and soaps earning a legion of fans.

Turkish Wedding Traditions and Customs:  Many foreigners find themselves invited to a Turkish wedding and wonder what to wear, and what to do. Our helpful guide gives the lowdown on social protocols.



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