Turkey Business Etiquette

Türkiye'ye hoşgeldiniz! ("Welcome to Turkey!" In Turkish)

The nation now formally known as the Republic of Turkey has a long and complicated history. The area has been inhabited by people for thousands of years, since the Paleolithic age. Over the centuries, the area has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, and the Byzantine Empire. Eventually, around the 13th century, it fell under the rule of the powerful Ottoman Empire. In 1923, after the Turkish War of Independence, Turkey became a sovereign state.

Over the past decades, Turkey’s economy has continued to grow stronger. Currently it has the 17th largest GDP worldwide. Some of the most prominent industries in Turkey are automotive manufacturing, appliance manufacturing, banking, electronics, and textiles. So, there’s a wide array of economic ventures that could draw foreign business people to Turkey. 

Before you journey over to the land of Turkey, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Turkish business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The capital of Turkey is Ankara, but the largest city is Istanbul (not Constantinople).   
  • The official language of Turkey is Turkish. The longest word in Turkish, “muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine,” has 70 letters! The word means “It’s as though you are from those we may not be able to easily make a maker of unsuccessful ones.”
  • The majority of the population identifies ethnically as Turkish. The largest minority population present in Turkey is the Kurds, who are a Middle Eastern people.  There is also a presence of Arabs, Armenians, and Greeks, among others.
  • There is no uniform religion in Turkey; however, the vast majority of Turkish citizens practice Islam.
  • Turkey is a secular (non-religious) unitary parliamentary constitutional republic, which means that they have both a President and Prime Minister.
  • Fun fact: St. Nicholas, the man who served as the basis for Santa Claus, was born in Patara, Turkey in 270 AD!

Dressing Sharp

  • Business dress should be conservative and clean.
  • Men should wear dark colored suits with a jacket and tie.
  • Women should wear well-tailored suits or dresses.
  • Accessories should not be overly flashy or gaudy.

Make or Break Meetings

  • Appointments are necessary, so schedule your meeting well in advance. Be on time! Punctuality is important in Turkish culture.
  • Initial meetings will be more about rapport building than business conversation. Questions will most likely be exchanged about family, sports (especially soccer), culture, etc.
  • Greet the Turkish party with a firm handshake. If you are greeting a woman, wait until she extends her hand before making a move.
  • If you know the professional title of the Turkish party, use it. If they do not have a title or you do not know the title, call a man by his first name followed by “bey” (pronounced bay). A woman's first name would be followed by “hanim” (pronounced ha-num).
  • Procure a Turkish translator, if necessary.
  • Provide any meeting documentation or literature in both English and Turkish.

Dining Decorum

       No, we're not talking about this turkey.

       No, we're not talking about this turkey.

  • Be on time for the dinner engagement.
  • Business meals are common and will most likely be held in a restaurant. The Turkish enjoy food and the company of others.
  • The host will always pay for the meal. The concept of “going Dutch” and splitting the bill does not really exist in Turkey.
  • If your host is Muslim, they will not drink alcohol as it is prohibited by Islam.
  • Allow your host to direct the conversation. Don’t bring up business unless they do first.
  • It is considered rude to leave food on your plate, so finish your entire meal.
  • Turkish coffee will traditionally be served at the end of the meal.
  • Smoking is common during meals.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • Gift giving is not a standard part of the Turkish business environment. This is normally reserved for birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries.
  • A reasonable time to give a gift is when invited to a Turkish home.
  • Acceptable gifts include: chocolate, flowers, plants, or wine.
  • Gifts are typically opened upon receipt.  

Down to Business

  • Business success in Turkey is dependent on your ability to successfully present a clear proposal while also building and maintaining healthy personal relationships. Business in Turkey is extremely personal; as such, you won’t get far without personal contact and rapport.
  • Turks appreciate visual presentations with clear statistics and facts. They also respond well to highlights of financial savings or benefits.
  • Turkish business people will not respond well to pressure, so do not force negotiations. The Turks will set the pace, which will often times be slow.
  • Have patience!

Now that you're well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Turkey, don't forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!

Güle güle! ("Goodbye!" in Turkish)