1. You greet people by kissing both cheeks.
Hugs are reserved for close friends and family members. Men prefer women to initiate this greeting if both parties are just acquaintances.
2. Those Turkish eyes everywhere are for warding off evil thoughts.
It is hard to ignore the Turkish eyes that are everywhere in Turkey — from people’s homes to dangling from a taxi driver’s mirror. This good luck charm is believed to protect against everything from jealous neighbors to meddling in-laws.
3. Tea is a sign of hospitality.
It may seem like Turks drink more tea than water, but the drinking of the ubiquitous Turkish tea is less about hydration and more about an invitation of hospitality and friendship. Tea at someone’s home usually happens after a meal and is often accompanied by fresh fruit and sweets.
4. Know how to respect elders.
If you are visiting a friend’s parents you would add “teyze” or “amca,” after their first name, which means aunt or uncle, and is a sign of respect. For those who are a bit older than you, you would add “abi” for a man or “abla” for a woman after their first names to show respect.
5. At weddings, give gold.
If you are lucky to be invited to a Turkish wedding, you will get to see the time-honored tradition of giving the bride and groom gold coins (or bracelets for those closest to the couple). The reason behind this tradition is that gold will never lose its value, unlike cash. The gold is pinned to the silk sashes that hang around the bride and groom’s neck.
6. You must cover up while visiting a mosque.
Turkey is a secular country, but most of the population is Muslim. Like most religious places of worship, modesty is key when entering a mosque. It is important for women to cover their heads, and not have their arms or legs showing. For men, it is important to wear long shorts or pants that cover their knees.
7. Remove your shoes before entering a home.
Turks prefer to keep their homes spotless, and this includes wearing slippers inside (including having a few extra pairs for guests). Right before entering someone’s home in Turkey, it is customary to remove your shoes, so you will not track dirt into the entryway.
8. Always bring a gift to your host.
Whenever you are invited to someone’s home — which might be surprisingly often — it’s important to bring a small token of appreciation, whether it’s food or flowers. Avoid bringing alcohol, since some Turks do not drink for religious or other reasons.
9. When dining out, know who should pay.
For Turks, traditionally when someone invites you to dinner it is assumed that they will pay. The idea of splitting a bill is much less common, and instead, the invited party can repay the favor at another time.
10. Know that Turkish coffee is the national drink.
Turkish coffee is thick and meant to be sipped slowly after a meal. It is less common than Turkish tea and is usually made for special occasions, like when guests come to visit. It is important to stop drinking it when you get to the grounds since they are extremely bitter and are meant for fortune telling instead.
11. When cooking a meal, always serve bread.
In Turkey, it’s believed that bread should accompany every meal. Fresh bread can be easily bought from the nearby corner market, and you often see children carrying several plastic bags full of freshly baked bread back to their families.
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