Superstitions have a great place in society and most people exhibit some superstitious behaviour without even realising it. Do you walk under ladders? Do you think you’ll have seven years bad luck if you break a mirror?

If you are a frequent visitor to Turkey you have probably already realised that the people believe in a lot of superstitions. There are many that overlap between the UK and Turkey, common things like black cats, the number 13 and walking under ladders being bad luck.

There are also many others that you may not have come across before so welcome to our guide to Turkish superstitions.

Nazar Boncuğu

Nazar Boncuğu
Nazar Boncuğu. Photograph courtesy of eidloon1

The one most people will have come across is the “evil eye” (nazar boncuğu). This small, eye-shaped blue and white amulet decorates nearly every vehicle, is pinned to the clothes of babies and put in the doorways of houses, shops and offices. They can also be worn as a bracelet, earrings or necklace.

Turkish people believe that the evil eye amulet will protect you from bad energy, especially from the envious glares that are believed to cause one harm. Nothing can harm you as long as you are protected with the nazar boncuğu because it will absorb the bad energy. However, if this amulet cracks, this means it has probably done a good job of protecting you and you should immediately replace it with a new one.

Spilling water when someone goes on a journey

"Very superstitious" - a guide to Turkish superstitions

If someone is going on a holiday or business trip, Turkish people generally pour a glass of water behind the one departing, saying “May you go and come as smoothly as the flowing water.”

Black cat

"Very superstitious" - a guide to Turkish superstitions

If people in Turkey see a black cat, they immediately need to hold something black otherwise it can bring bad luck.

Cutting nails

"Very superstitious" - a guide to Turkish superstitions

Turkish people have very specific rules when it comes to cutting nails. The belief that cutting finger or toe nails at night will bring bad luck, poverty and even death to your family.

Turkish Coffee

Drinking Turkish coffee
Drinking Turkish coffee

You should never miss out on the chance to have a cup of Turkish coffee with a friend. It will reward both of you with “40 years of friendship.” After you have finished, you may also make use of the common Turkish practice of having your coffee cups read. “Don’t believe fortune telling, but don’t be left without fortune telling,” it is said.

Knock on Wood

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

In Turkey, when someone hears about a bad experience someone else had, he/she may gently pull one earlobe, and knock on wood twice, which means “God save me from that thing”

Make a Wish

A Wish Tree - photo courtesy of
A Wish Tree – photo courtesy of

Keep your eyes open for “wish trees.” Wherever you see trees with small ribbons or colored clothes tied to their branches, don’t hesitate to make a wish and do the same. These are “wish trees,” which means that you can expect your wish to come true.

Broken mirror

Very superstitious" - a guide to Turkish superstitions

When a mirror or glass breaks it means that the nazar (evil eye) was so big that it broke an actual object. Of course, the broken items needs to be disposed of immediately, preferably somewhere far from the home.

The “right” side

In Turkey the right side is the “right” side in the truest sense of the word. Turks traditionally like to start any activity on the right side – this includes getting out of the right side of bed in the morning, washing the right hand first, and entering a house with the right foot.

Always lead with the right foot
Always start with the right foot

When shaking hands or giving something to someone, the right hand must be used. The left hand is considered a sign of bad luck.

The number 40

The mysterious number 40
The mysterious number 40

The number 40 has a special meaning in Turkish culture. Turks believe the number to be lucky, so if you say anything 40 times it will come true.

Throwing out bread is bad luck

Bread is sacred in Turkey
Bread is sacred in Turkey

Bread (ekmek) is considered sacred in Turkey and throwing it out is believed to cause serious bad luck. Old bread should be given to birds and it should also be placed safely in the home so it doesn’t come into contact with the floor.

And finally here are a couple you might like…

Washing clothes on a Saturday brings bad luck

Cleaning the house on a Friday can be unhealthy

For further information on Turkish superstitions please click here