Turks love to meet new people and are incredibly socialable! In Turkey, tradition holds that any stranger to arrive on your doorstep is considered “God’s guest” for at least three days.
Hospitality is one of the cornerstones of the Turkish way of life. Each and every individual feels honour bound to treat his guest in the very best way possible. Their houses will be opened with a smiling face, the guest will be given the best seat and the best food they are able to produce, will be provided for their guest.
It is also not uncommon to find your neighbour knocking on the door with a plate of food. In fact, after renting an apartment in Fethiye last year, within twenty four hours I opened the door to find my new neighbour on my doorstep with a loaf of bread! This theme continued for the duration of our two week stay! Tradition also dictates that when you have tucked into the meal or snack that has been given, you should always return the plate with something on it. This can be anything you want but Turkish cakes or biscuits always go down well!
If you are ever invited around for a meal, it is customary to take a gift. Alcohol should be avoided and gift wrapped gifts are also uncommon. Baklava or pastries are usually a good choice but decorative items for the home can also be given. If there are children in the household, it is also customary to being some sweet treats with you.
Shoes are generally not worn inside the home but, don’t worry, your host will give you a pair of slippers, a small arsenal being readily available for any guests that should appear!
It is customary to say “Hos Bulduk” as a greeting when you arrive for your meal, which means you are happy to be here. Unless you are otherwise greeted, it is also the expectation that the eldest member of the family should be greeted first, as a matter of respect, and this is usually a light kiss to the back of the hand.
If you’ve been invited to dinner, it would be my advice to starve yourself for a few days prior to the event in order to accommodate the amount of food that will be brought to the table! The meal will be big, and will be followed by fruits, nuts and pastries.
If your hosts are living in a modern city apartment, your meal will probably be served at the table. However, in a village home, a round table is usually placed in the middle of the floor and everyone will sit around it and help themselves to food placed in the middle. It’s also not uncommon to find yourself sitting on a blanket on the floor, picnic style.
If you really want to impress your hosts, at the end of the meal, it is customary to say “Elinize Saglik” to the cook. This means health to your hands and shows your appreciation of your meal.
At the end of the meal, it’s also polite to offer to help with the washing up. In Turkey washing up is usually done under a running tap and not in a washing up bowl, as in most Western countries. The reason for this is that Muslims do not believe in bathing or washing in what is considered to be stagnant water. It’s also the reason why you can never find the plug in your hotel room!
However, the most important thing for you to remember about Turkish hospitality, and the biggest honour you can bestow on your host, is to enjoy yourself!