Turkey is a Muslim country with a strong heritage dating from the Ottoman Empire. After the war of independence, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk introduced the principle of secularism to the Turkish people. Turkey is the only country in the world which included secularism in her Constitution.
Family and customs
The family plays an important role in the Turkish society. In the urban areas, on average a household holds four persons, while in the rural areas the number increases to five. Two in every five Turkish households have four or five persons. As much as twenty percent of households are extended families, where married couples live with other family members, mostly the parent(s) or other close relatives of the husband.
Although polygamy is illegal in Turkey, the polygamous families are still a reality.
Most women (93%) are or have been married by the time they reach their early thirties. Divorce rates are really low compared to Europe. In the metropolitan areas, many couples marry later after they have completed their education.
Mostly in the rural areas and small towns, the groom’s family pays a dowry to the girl’s family. Substantial gifs are offered to the new family and many parents aid the new couple financially particularly in early married life.
When it comes to children, traditionally boys are preferred. On average, a Turkish woman gives birth to 2 children. The number is higher in the rural areas than in the metropolitan areas.
Being a predominant Muslim country, religious customs should be respected particularly during the month of Ramadan. Drinking, eating and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet during this time of year as it’s forbidden by the Muslim religion.
Five times a day, the call of prayer can be heard all over Turkey. Every mosque has at least one minaret where the muezzin calls the worshipers to pray. All Muslims stop whatever they do, face toward Mecca and pray. The call of prayer plays an important part in any Muslim’s life and is one of the Pillars of Islam (the other four being: faith in God and Mohammed as his messenger, concern for the needy, self-purification and once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca).
Note: Dress modestly when visiting the mosques –always cover the shoulders.
The Turkish cuisine has a strong Ottoman heritage. It nicely blends the Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Greek and Armenian cuisines. Just remember that Muslims don’t eat pork so it’s going to be a challenge to find any pork dish.
Everyone has heard of yogurt and Turkish coffee.
Turkish Delight, baklava, kadayıf and künefe are particularly known among those with a sweet tooth.
Kebabs, mezes and olive oil are staples of the Mediterranean diet and are not only popular in the western parts of Turkey but also in other countries close by.
If you are traveling to central Anatolia, you’ll find the famous pastry specialties such as keşkek, mantı and gözleme.
Tipping is a way of life all over the Balkans and Turkey makes no exception.
Generally a service charge is added to the hotel and restaurants bills but if that’s not the case, it’s customary to leave between 10 and 15%.
When taking a cab, it’s enough to round up the bill.
If you go to a Turkish bath it’s expected to leave about 15% tip if the service has been good.
Ask permission if you want to take photos of people.
Never take photos of or near military institutions.