Every country has its own customs, dos and don’ts. Turkey is no different. So before visiting Turkey get some insight to Turkish etiquette and customs. We also offer a section of the etiquette of visiting a mosque.
Turkish people are familiar with the customs of western visitors and are forgiving of blunders; however, it impresses them if you are aware of the customs of Turkey.
Traditional customs in Turkey
During Ottoman times customs in Turkey were highly developed and formal. Ottoman customs placed great emphasis on politeness. Although people in Turkey today are more informal in their dealings, some traditional Turkish customs still survive. It is Turkish custom to use the dozens of set phrases of politeness in many situations and the more one uses these the better.
Several customs in Turkey are related to body gestures and it is important to know these to avoid embarrassment. In Turkey people shake hands when meeting although this may be inappropriate between sexes in rural areas because of religious customs. When sitting with Turkish people it is considered rude to expose the sole of your foot so that it points in the direction of others. It is a traditional Turkish custom to sit on the floor cross legged which can be uncomfortable to westerners who are not used to this. If a person gets a cramp and needs to straighten their leg then according to Turkish custom you shouldn’t straighten it facing anyone else of into the middle of the room. Pointing ones finger at others is also considered rude according to custom in Turkey.
Yes and No can be confusing. It is custom in Turkey to nod ones head to indicate yes; however, shaking it will give people the impression you don’t understand as this is what it means in Turkey. The way to indicate no in Turkish customs is to nod ones head back once while raising the eyebrows. Overt displays of affection towards the opposite sex are inappropriate according to the customs of Turkey. It is also rude to blow ones nose or pick teeth in public. The custom in Turkey is to do this quietly covering ones mouth or even go to another room.
Customs for visiting Mosques in Turkey
Many people like to visit the wonderful array of mosques in Turkey. However it is important to take note of some basic mosque etiquette. The main custom for visiting a mosque in Turkey is to remove your shoes before going inside on the carpet. If unsure just observe others and follow them. It is also another custom in mosques in Turkey to dress modestly so that your body and limbs are covered. Women must cover their hair and nor expose anything below their ankles. Men should not wear shorts. In some mosques the caretaker provides visitors with a long robe when their clothes are inappropriate for the mosque.
You should not talk loudly in a mosque as this is a place of worship. If someone is praying, do not under any circumstances walk directly in front of them. Many people will not appreciate having their pictures taken during worship. At the time for congregational prayers, i.e. at the time for the call to prayer, you should leave the mosque.