SOCIETY & ETIQUETTE: Tea drinking is ubiquitous in Turkey and it is a common feature of both casual exchanges and business meetings. Offering once is considered incomplete, so to politely refuse any offering of food or drink one may have to decline twice. In the same way, Turks will often politely refuse an offering of food or drink on the first offer, but politely insisting a second time is regarded as a sincere sign of one’s willingness to share, at which point they may accept. Typical conversation openers should focus on the person’s origins, not on work. Showing interest in someone’s health, family or other close relationships is also polite. Turkey is fairly cosmopolitan so it is generally acceptable to behave in a manner typical to Europe. Women are generally safe walking alone; however, this may be anomalous in eastern and rural parts of the country, where a more conservative culture pervades.
LANGUAGE: Turkish remains dominant throughout the country, and while many businesspeople speak English, the rapid success of a large number of Anatolian businesses has seen the ratio of English speakers among Turkish businesspeople decline compared to a decade ago. It is wise to confirm in advance whether a translator will be needed for a business meeting. English speakers are less prevalent in the services industry (outside of hotels and tourist centres). Speaking some basic Turkish phrases is helpful in daily life and illustrates a degree of interest in Turkey that many businesspeople find valuable. Most major cities have foreign language centres that offer Turkish courses.
HEALTH: Turkey is a fairly developed country with a moderate climate, so chronic health problems are increasingly more challenging than acute diseases. Turkish food is generally very healthy, fresh and enjoyable, and typical of Mediterranean cuisine. Water, however, is a problem and it is wise to drink only bottled water. Cities generally have a selection of private international and local public hospitals, although private care will be expensive without insurance. Contact your local embassy or ask your hotel for a recommendation if necessary.
BUSINESS HOURS: The working week in Turkey runs from Monday to Friday. Most corporate offices open at 9.00am and close at 6.00pm. Banks and government offices generally close at 4.00pm or 5.00pm.
During the summer months, as well as the religious month of Ramadan, it is possible that some offices may start later and finish earlier.
ELECTRICITY: Electricity comes in at 220 V and follows the European standard, round two-pin plugs.
Adapters are available at airports and neighbourhood electrical shops. It is also advisable to use a protector for laptops, as there are frequent power surges VISAS: Visas are required for citizens of most countries, but are easily obtained upon arrival at any international airport. Prior to entering passport control, a visa should be purchased from a separate window. Visas may also be purchased at the Turkish embassy of your country of residence before departure. Visas for most European countries, the US, Canada and Australia are $20 or €15, and a multiple-entry visa lasts for three months.
TIPPING: Many high-end restaurants will include a 10-15% gratuity charge listed as servis on the bill. It is not typical to leave a tip at smaller establishments, though it is becoming more common to leave 5-10%. It is not common to tip a taxi driver unless it is deserved; however, it is normal to round taxi fees to the nearest lira.
TRANSPORTATION: Traffic in Istanbul, and less so in other large cities, is among the most costly challenges Turkey faces. While public transportation is expanding, it is best to avoid travelling during peak hours and plan in advance. Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul maintain fairly efficient tram and metro lines; however, these systems are not as extensive as those typically found in Europe. The Istanbul-Ankara rail line is closed until end-2013, as it is being upgraded to a high-speed line. Air travel to most Turkish cities is readily available from either Istanbul or Ankara, and is quite affordable. Taxis fares are calculated the same, day or night, and the meter runs even if the taxi is not moving.
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