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Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication

Even though there are similarities with Germany as far as body language and gestures are concerned, everyday life is characterised by a series of important differences as well. The differences become clear for instance, as far as dress-code, greetings or taboo topics are concerned.

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Body language

Important differences between Germany and Turkey are for instance displayed by the gestures that are used. Whereas the German shakes his head to mean “no”, the Turk does this often by throwing his head back. Apologies are often not communicated verbally, but by means of a specific posture, for instance by lowering one’s head with the hands in one’s lap.

Eye contact
Eye contact, on the other hand, is more or less comparable in the German and Turkish culture. The most important difference: whilst the German, when he is spoken to, first finishes his task and only then addresses the other person, the Turk reacts immediately, as his behaviour would otherwise be taken to be discourteous or arrogant.

Proximity and distance
Spatial behaviour also deviates somewhat: in contrast to cultures in the north, Turks have more body contact. Kisses on the cheek or walking arm-in-arm is normal, even among those of the same sex. The spatial distance during talks between business partners is often closer than in Germany.

Smells can deviate strongly between different cultures: food in Turkey often smells different due to the differing herbs and spices used. Even today, Kolonya (Eau de Cologne) is occasionally presented at the greeting – this can smell strongly of limes or roses.

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In the large urban areas of Turkey there is basically no difference to western culture regarding clothing.  
However, the mixture in Turkey is more distinct: one sees the traditional “harem pants” alongside English tailored suits, headscarf and Çarşaf (full covering of women with the “bed sheet”) alongside business costume.


Revealing clothing should, however, be avoided in rural areas and, when visiting a mosque, the arms and legs must be covered. Female visitors must also additionally cover their heads. Important mosques attach special importance to this tradition and hand out scarves at the entrance to the mosque

During private visits to a house, shoes must be removed at the entrance.
“Topless“ bathing by female guests at the pool or on the beach is tolerated, but not welcomed. Devout men often wear a full beard. A moustache is often a sign of conservatism.

In Turkey, men kiss each other on the left and right cheek

Forms of greeting and courtesy

The intimated kiss on the cheek is possible with well acquainted persons, even of the same sex, but is not expected of foreign business partners.
To avoid misunderstandings, the guest should not use this form of greeting.
Women greet each other usually very intimately.
The handshake is normal between business partners

It can happen that, between devout women and men, the handshake is wished to be avoided between the sexes. It is sometimes difficult to recognise who abides by this rule. Sometimes, even women with the head scarf offer their hand, with men, their origin can help draw conclusions. It can be helpful to wait until others have greeted each other in order to then apply the "correct" ritual. Men who do not offer their hand to women, place their hand on their chest and bend slightly forward.

The intimated kissing of the hand of elders and the placing of the hand on the forehead whilst bending slightly forward are intended to be  gestures of reverence. These gestures will also for certain not be expected of a foreign business partner.

Not even allowed in Paradise!

Taboos - not even allowed in Paradise!

Don´t do! - avoid at all costs:

  • Politically controversial issues such as the Kurdish or Armenian problems and/or human rights violations should be avoided, as any statement on these topics will be understood as interference in Turkish internal affairs; recently, criticism of this kind from the European Union is being understood as political turn screw, characterised by double standards.
  • Distinctive hospitality is the expression of Turkish culture: it is obligatory, even for people from poor backgrounds, to slaughter, for instance, their last lamb for their guest; it is best not to accept such an invitation, giving apologies and a courteous reason.
    If an invitation is turned down, apologies and a reason for the refusal should always be given.
  • The removal of one’s jacket is often taken as being discourteous, as etiquette is removed with it; if it is very hot, it is best to ask permission from your host.
  • Blowing one’s nose in public is very much frowned upon.
  • Expressed appreciation of objects in households or in the business partner’s office can sometimes end with the presentation of this object as a gift; thus, restraint is advised here.

Do!  - that's the right way:

  • Appreciation for EU-entry endeavours and solidarity with modern Turkey goes down well, because business people in Turkey wish to be recognised as western.
  • Respect for religion is also welcomed in secular Turkey.
  • A few words in the Turkish language will usually well please your business partner.
  • Meet the distinctive hospitality with a return invitation.

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