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Business etiquette tips: Turkey

Business etiquette tips: Turkey
Home » Blog » Cultural tips for business » Business etiquette tips: Turkey

OK. Is not OK!

As one of the MINT countries, Turkey is expected to experience serious economic growth in the future, and like Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria is seen as one of the world’s key, untapped markets. Its culture and customs may seem familiar to those who live in the Middle East or an Islamic country, but they are likely to be unexpected for anyone else. As in most countries (apart from England and the USA), the ‘OK’ hand gesture is offensive and should never be used. Having business etiquette is a must. 

A few key points.

  1. Shake hands when meeting, not when departing.
  2. The host pays for everything. Bill sharing is an unknown concept in Turkey.
  3. Business success is founded on personal relationships. Make friends and get on with each other!
  4. Keep the soles of your feet away from people, directionally as well as physically. As in Indonesia, the feet are classed as dirty and the closest thing to the devil.
  5. You might end up waiting around. Turks are not always perfect timekeepers, but you, as a European, will be expected to be.

Small talk.

Always engage in small talk for as long as your hosts want to. This is considered good business etiquette in Turkey. In nearly all cases the hosts will dictate the tone, and only on rare occasions will the guest have to know what to say and do. Wait until the topic shifts towards business instead of forcing it that way. It is seen as rude to skip the getting-to-know-you phase of the meeting and go straight into facts and figures. No matter how eager you may be, put some time in to build relationships and it will pay off in the long run.


As is sometimes the case with negotiations, the waters may be tested with propositions that are way beyond what you are comfortable with. Don’t be put off and keep a cool head to give yourself time to think, then use tact to calmly and politely turn negotiations your way. Don’t ever use deadlines or try to pressure your Turkish counterparts into agreeing to anything; this will work against you. This is not considered good business etiquette.

Top tip: topics to avoid in conversation include faith, politics, the EU and Cyprus.

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