Why Turkey Appeals to Everyone
Almost every foreigner we know is intensely curious about Turkish culture when visiting Turkey. Of course, much like any destination, the culture is different in urban areas compared to rural populations, and regionally, there is also much different. For example, the culture of Turkish people in the black sea region differs from the Mediterranean Sea regions, eastern regions, and south-eastern Turkey. Still, there are such similarities that stem countrywide, from the small towns to the large cities. Although young Turkish people have embraced international living in recent years, Turkish culture still reigns supreme behind closed doors.
About the Turkish Culture
1: Turkey is About More than the Ottoman Empire
Most foreigners know about the Ottoman empire, having been to Istanbul. The Ottoman empire ruled for 600 years, and their rule only finished in 1923 when the new Turkish Republic was formed. The Ottoman empire left much more, including delicious cuisine, traditions, social standards and, of course, the famous Ottoman architecture of Istanbul. Yet, there is much more than Ottoman history.
North-east Turkish people absorbed many cultural influences from Georgia, while the western and southern coasts show Greek Influence. South Eastern Turkey sees many Kurdish and Arabic influences. History also sees traces of Seljuk, Hittite, and Persian influences. Delving into Turkish history is a never-ending journey of exciting facts and stories.
2: Turkish Culture Throughout the Decades
The Republic of Turkey will be 100 years old in 2023. This surprises some foreigners because they assume the country is much older. Turkish people celebrate Republic Day every year on the 29th of October; for many, this national identity is ingrained into Turkish culture. The Republic of Turkey has seen many changes, especially over the last twenty years, as the arts, fashion, and music scenes have gone global. The dress sense of some younger Turkish people is more westernised and follows fashion rather than culture. But still, this day is the most important for the Republic of Turkey.
3: What is the National Identity of Turkey?
This is not a straightforward topic and is often confused with Islam, a religious identity. Turkey is secular and runs separately from religion. The national identity most talked about is Kemalist. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the founding father of Turkey, and the founding government decreed that every citizen is a Turk, regardless of ethnic group or religion. The only way they can lose this right is through treason. However, when speaking to Turkish people to learn about their generational background, you discover much more to their story than national identity.
4: Is Turkish Coffee the National Drink?
No, this is a common mistake for many people visiting Turkey for the first time. While Turks have their own coffee identity, which is very strong, Turkish tea is the national drink. In fact, Turkey is one of the biggest tea producers, and considering consumption per capita, they are first. Tea is served black in tulip-shaped cups, and you can add sugar cubes as desired.
Having said this, try Turkish coffee because the beverage's distinct taste takes most by surprise. If we are talking about alcohol, Raki is the national drink. The nickname is lion's milk because Raki is mixed with water and turns a milky white. Also, taste Ayran, a mixture of yoghurt, salt and water, that is surprisingly delicious. Many Turks believe Ayran is the perfect medicine for dodgy tummies.
5: What to Avoid When You Visit Turkey
Generally, when you visit Turkey, you will discover a welcoming culture and daily life to be friendly. However, there are some things to avoid doing, even in modern Turkey.
- Don't wear shoes inside someone's house or in a place of worship
- Don't disrespect the Turkish flag or money
- Don't discuss politics or religion.
- Don't expect driving in Turkey to make sense
- Don't flash money around. You make yourself a target
- Don't barter on prices in modern shops or for minor items like fruit and vegetables
- Don't start fights in Turkish society. You will end up fighting their friends and family. Turkish people are very loyal.
- Don't shy away from Turkish cuisine, which is surprisingly filling and healthy
6: Nice to Know Facts About Turkey
- The Turkish language doesn't feature the letters Q, W or X
- Some Turks use Turkish coffee for fortune telling
- The Turkish government rules from the capital Ankara and not Istanbul
- Turkish delight was invented for the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid I
- Turkish society places cleanliness high on the list of priorities
- Expect to see yoghurt in many parts of Turkish cuisine
- The current Turkish population is 86,600 000 people. Turkey is the world's 17th most populated country.
- Recycling is still taking off in Turkish society, but there are people called Eskici, who collect plastic, and cardboard from bins or will take old, used household appliances.
- The male-to-female ratio of the Turkish population is slightly lower
- The Turkish armed forces are the second largest in NATO
- Compulsive Turkish military service applies to all male citizens.
- Turkish Airlines is the world's largest carrier based on passenger destinations
7: Do Females Need to Cover up in Turkey?
Turkish women are free to choose, and female tourists don't need to wear the hijab either. The one exception to this is visiting Turkish mosques. Females are required to cover their heads and also wear respectful clothing. For example, they shouldn't show cleavage or their torso and cover the top arms and legs up. Additionally, men should wear trousers and a shirt with sleeves.
8: What are Some Cultural Traditions in Turkey?
Turkish Evil Eye: If you have bad luck or are the target of envious people, buy a blue Turkish evil eye. Also known as the Nazar Amulet or Nazar Boncugu, some call it a talisman, while others say it is a good luck charm. Any visitor on a trip to Turkey will see the evil eye everywhere, from jewellery shops to offices to homes, even worn by some as jewellery.
Turkish Carpet and Rugs: High-quality Turkish carpets and rugs have intricate designs. Hand-knotted carpets or rugs in Turkey have very ancient histories, and the design elements are like ancient Egyptian pictographs, meant to inform, communicate and convey ideas. Each geometric shape has a particular meaning.
Lemon Cologne: The centuries-old liquid and ritual of rubbing your hands and splashing your face are refreshingly engrained. Shop owners often hand the cologne out, and during Seker Bayram, every home has bowls of sweets and bottles of cologne. Likewise, tuck into meals in traditional Turkish restaurants, and servers will sprinkle cologne on your hands when paying the bill.
Turkish Food: Each meal is a gift from Allah, so Turkish women often spend hours cooking and baking with painstaking and intense recipes. Breakfast is the most important meal and includes eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives but always remember the bread at either breakfast or other mealtimes.
Circumcision: Circumcision is still a religious requirement in many parts, but thankfully, practices have improved during the last century. Historically, local elders performed the ritual at the kitchen table, but now, more people choose hospital procedures. To mark the occasion, traditionally seen as the transition to a fully blooded male, presents are given.
Turkish Bath: The Ottomans modified this tradition from the Roman public bathhouses. Westerners wear swimming costumes in tourist-orientated Turkish baths, while others cater to local communities with traditions like women-only days. People sit in the sauna room and then endure a lofer scrub down with plenty of soapsuds for good exfoliation of dead skin.
More About Culture in Turkey
National Symbols: Altogether, the national symbols of Turkey present a country so diverse and intriguing that they spark the interest of everyone around the world. Turkey's national symbols portray local beliefs, history, food, and traditions of favourite destinations and past times like any other country. So, if you want to visit Turkey, expect exciting times since there is much to learn, see and do.
Everyday Turkish Greetings: For language learners of all levels, knowing typical Turkish greetings and expressions go a long way in daily life, whether striking up conversations with strangers or forming friendships. People use daily greetings everywhere, from workplaces, conservations with friends and family, or doing weekly shops.
Turkish Proverbs: While a few are confined to history books, many are still used today and represent common-sense and practical advice for any situation. Turkish proverbs are about much more than advice for travellers and ex-pats looking to settle and live in Turkey. They give great insight into cultural heritage and identity. Additionally, anyone looking to learn more about Turkish culture will enjoy them.