Heading to Turkey on vacation this year? Fast becoming one of the world’s top destinations in Europe, Turkey has a thriving tourist scene that caters for all types of holidaymakers. Five star luxury resorts boasting decadent spas, private yoga sessions and all inclusive scuba diving packages, rub shoulders with low budget hotels and self-catering apartments to provide every traveller with their ideal choice of accommodation. But while Turkey has bent over backwards to become truly tourist friendly, it still retains its original charm, with traditions and customs unique to its people.Holiday resorts and hotels are often liberal when it comes to how they let tourists behave, but if you’ve chosen a bed and breakfast or a traditional hotel in a more remote location, you might find that liberal attitude hasn’t made it there yet. So, do you know how to behave in Turkey, or are their customs completely alien to you? Here’s an insight into some of the traditions you might encounter in rural Turkey.
The Turkish people generally wear shoes or sandals in the streets, and with the beach as an exception it’s often considered strange if not unacceptable to walk barefoot in public. When visiting someone’s home – and that includes very traditional bed and breakfasts – it is considered polite to leave your shoes at the door rather than trample dirt and dust into your host’s dwelling.
Turkish tea is an integral part of local custom, and whether you’re in the country on business or for pleasure, you’ll find yourself presented with a cup at some point during your stay. In Turkey, tea isn’t drunk from cups or mugs but from specially made glasses, and the liquid will occasionally have the leaves still floating in it. Your host, or the café owner, will continue to fill your glass as you drink whether you want any more or not. The proper etiquette to say ‘no more, thanks’ is to place the spoon that comes with it inside the glass and push it away from you.
Camel wrestling is a popular sport, particularly in rural communities and local towns, and it’s an unusual spectacle to witness. The only humans involved are the fearless guides who ride or direct their camels to try and overbalance the other one. Gangly and uncoordinated, they can be amusing to watch, and for many locals it is part of everyday life, with gatherings, markets and betting all taking place around the match.
The Turkish system of bathing is known around the world as Hamam and it’s a must-try experience for visitors to the country. Most upmarket resorts with spas will offer Hamam treatments, but because they form such an important part of daily life in Turkey, you can find authentic local Hamam’s in most towns. The cleansing ritual is designed to clean the body as much as is humanly possible. Routines begin with hot steam rooms designed to make you sweat, before you receive a scrub and massage combination from one of the attendants. After washing off the remaining soap with cold water, it’s into a cooling down room with showers to finish the session. Etiquette requires visitors to protect their modesty at all times, and if you’re particularly shy about having someone else wash you, there is always a self-catering option to go for. You’ll be expected to tip your masseur, so it’s a good idea to take some Turkish Lira with you.
Don’t Mistake the Meaning
On a final note, Turkish language makes use of head nods much like the rest of the world, but not necessarily with the same meaning. In Turkey, a head tilted down is sign of an acknowledgement and can be interpreted as ‘yes’, while tipping a head backwards, and often accompanied by rolling of the eyes, means ‘no’. Nodding your head western-style in response to a direct question, may just give you the appearance of being confused.
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