When visiting Turkey you may notice there are customs that are very different to what you are used to at home. Turkish culture has a set of social rules all of its own, which can be confusing at first.

Following on from our previous articles about Unique Turkish Phrases we decided to take a closer look at some of the unspoken Turkish rules you will come across during your stay.

Social Greetings

Turkish people often greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. If a Turkish person is greeting a grandparent or elder, it is customary for them to kiss the right hand of said person and place their head to the hand, as a mark of respect.

They also walk down the street with arms linked or wrapped around each other’s shoulders. This can apply to men as well and is normal social behaviour. If you are in an in-depth conversation with a Turk and they touch your arms or hands, it is just their way of emphasising their thoughts and opinions.

Turks smile less than Westerners

When you smile at Turkish people they won’t always smile back at you. They’re not being unfriendly, it’s just a cultural difference and smiling at strangers isn’t usual behaviour. Smiles are saved for close friends and family.

Never refuse a cup of tea

The drinking of tea (çay) is a national pastime and offering it to guests is part of Turkish hospitality. Refusing is seen as anti-social.  Once you have had enough, leave your teaspoon lying across the glass which means “That’s enough. Thank you”.

Don’t put your handbag on the floor

It is bad luck to put your handbag on the floor. There’s a phrase that’s been passed down through generations of women: “A purse on the floor is money out the door.”

Nowadays there are some very attractive handbag hooks available to buy.

Take your shoes off

It’s important to remove your shoes before entering a Turkish home so you do not drag in the dirt from the outside into the home. Some people bring along shoes for inside the house but you will always be given a pair of slippers or house shoes by your host.

Kolonya! Kolonya!

Kolonya (lemon cologne) is absolutely everywhere. It used for everything in Turkey. Washing your hands before and after a meal, as a disinfectant, after shaving as an astringent and it is even said to be effective against insect bites.

A bit of a grilling

Turks are comfortable talking about personal details, even with someone they’ve just met. This can be alarming to someone from a more reserved country, such as the UK. As a foreigner, you’re even more interesting. Expect to be grilled about your marital status, age, number of children, job and salary. You can also expect all manner of questions about where you’re from.

Time is NOT of the essence!

Life in Turkey is slower and more easygoing. Turks have a much more laid-back approach to time so if you arrange to meet up with a Turkish friend, expect them to be late. Getting used to this can take time for visitors who are more used to clock watching.

Which Turkish unspoken social habits have you come across?


Property Turkey

Culture Shock, Turkey


  1. Waiters clearing your plate as soon as you have finished, regardless of whether anyone else at the table has finished 🙂

  2. Lived in Dalaman for a year, bought a magnificent apartment, furnished it fully. After cay, business was conducted truthfully and service was the BEST anywhere in the world. Examples–
    Furniture- once price was agreed, “when do you want it delivered?”. In all cases it was NOW. Load up the truck, jump aboard and guide the crew to my apartment. Beds, Air conditioners, Couches, Tables, White-goods, Kitchen equipment, Satellite dish, Wi Fi all unpacked, tested, installed and set to work. Packaging removed, rooms cleaned.
    Most amazing deal- got bus to Fethiye [50 kms] to view new Honda 125. Saw 150cc version, liked it better. Then fell in love with Honda NC700S!!
    Explained I had not brought money; no problem- which is your bank in Dalaman? Phone call to manager, bike is prepared [more cay!] then loaded on truck, I am transported back to Dalaman where AK bank manager has closed up and waited for us- 7pm! He vets the sales agreement and pays over the cash. I and my new bike are driven out to my apartment and the deal is done. BEAT THAT!

    Many times Turkish workers did great work for me at tiny cost- I felt obliged to tip. The children were wonderful-respectful & beaming with happiness. Sometimes sacks of fruit and vegetables would appear at my front door- no idea who gave them.

    I only left Turkey because I saw the increasing Islamisation- which is now ruining a wonderful country, IMO. I SO miss Turkish food…

    • Hi Jim. Sounds like you had such a wonderful time and enjoyed the warm hospitality, service and efficiency of a can-do culture. Hope you are having a great time in your new home and country. I am sure the locals are all missing you since you left.

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