Society & Etiquette
Turkish society is a unique mix of cosmopolitanism and conservatism, with large cities like Istanbul, Ankara or Izmir generally being fairly liberal, while the eastern and rural provinces of the country tend to be more traditional. It is very common to be offered tea at business meetings, which is followed by a casual discussion. Initial topics of conversation should focus on personal, rather than workrelated matters: inquiring about someone’s health, family and origins is generally a good way to break the ice and make everyone comfortable. Turks often find Westerners who skip the personal discussion rude.
English is commonly spoken by members of the business community; however, it is advisable to confirm whether a translator will be needed ahead of a meeting. Learning a few Turkish phrases will facilitate everyday interactions and is appreciated; interpretive gestures will also do wonders. All major cities have foreign language centres that offer Turkish courses.
There are several official holidays during which time banks, offices and businesses are closed. Holidays often see increased delays in travel as well as traffic congestion. Dates to remember are National Sovereignty and Children’s Day on April 23, Atatürk Commemoration and Youth & Sports Holiday on May 19, Victory Day on August 30, and Republic Day on October 29. Religious holidays are also respected; but dates vary according to Islam’s lunar calendar.
Many restaurants will include a 10-15% gratuity charge on the bill, listed as a servis. Smaller establishments will sometimes expect a voluntary 5-10% contribution, although this is not a rule. It is not generally common to tip taxi drivers, as they often round service fees up to the nearest lira.
Internet & Phone
There are internet cafes in all cities and most hotels offer Wi-Fi. There are three main operators offering mobile services, including 3G technology. For extended stays, it is necessary to register mobile phones that were purchased abroad, as the country has restricted unregistered phone usage to one month.
Tourist visas may be obtained online prior to arrival, or at the airport, and are required for most nationalities. If getting a visa at the airport, it must be purchased before going through passport control at a separate window. Other visas may be requested at the Turkish embassy or any Turkish consulate in your country of residence before departure. Most citizens from the EU as well as citizens from Canada and the US can get a multiple-entry, three-month visa for €16 to €47.
Acceptable hygiene standards are enforced throughout the country; however it is prudent to drink only bottled water. Turkish food is mostly healthy, fresh and enjoyable, with many options available for all types of diets. Along the coasts, the “Mediterranean” diet is common, while the interior relies heavily on red meat and vegetables. Pharmacies ( eczane) are plentiful and run a rota system for night-time and Sunday service. Large cities have a selection of health care facilities, including public and private hospitals, though private health care tends to be expensive. If in doubt, contact your insurance provider or embassy. Receptionists and nurses may not speak English, most doctors do.
Negotiating traffic during peak hours may prove quite challenging in Istanbul, and to a lesser extent in other major cities. Public transport has improved considerably over the past decade and most big cities maintain efficient bus or tram lines.
Istanbul also has an underground metro system that, while less extensive than those typically found in other European cities, is the most efficient transport method during peak hours. Taxis are plentiful, metered and relatively inexpensive, but local driving habits may seem eccentric. Other modes of transport in Istanbul include ferries, minibuses and shared vans known as dolmufl. Tokens or travel cards are available in most shops and convenience stores, as well as metro stations.
Electricity is 220V and follows the standard, round two-pin plugs. Power adapters are available in airports and specialised shops. Power surges may damage laptops, thus it is advisable to use a protector.
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