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How to Do Business in Turkey

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Turkey mapTurkey is strategically positioned at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East and the U.S. is Turkey’s fourth largest trading partner. Careful planning and patience are the keys to succeed in Turkey. Companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola, GE, Procter & Gamble and Phillip Morris, as well as international investment institutions like the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation have already selected Turkey as a regional base.

Turkey is fast becoming a production centre for Europe in diverse industries, but in particular in automotives. English is the dominant language for international business. The currency is the Turkish lira.

With her high growth potential, qualified workforce and managers, and the entrepreneurial spirit, Turkey provides an important potential market for global businesses. Furthermore, regional political stability can only be established on a sustainable basis if the economic development spreads throughout the region. The engine for growth in the Balkans, Caucuses, Central Asia, and the Middle East is likely to be Turkey.

The People

Turks are extremely patriotic. They are proud of their ancestors and of the achievements of their modern society. The family is the most important social unit. Each person is dependent upon and loyal to the family. Rural life is still traditional, but in cities women frequently work outside the home.

Meeting and Greeting

  • Shake hands with everyone present—men, women and children—at a business or social meeting. Shake hands with elders first. Shake hands again when leaving.
  • It is common for Turkish men and women to cheek-kiss one another when meeting and parting.

Body Language

  • "Yes” is a slight downward nod of the head. “No” is a slight upward nod of the head while making a quick, sucking sound through your two front teeth (like “tsk”).
  • Turks generally have a small area of personal space and may stand closer than most foreigners are used to.
  • Never point the sole of your foot toward a person.
  • Turks, most of whom are devout Muslims, may avoid looking into your eyes in a display of humble behavior.
  • Do not stand with your hands on your hips when talking to others, especially older people or superiors, or put your hands in your pockets.
  • In Turkey, putting your thumb between your first two fingers is the equivalent to raising your middle finger in the United States.
  • The “O.K.” sign in Turkey means that someone is homosexual.

Corporate Culture

  • Turks take punctuality for business meetings very seriously and expect that you will do likewise; call with an explanation if you are delayed.
  • Consideration, politeness, respect and courtesy are very important to the Turks. Shake hands with each person upon arriving at an office. When visiting a factory, shake hands with all the workers when you arrive and again when you leave.
  • Turks engage in small talk before they begin business discussions.
  • Decisions are made at the top.

On the Bosphorus, photo taken by Mark Ritter

Dining and Entertainment

  • Be punctual for a dinner party. 7:00 p.m. means 7:00 p.m.
  • Business can be discussed at anytime during the meal, but you must get a feel from your business counterpart.
  • Some Turks who are Muslim drink alcohol, but those Turks who are strict Muslims never do.
  • Hosts will probably expect you to eat a great deal and may be offended if you don’t.
  • When finished eating, leave no food on your plate, and place your knife and fork side by side on your plate.
  • “Dutch treat” does not exist in Turkey. If you invite someone to dine, you pay the bill.


  • For business, men should wear conservative suits or a sports coat and tie. In very hot weather, men may go without a jacket, but they still wear a tie.
  • Women should wear suits, dresses and heels. Avoid short skirts, low-cut blouses or shorts.


  • Always bring the hostess a gift when invited to someone’s home. Do not bring a gift that is too lavish. Give: flowers (roses or carnations), candy, chocolates, wine (if host drinks). Do not give alcohol if you are not sure whether your host drinks.
  • Don’t expect your hostess to open a gift when presented.
  • Gifts may be exchanged in business. Give gifts made in America that are not expensive, i.e. crystal, desk accessories, pens, gifts with company logo. Do not give overly personal gifts.

Helpful Hints

  • Turks ask even casual acquaintances what Americans consider to be very personal questions (age, salary, etc.). However, do not ask such personal questions until a friendship has been established.

Especially for Women

  • Foreign women are very welcome and accepted in Turkey.
  • In general, conservative attitudes toward women exist in Turkey, but Turkish men tend to be very respectful.
  • It is acceptable for a foreign businesswoman to invite a Turkish businessman to dinner, and it is easy for her to pay.

Excerpted from eDiplomat; adapted from material compiled by Window on the World, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm. Originally based on material contained in the “Put Your Best Foot Forward” series of books by Mary Murray Bosrock.

Mary Bosrock
International Education Systems
1814 Hillcrest Avenue, Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55116
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