The Discovery of every landscape in Turkey forms the backdrop and context for people and events, with perhaps the most thrilling aspect of travelling the ability to become an active participant in this landscape.
As in all human interactions the basis is one of equality in the roles of host and guest. This defining mutual respect and a shared sense of responsibility as the guiding principle in an adventure where the parties involved are, by definition, different in their outlook and way of life. When Turks entered the tourism arena- that was not so long ago-, they were armed with a tradition of hospitality rather than sophisticated facilities or a mentality for providing service.
Although Turkey now has an excellent tourism infrastructure, the motivation of most Turks remains one of sincerity and courtesy. The desire of Turks to feel understood and valued, to communicate and learn about people from other lands is a much more important motivation. Interpret their enthusiasm to interact with you from this perspective. They prefer to make long-term acquaintances by spending time together, exchanging cards, letters and gifts rather than receive payment or large tips for any help granted. This attitude may change as the tourism industry develops further in the coming decades, and much still depends on the visitors, but for now the sweetness of the Turkish people is unspoiled.
Here are some tips about social graces and conduct which may be useful in interpreting the goings-on around you, helping you to enjoy your participation in this social landscape even more. Greetings involving welcomes, handshakes, hugging and kissing on both cheeks, followed by a “How are you? How is the family? How is your health? How is business?” are important rituals. It is expected that everyone will inquire after the health and well-being of everyone else at first. During religious holidays, greetings are even more important. Young people visit and kiss the hands of elderly family members. Every friend and family is visited in order to renew bonds and kinship. Children receive pocket money and gifts, and responsibilities for social charity are fulfilled. Like elsewhere, these are joyous occasions. However, celebrations emphasize traditional, social and spiritual aspects, and a certain amount of decorum in action and appearance is expected from everyone.
A dinner invitation to someone’s home is a special honor. At the dinner table it is customary for the hostess to offer additional servings many times and with great insistence. The guest is expected to accept the offer after several such offers. Dinners are leisurely affairs, to be savored slowly along with the delicious home-cooked food. Sometimes, guests bring flowers or sweets to such occasions. During a typical after-dinner coffee, tea, candy, cookies, pastries and fruit are served.
In business relationships the whole affair is conducted as a social occasion, and completed with greetings and sharing coffee, tea or food and drinks, depending on the extent of the business. Even in ordinary shopping a lot of personal information is exchanged between the vendor and the customer, setting the stage for everyone to fulfill their various responsibilities. Bargaining is not a simple game of negotiation between adversarial parties but part of socialization and friendly chitchat to confirm the non-adversarial nature of the activity.
Enjoy your stay!