Turkish Traditions and Culture
Turkish traditions and Turkish culture have so many facets that they cannot be easily defined. Turkish traditions evolved over thousands of years from people from Anatolia, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and of course ancient world cultures and merged together to create a unique alloy we call Minor Asian culture today.
In Turkish culture, early age marriage is very characteristic. The standard of living for a woman should not be reduced by her husband, which is why people of different social groups rarely marry. While inter-ethnic marriages are not uncommon, it is extremely rare to see unions between members of different religious or ethnic groups.
Turkish Islamic family law was abolished in 1926 when the revolutionary government adopted a slightly modified version of the Swiss Civil Code. Only civil marriages, mutual consent, contract completion, and monogamy are recognized under the new family law.
While the decision to marry is still made by the family heads in Turkish society, the newlyweds themselves play a very minor role in choosing their spouses and the surroundings for the ceremony. Accordingly, all the marriage rituals as well as the blessing given by the imam are extremely important in terms of this.
Wedding traditions and customs in Turkey usually last for many days and consist of numerous ceremonies that are attended by family members and sometimes even the neighbors across the street or even the entire village.
The number of divorces is small, even though they are not considered sins. It is not unusual for divorced men with children (and this is not uncommon in this society) to get remarried fairly quickly, usually to the same divorced woman.
According to the modern law, the husband has no prerogative right to an oral and unilateral divorce and all divorce proceedings are governed by the judicial process. There may be only six reasons for divorce: adultery, life-threatening situations, criminal, unethical or non-family lifestyles, mental infirmities, and incompatibility.
There is a lack of clarity regarding these requirements, which is the reason why lawsuits and divorces by mutual consent are rarely recognized by local legislation.
Turkish Family Traditions
Turkish traditions place a lot of emphasis on the importance of the family in a person's life. Clans and families tend to have members that live nearby and provide a 24/7 support system, including financial and emotional support.
Thus, aging parents, young children, and the younger generation benefit from large and operational support, and close relationships remain strong regardless of household location. Therefore, there is no problem of abandoned old people and homelessness in Turkey, and crime among youths is relatively unimportant.
There are always a couple of relatives ready to care for the "family nest" so that a variety of activities can be held during the holiday season in many villages including those located in remote locations.
Turkey itself distinguishes clearly between family (aile) and household (hane), specifying that the first category consists of only close relatives living together while the second is made up of all clan members living on the same territory in a common household.
Another important component is the male community (sulale), which consists of male relatives. As part of an extended family of old "noble families" still preserving its history from the Ottoman Empire to tribal alliances, ethnic groups play a crucial part in the daily lives of the nobles. Even though they influence the country's politics greatly, they are almost unknown to most citizens.
Turkish culture facts indicate that men and women play contrasting roles in families. In Turkish families, female subordination is usually accompanied by "male dominance", respect for elders and a respect for elders. Most families are headed by the father or the oldest male member, so instructions from him are not discussed with the other family members.
Yet, a man must carry many responsibilities - he provides for the family's needs (until recently, Turks were not allowed to work outside the home), speaks for the family in front of others, and is even responsible for the upbringing of the children. Even shopping was considered a purely masculine duty until the late twentieth century!
Role of Women in the Turkish Family
Despite the many myths surrounding Turkish families, women play an important role within them. She will do the household chores and parenting, respect her husband, and obey him completely. However, the Turks report that the honor of the family and of the clan depends on how the woman behaves and watches over her house. Being rather restricted in her own home, the woman often handles all the internal affairs of the clan.
In the same way that the mother is respected by the younger family members, she has a warm and informal relationship with the children. The Turkish culture accords women the same rights to private property, inheritance, education, and participation in public life, and many women enjoy using these rights (the Prime Minister of Turkey from 1993-1995 was a woman - Tansu Ciller).
Although Turkish women have a lower education level than Jordanian or Israeli women, this gap is rapidly closing. They are considered the most emancipated women in the Middle East despite their lower education status.
Even in modern cities, women wear modest and closed dresses, wearing capes that partially or completely conceal their faces, and next to the trendy European costumes, one often sees traditional folk forms of clothing that Turkish women wear with grace.
The women in the province tend to wear a more modest, inconspicuous costume and are less likely to leave their homes, even though many of them work on the land, in stores or markets outside of the home, since the tradition in Turkey is to not hide from strange eyes.
Women's closeness determines their origin and social standing in some rural areas, and some even use it as a "hallmark”.
In government offices and universities, traditional headscarves worn by women that partially cover their faces (usually called basortusu but there is other pronunciation variations) are banned but efforts are being made to reverse this "innovation Ataturk."
Importance of Children’s
A lot of attention is lavished on Turkish children. The childless couples are permitted to ask each other when they plan to have children here, and spend hours discussing this matter. In an ordinary conversation between men, children will be no less important than football or market prices.
Sons are loved specially because they raise the standing of mothers within the eyes of their husbands and relatives. A son younger than 10-12 years old spends most of his time with his mother and then proceeds to be in the "man's circle", which means that he begins to depend more on the father for his education.
A daughter will often live with her mother until she marries. It is not unusual for dads to have two sons (usually no less than two), but their attachments to their daughters are rarely revealed to the public. In spite of the fact that daughters or sons may argue or joke with their mother in public, they will never acknowledge their father in public.
As far as 13-14 years old, families in Turkey have an easy and informal relationship between brothers and sisters. After a while, the status of the sibling’s changes greatly - older brother (agabey) assumes some responsibilities and rights of parents in relation to her sister.
In traditional Turkish beliefs, the older sister (abla) is considered a second mother for the younger brother Turks reasonably believe that this is preparing the girl for her role as a wife in the future.
A lot of the responsibility for raising children falls on the grandparents in large families. As a consequence, children feel that they can be permissive and sometimes behave very arrogantly.
It is common for very young children to accompany their parents to restaurants and cafes any time of day. Children of all ages can enjoy various dishes on the menu at many places that have high chairs and children's tables.
The majority of hotels provide children's play areas and offer children's beds. It is, however, best to order them in advance so that they can be accommodated to the height of the child and the Europeans' requirement. Most car rental companies offer car baby seats as well.
The Turkish etiquette and manners are quite strict in regards to relations between persons of different ages and genders. Especially in public, it is important to treat the elders with respect and courtesy, even if they are not close friends or relatives. Even relatives of opposite sexes do not normally express affection, as they are all quickly divided into groups according to gender and age during celebrations.
As for the Turkish greeting customs, friends or close family members of the same gender may hold hands or kiss each other on the cheeks or give each other a hug - in any other situation, this is prohibited. European men always shake each other's hands, but women never do unless she explicitly permits it.
Last but not least, there have been numerous incidents with foreign tourists drawing hands first before meeting local residents, for whom this is a clear invitation to get to know each other.
Whether it's in the bus, dolmus, or theater, a woman should sit next to another woman whenever possible, whereas a man may not sit next to a stranger woman without her consent - it's a cultural tradition.
Turkish Etiquette and Manners
According to Turkish culture, formal etiquette determines the most important forms of social interaction. Turkey's customs signify an accurate oral form for nearly any occasion, which emphasizes the importance of correctness.
Despite being perceived as a foreign concept, Turkish hospitality (misafirperverlik) remains one of the keystones of Turkish culture and customs, especially in rural regions. Family, friends, and neighbors frequently visit one another.
When invited to be a guest, you are often presented with an elegant collection of proposals, and you must be tactful not to offend the hosts by refusing. Generally, these proposals do not have a hidden motive - nothing other than good company and interesting conversation is expected.
The Turkish people appreciate arguments such as lack of time and job opportunities if you have not accepted the offer. If the visit is short (by local standards), expect it to last less than two hours - except for tea and coffee, the guest will be offered meals more than once.
When visiting a private home or restaurant, avoid paying the bill or bringing money as a gift. But later sent photos or small gifts "on occasion" will be viewed as sincerity with a sense of joy.
Guests are always treated with special attention in the Turkish tradition, no matter their income level. Therefore, despite the widespread misconceptions, Turks are very forgiving of "small sins" and have a great capacity for tolerance towards ignorance of their Turkish culture by guests.
It is traditional to dine at a low table with guests seated on the floor - their feet are tucked under the table at the same time. In this setting, dishes are being laid out on a large tray, which may be placed on the ground or on another low table, and people sit around on cushions or mats, taking food from the tray to their plates with a spoon or with their hands.
It is more common to see European style tables in the cities, as well as individual dishes and tableware. Islamic countries have the custom of only taking things from the shared plate with your right hand.
You should also avoid talking at the table without permission, choosing special items from shared plates, and opening your mouth wide - even if you use a toothpick, you should cover your mouth.
Dining Etiquette in Turkey
Turkish people never eat alone or snack while on the go. Their family meals are usually three times a day. A Turkish breakfast consists of bread, cheese, olives, and tea. Families generally eat lunch later in the day after all members of the family have gathered. Usually, lunch consists of three or more courses eaten in succession along with lettuce or other greens.
The time and meal for dinner are negotiated in advance, so it is common to invite guests and friends over for dinner. Even though alcohol is prohibited during Islamic dinners, raki (anisette), wine, or beer are often served (for the most part, it's not considered an alcoholic drink).
In this instance, meze - a wide selection of dishes (fruit, vegetables, fish, cheese, meat, sauces, and fresh bread) usually served on small plates - is an essential meal. Turkish mezes are commonly followed by a main course that is made from the mezes - kebab is quite popular with salads, fish or chicken is served with hummus or rice, as for the soup - tortillas with meat, cheese, and pickles.
In public, it is considered indecent to drink alcohol beverages, even beer. The sale of alcohol in public places is not allowed in Turkey. While this is occurring, many shops sell alcohol freely, and only during Ramadan are the shelves that sell it closed or blocked.
It is impossible to find pork in local cuisine, and there are many other items that are not strictly forbidden by Islamic standards, but avoided nonetheless. There are tribal groups such as the Oruk, who eat no seafood besides fish, the Alevi Order, which does not eat rabbit, and people in the central parts of the country who dislike snails.
Among the people who inhabited this land before the Turks arrived are still clearly identifiable culinary elements on the periphery of Turkey. The dish is called lahmakun in Turkish and includes Georgian chicken in sacivi sauce and Armenian lahmacun and lagmadzho (similar to pizza).
It goes the same for dishes from Egypt, the Arab states, and Greece (such as meze). Meanwhile, rural residents consume very little food, with a large portion of their diet making up of bread with onions, yogurt, olives, cheese, and jerked meat (pastirma).
Although Turks are known for their hospitality, staying up late as guests is not accepted. A meal or tea should not be started up without the owner's permission, even smoking without obtaining permission from the senior male or organizer is considered impolite.
The etiquette of business meetings dictates that business meetings are preceded by tea and unrelated to business conversations. Directly jumping into a business meeting is not acceptable. However, the Turks are very musical and always love to play music at every opportunity, so the ceremony will last longer if there is music and songs.
During the 19th century, a British ambassador noted that Turks enjoyed dancing and singing whenever the weather permitted. Since then, there have been many changes in the nation, but music remains a passion for the people.
To ask for a tour of all of a Turkish house is impolite, since there are clearly defined areas for the guest and the private. It is considered a virulent custom to wear shoes with dirty soles when entering any private residence or mosque.
Shoes can be worn in public places. Some offices, libraries or private shops can provide slippers or shoe covers, but this is not universal. Shoes can be folded into bags and taken into crowded places, such as mosques and public organizations.
Turkish Language of Gestures
It is very important to Turkish culture to use a language unobvious to most foreigners - the language of body motions and gestures. Snapping the fingers, for example, indicates approval of something (a good player, good quality products, etc.), while clicking the tongue is often interpreted as a denial (often accompanied by raising the eyebrows). Fast head movements are interpreted as "I don't understand" while a slight tilt of the head can be interpreted as "I understand".
Due to the sheer number of these schemes and the fact that every country has its own set, overusing gestures that we are used to using is generally not recommended - everywhere they can have a completely different meaning.