When visiting Turkey you will soon realize that a huge part of the Turkish culture involves being very sociable. Turkish people love to meet new friends and they will think nothing of spending half of the day talking to complete strangers.
This over friendliness is very difficult to understand from people that come from more reserved countries.
Hospitality is the Turkish way of life. Turkish people invite anyone and everyone around to their house and are the most gracious and generous hosts. They will open their houses to every guest with a smiling face, they will give up the best seat and will cook the best food for their guest.
On entering the home you will be greeted with the words “Hos Geldiniz” (meaning “welcome”) you should return the greeting by saying “ Hoş bulduk”” (meaning “we feel welcome”)
Shoes are not worn in the house and so it is polite to take off your shoes on the mat as you enter the home – you will usually be given a pair of slippers to wear.
If you have been invited for a meal you can expect quite a feast which will be served either at a table, or you may sit on floor cushions to a low down wooden table.
İf the family are from small rural villages then it is more than likely that the meal will be served on a large tablecloth on the floor, if this is the case then be sure to sit with your lap under the tablecloth.
You will be given a fork & a spoon and be expected to help yourself to the many dishes on offer, it is not unusual for everyone around the table/cloth to break off pieces of bread and scoop food from the dishes.
If you want to help by washing the dishes, remember that Muslims do not believe in bathing or washing items in stagnant water. Dishes will be washed in a bowl with detergent, but, it is very important to rinse the plates and cutlery under a running tap, dishes are usually left to dry by themselves before being put away.
Invitations & Meals
Hospitality is second nature to the Turkish people, you are unlikely to leave the country without at least one invitation to drink tea, either in a çayhane (teahouse) or in someone’s home.
If you really can’t spare the time, mime “thanks” by placing one hand on your chest and pointing with the other to your watch and then in the direction you’re headed.
If you do accept the offer, remember that drinking only one glass may be interpreted as casting aspersions on their tea.
If offered a full meal, decline the first offer, if the offer is sincere it will be repeated at least twice and custom demands that you accept the third offer.
Being invited for a meal at a Turkish home is both an honour and an obligation. Always remove your shoes at the door. In urban, middle-class homes you will most likely sit at a table and eat with cutlery.
In village houses, however, the meal is usually served at a low table with cushions on the floor; hide your feet under the table or a drop-cloth provided for the purpose. (Feet, shod or not, are considered unclean and should never be pointed at anyone.)
When scooping food (from the communal bowl) with pieces of bread, be sure to use your right hand, the left is reserved for bodily hygiene.
If you use toothpicks, cover your mouth whilst doing so.
If invited into a Turkish person’s home, the proper etiquette is to bring a gift with you to show your humbleness and gratitude. Small decorative pieces, sweets and pastries are the most common gifts, and you should remember to include children when offering gifts.
Families are integral to Turkish society, so including the children will be seen as a very thoughtful and kind gesture. Alcohol may be given as a gift, but remember that not all Turkish people actually drink it.
God’s Guest – Welcome to Turkey
Turkish people are very understanding when it comes to different customs and they will try to communicate in any way possible to make you feel welcome.
The Turkish mentality is “whatever religion you follow, whichever country you are from, whatever language you speak, you are ‘God’s Guest’ and so you deserve to be welcomed in the best manner.