Doing business in Türkiye

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The Republic of Turkey (or Türkiye as it is now known) is a fascinating country that straddles the continents of Europe and Asia, making it a bridge between the East and the West. With its vast and varied geography, Türkiye is home to stunning landscapes, from the rugged mountains of the eastern regions to the beautiful Mediterranean and Aegean coastlines.

Türkiye has a population of approximately 84 million people, making it one of the most populous countries in the region. More than nine-tenths of the population is Muslim. Nevertheless, Türkiye is a secular country.

Business culture in Türkiye

The Turkish people are proud of their country and its history. Patriotism is an important cultural value, and the Turkish flag is a symbol of national pride. Turkish people are also known for their warm and welcoming hospitality towards guests. This is reflected in the concept of "misafirperverlik" or hospitality towards guests, which is deeply ingrained in Turkish culture.

When working with counterparts in Türkiye, it is customary to greet people with a handshake, and in more traditional settings, with a slight bow. When greeting someone, it is also common to use the honorific "Efendim" (Sir/Madam) or "Hanim" (Madam/Mrs) as a sign of respect.

Building personal relationships and trust is important in Turkish management culture. This is reflected in the concept of "güven," which means trust, and is considered a key factor in business relationships.

The work culture tends to be hierarchical, with clear lines of authority and a respect for seniority and experience. This is influenced by Türkiye's history and cultural values, which prioritise social order, respect for authority, and a strong sense of community. In Turkish businesses, managers and supervisors are expected to lead and direct their subordinates, and employees are expected to follow instructions and respect the authority of their superiors. This can result in a more formal and structured work environment, with a clear chain of command.

In addition, there is a strong emphasis on loyalty and long-term relationships. It is common for employees to stay with the same employer for many years, and for employers to value and reward loyalty and dedication from their employees.

"Saving face" is an important aspect of the culture. The concept of "yüz" (face) is central and refers to a person's reputation, dignity, and honour. It is important to maintain one's own face and to avoid causing others to lose face. In practical terms, this means that people in Türkiye may avoid confrontation or direct criticism in order to avoid causing embarrassment or loss of face.

In practice, this means that Turkish communication can often involve the use of indirect language, such as euphemisms, metaphors, or hints, in order to convey a message without causing offense or embarrassment. It is also common to use nonverbal cues and context to convey meaning, rather than relying solely on explicit language. In addition, in Turkish culture, it is often expected that people will understand the intended meaning behind a statement or message, even if it is not stated explicitly. This can make it important to pay close attention to nonverbal cues, context, and underlying cultural values in order to fully understand the meaning of a message.

In general, meetings in Türkiye tend to be more formal and hierarchical than in some other cultures. There may be some discussion and negotiation around the agenda items before the meeting starts. During the meeting, it is important to listen carefully to what others are saying and to show respect for their opinions, even if there are disagreements. Interrupting someone or speaking out of turn is generally considered impolite, and it is important to maintain a calm and respectful demeanour. At the end of the meeting, it is common to summarise the key points that were discussed and to confirm any action items or next steps.

Türkiye has a long history of entrepreneurship and trade, and many people in Türkiye are willing to take risks in order to pursue business opportunities. This can be seen in the number of small businesses and startups that are launched every year. At the same time, there is also a preference for established institutions and ways of doing things, rather than experimentation for innovation’s sake.

If you are invited to a Turkish home, it is considered good etiquette to remove your shoes at the door and wait for the host to invite you to sit down. It is also polite to compliment the food and thank the host for their hospitality. It is customary to bring a small gift as a token of appreciation. Flowers, chocolates, or small souvenirs from your home country are all good choices. The Turkish generally have quite a relaxed sense of humour. Playful teasing and banter is common and accepted.

Türkiye has a rich history and culture, and it is important to show respect for religious and cultural traditions. When visiting mosques or other religious sites, it is important to follow the customs and rules of the site, such as removing your shoes or for women covering your head.

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Inspired? If you want to learn how you can work more effectively with your Turkish colleagues, clients or supplier, contact us for a 'Doing business in Türkiye' sample course outline.  All training is tailored to meet your needs and delivered at a location of your choice.

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