hagia sophia in turkey

What Not To Do In Turkey

Turkey is where the east meets the west, rich in culture and tradition. The combination of enchanting history, pristine beaches, beautiful nature, and hot weather has made it a hub of tourism. With 50.2 million visitors every year, Turkey is the sixth most visited country in the world. With a culture that puts hospitality and respect above anything, you can inadvertently offend someone if you slip up. So, here are some tips on what not to do while you’re in Turkey.

What not to do when visiting Turkey

1. Forget to take your shoes off at the door

Turkish people are extremely welcoming, hospitality is the cornerstone of the culture. It’s likely that you’ll be invited to someone’s home for Turkish tea (çay) and cake, remember to take your shoes off at the door. If you don’t, you could be deeply offending someone. Chances are you’ll be offered some slippers as soon as you come in, and if you haven’t taken your shoes off yet, know this is a subtle hint!

While it’s disrespectful to wear shoes in someone’s home, it’s even more offensive to wear shoes in a place of worship. Turkey, particularly Istanbul, is known for its gorgeous and exquisitely designed mosques and places of worship. Be sure to visit them, but make sure that you take your shoes off before you enter. And girls and women should have something to cover their hair and shoulders.

hagia sophia in turkey

2. Disrespect Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in any way

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founding father of Turkey as we know it. You’ll see pictures of the former president on flags, billboards, in shops, restaurants, basically anywhere. Don’t make insensitive jokes or talk down about him, but do ask about him. Turkish people are deeply proud of their country, history, and heritage, and they love to talk about it. They’ll be happy to speak with you about it. And on the topic of respect, the Turkish flag is highly revered. If you buy something with the Turkish flag on it, don’t be seen to be careless or thoughtless with it.

turkish flag hanging outside window

3. Accept the first price you’re given

Haggling is a part of Turkish culture. While you shouldn’t be disrespectful in your counter price, haggling in the markets and bazaars is expected. The general rule of thumb with haggling is to start off by offering 40% less than the price you’re given. Don’t worry about coming across as rude – they’ve put the price up because you’re a tourist!

grand bazaar in istanbul

4. Only visit Istanbul

Turkey is a huge country, over three times the size of the United Kingdom. There’s so much to see and do, so just sticking to Istanbul or the summer tourist towns would be a mistake. To start off with, there are 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 28 archaeological sites that shine a light on the world’s earliest civilisations. Çatalhöyük is the world’s first known city and you’ll find numerous Mesopotamian sites, the world’s earliest known civilisation, in the Anatolian region. Plus, the beaches on Turkey’s turquoise coast are unbeatable.

hot air balloons in cappadocia

5. Play music during the call to prayer

Turkey is technically a secular country but around 96% of the population is Muslim. So, it’s safe to say Turkey’s generally a Muslim country and you’ll feel this when you hear the call to prayer (ezan) five times a day. While it’s more liberal than other Muslim countries, showing respect for the religion is a must. Like with any country, disrespecting its culture and religion is a huge no-no.  You’ll notice that bars and club turn their music off for the call to prayer, which irks some tourists. Be sure to be respectful and take a moment to enjoy it.

6. Make an (unknowingly) obscene gesture

Every country has their own obscene gestures. In Turkey, it’s the same gesture that westerners make when they say “I’ve got your nose”. It might seem funny, but you wouldn’t be the first tourist to be speaking to a Turkish child and then playfully say “I’ve got your nose!”, only to deeply offend them and their parents.

 

7. Think Turkish food is all kebabs

Turkish lip-smacking cuisine is some of the tastiest in the world. To consider kebabs as the main factor of Turkish cuisine is highly underestimating it. You will find unbelievable kebabs, but the fusion of Ottoman and Mediterranean cuisine means that Turkey has so much more to offer. Dishes like mantı, köfte, lahmacun, pide, dolma, borek, midye dolma, and kuru fasulye tend to fly under the radar. Be sure to try it all – you’ll no doubt keep coming back for seconds.

traditional turkish food

Aleyna Thompson

Aleyna is an appreciator of learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

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