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Common Turkish Customs in Istanbul

If you're traveling to Istanbul for business or pleasure, you may be wondering if the customs there are different than where you are from. Here's a look at some common tips for etiquette in Istanbul, as well as some information about typical customs you may encounter day to day while dining or shopping.


Istanbul is a multicultural city straddling two continents. Additionally, Istanbul is about 90% Muslim, so some aspects of etiquette may depend on the culture in which other people were raised.

Usually, two men greet each other by shaking hands. If they are close friends or family members, they may add a pat on the back. Two women would shake hands lightly when they are first introduced and perhaps give a kiss on the cheek once they know each other better.

When greeting someone of the opposite sex in Istanbul, it's best to take your cue from the other person. They may be of a religious background that does not allow touching a person of the opposite sex. Also, all touching of any kind should be above the waist only.

Get Togethers

When meeting for business purposes, you should always show up at the scheduled time. However, when getting together for a social occasion, many people in Turkey will arrive a bit late, so don't panic, and don't show up on the nose when invited to someone's home.

If you are going to visit friends at home, always bring a small gift. Stay away from alcohol unless you know they drink, and offer a box of sweets like Turkish Delight (lokum), flowers or a food delicacy instead.

General Manners

Here are some other tips regarding manners while in Istanbul:

⦁ It is considered rude to point.

⦁ Do not blow your nose loudly in public.

⦁ Excessive public displays of affection are frowned on.

⦁ Never sit with the bottom of your foot pointing at another person.

⦁ Refrain from eating in public during Ramadan.

⦁ Always dress in appropriate covered clothing when entering a mosque.

⦁ Do not photograph people in the act of prayer.

⦁ Stay away from overly revealing clothing.

Food Customs

Istanbul has so many wonderful food customs you may hate to return home again! You may be familiar with thick Turkish coffee, but did you know that most Turks drink a specially brewed tea throughout the day? It is served in pretty tulip-shaped glasses virtually everywhere you go.

For an on-the-go snack with tea, juice or cheese, many people enjoy simit, a bagel-like baked good sold on the street. Another popular snack is Turkish ice cream (dondurma), which is stretchier and slower to melt than what you're probably used to.

Kir pidesi is a pita bread-type of treat stuffed with your choice of beef, cheese, spinach or potatoes. When people want something more substantial, a typical Istanbul breakfast consists of hot and cold items, like olives, cheeses, meats and even soup.

Istanbul food is usually seasoned with distinct spices like red pepper flakes, nigella seeds, cumin, sumac, oregano and mint. Ginger, pine nuts and sesame are also commonly included. You can sample authentic Turkish food at a meyhane, a traditional restaurant that also serves alcohol. Try Raki, the national drink of Turkey that tastes like licorice and often accompanies fish or humus.

At Hotel Büyük Keban we offer an enormous breakfast buffet every morning with a wide selection of foods to make everyone in your group happy.

Other Tips for Fitting In

A few last pointers to help you feel at ease in Istanbul:

⦁ Take off your shoes before going inside someone's home.

⦁ Bargaining is expected at the bazaars.

Try a traditional Turkish bath, also called a hamam, while in Istanbul.

⦁ If your shoes need a shine or quick repair, stop at one of the many shoeshine stands you'll find around the city.

⦁ Tipping is almost always done with cash and only in paper currency if using foreign money.

Your concierge at Hotel Büyük Keban can help you with tipping advice and anything else you need to feel comfortable here and enjoy your stay in Istanbul. Contact us today to make your reservation, and we'll do our best to help you feel at home from the moment you walk through the front door until you check out at the end of your stay.

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