Doing Business In Turkey

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Business Etiquette in Turkey

Meeting and Greeting

  • The traditional hospitality of the Turks determines business etiquette.

  • Although appointments should be made wherever possible, most executives will receive visitors without an appointment if they are able to do so.

  • On initial meetings a good, firm handshake is the norm.

  • Men may occasionally also hold your arm with their left hand as a sign of warmness. Unlike in the UK, the handshake is not usually used when departing. You may find once the relationship warms up that you are kissed on the cheek.

  • In the business context most women will shake hands with men. However, this may not be the case in eastern or rural Turkey where people are more conservative. If unsure, wait for the woman to extend her hand.

Making Conversation, Modes of Address and Gifts

Making conversation

Personal relationships are highly rated, and no visitor should come straight to the business in hand without exchanging a few friendly words first.

Turks say "yes" by nodding their head forward and down and say "no" by nodding their head up and back while lifting their eyebrows. Wagging your head from side to side doesn't mean "no" in Turkish, it means "I don't understand". Talk about family, food and sports; they are very suitable icebreakers.

Modes of address

Turks prefer to communicate directly, so you are advised to phone rather than write to contacts. Turks answer the phone by saying Alo? - a specific Turkish word for answering the phone. Turks may also say Buyurun, equivalent to saying "at your service". Turks also tend to use the expression hah! as a sign of agreement.

Turkish letters are usually addressed with the name of the main street first, then the minor street and then the number of the building.

Bey means Mr and Bayan means Mrs or Miss.

For officials, you or your interpreter should refer to them by their title.

Turkey Red Flower


Don't offer gifts that are too lavish or personal and be sure to check that your Turkish counterparts drink before giving alcohol. The exchanging of gifts is not a predominant feature of Turkish business culture.  However, if a gift is given it will be gratefully accepted.


Business meetings are the time to present your company proposal and to talk about business seriously.

In Turkish business practice it is respectful to address a Turkish professional by his or her occupational title alone, should they have one, eg "Doctor" or "Lawyer". However, Turks are generally informal with names and when meeting someone for the first time they tend to address people by "Mr" or "Mrs" followed by their first name.

Business cards should be exchanged. Although there is no formal exchange ritual, you are advised to present your card with both hands and, if possible, have one side of your card translated into Turkish. Offer your business card to everyone you meet, especially to those with whom you wish to establish a business relationship.

Every visitor will immediately be offered coffee or tea; it is impolite to refuse. Coffee is served "sade" (without sugar) and "orta" (with some sugar).

Tea comes with one or two lumps on the side.

If negotiating, it may not always be necessary to focus on financial benefits. It is just as useful to point to areas such as prestige, influence, honour, respect and other non-monetary incentives.

Reach the decision-maker at the top, at least at the first meeting or on first contact. Send your top person to meet with their top person. This would be indicative of how much you value your prospective business in Turkey.


Initial meetings should always concentrate on

Engage in some conversation to establish rapport.
The Turks are proud of their country and will enjoy
answering questions on their culture, history and food,
although it is advisable to avoid discussing political

Most Turkish men love football and usually support
one of the three Istanbul teams: Galatasaray, Besiktas
(pronounced Beshik-tash) or Fenerbahçe (pronounced
Fener-bach-e). Asking after their team's recent fortunes
will always produce lively and animated responses.

Presentations, Entertainment and Interpreters


It is good to bear in mind that people are primarily oral and visual communicators, so in addition to written statistics and projections try to present information vocally or with maps, graphs and charts.


Food lovers will be glad to know that dining in restaurants is part and parcel of Turkish business culture.

You will inevitably be invited to dine out and it would be impolite not to accept.

The meal is a time for relaxing, engaging in some good conversation, getting away from business and firming up that relationship.

The protocol of Turkish hospitality dictates that the host always pays for the meal. The concept of sharing a bill is alien. You may offer to pay, which will be seen as polite, but you will never be allowed to do so. The best policy is to graciously thank the host and then a few days later invite them to dinner at a restaurant of your choice.

If you do so it may be a good idea to have a quiet word with the restaurant manager to inform them that under no circumstances are they to accept payment from your guests.

Although the majority of Turks are Muslims, not all abstain from drinking alcohol. However, it is wise to wait and see if your host or guest orders any alcoholic drinks before you do so, as it may be uncomfortable for them to sit at a table with alcohol or to pay for it.


Taking the time to learn the language is a useful asset but interpreters are plentiful. It will be expected that UK businesses will not necessarily know Turkish, so interpreters are expected in these circumstances.

Many Turkish businesspeople will know English, some to a high standard.

Source - UKTI


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