Fascinating Turkish Traditions and Culture
Ready for a magical trip to Turkey? Brush up on a few fascinating cultures and traditions that you are likely to come across on your holiday to Turkey.
Turkey is among the world’s top 5 countries for tea growing, so it is no wonder that their tea culture is steeped in tradition. Turkish tea or çay (chai') is drunk from dawn to dusk and every home has a pot of tea brewing ready for drinking or to offer guests. Visit a tea garden on your Turkish travels for the whole experience. Tea is served in tulip shaped glasses and milk is never added. Everywhere you go in Turkey it is customary to be offered a cup of tea as a sign of welcome. Honor this custom as a guest in this beautiful country and accept the gesture of tea. Drinking tea together is a sign of respect and friendship.
Food makes up a large part of Turkish traditions and culture. The coming and sharing meals together is very important to the Turks. Breakfast being at the start of the day sets the tone for the family coming together to share a meal and celebrate their unity. Breakfast in Turkey can even last hours when possible. A classic Turkish breakfast, or “kahvalti,” is a sumptuous feast of bite-sized delicacies. Black and green olives, many different types of cheeses, breads, cured meats, pastries, spreads…you name it, and it’s there and bursting with flavour. And of course, no breakfast is complete without eggs. A Turkish favourite is Sucuklu yumurta, which where dried sausages and eggs are cooked together in a pan. A strong cup of tea is the preferred choice of drink to accompany breakfast.
The tradition of the Turkish baths is well recorded in the history books. Its roots stem from the importance of cleanliness in the Muslim culture and merge with the bathing traditions from the Roman and Byzantine era. The Turkish baths were and still are a place where young or old, rich or poor and generally just people from all different walks of life come together and relax, cleanse, share stories and gossip. Men and women are separate. You can wear your bathing costume and cover up with a large towel. There are several historical Turkish baths in Istanbul that you can visit for the full traditional experience.
Haggling at Markets:
The traditional Turkish markets are a big attraction for visiting foreigners. Here you can seemingly find anything and everything, from fresh produce to exquisite linens and glassware. This market culture can be traced back to the Byzantine era, and there are some incredibly beautiful and historical markets to visit in Istanbul. Bargaining, or haggling, is a Turkish tradition and you’ll find yourself walking away with many a bargain if you are patient enough. Let the shopkeeper quote you on the first price and go from there.
The Evil Eye:
One of the first things you’ll spot upon your arrival to Turkey is the evil eye bead. For over 5000 years the Turks have used this blue glass bead to ward off bad energy. The blue of the glass is thought to radiate positive energy and embody good karma. You can find bracelets, keychains, jewellery and more at the Turkish markets for purchase. The perfect souvenir from Turkey that doubles as a good luck charm.
The Whirling Dervishes:
An entrancing spectacle to behold, the whirling dervish is a holy man clad all in swirling white attire. He spins in a traditional dance to become closer to God. Whirling is a ritual performed by the mystical order of Islam, Sufism. This religious order was established in 1312 by the poet Rumi. Sufism practitioners pride themselves on their tolerant beliefs, believing that humans were created out of love, in order to love. You can watch this traditional spinning dance in Istanbul.
‘Sevgi, Saygı, Sadakat’, in English this means love, respect, loyalty. In essence this is where hand kissing became a cultural thing. The hand kisser can express these sentiments in the act of bowing their head to kiss a hand. Usually, the hand being kissed is that of someone older. Gathering and religious holidays are generally when hands are kissed. It is also tradition that the elderly give children a little sweet or some money after their hands are kissed.
Shoes Outside Please:
You may note on your travels to Turkey that the Turks never enter their homes with their shoes on. Cleanliness is the reason for this, and as a guest you will be expected to leave your shoes outside as well. It is also customary to be offered a pair of slippers to wear around the house.
In Turkey it is a group effort to care for the cats that roam the city. Everywhere you go you’ll see bowls of dry cat food and water placed outside. Cats are even allowed to enter homes and holy places as they are considered clean animals. The cats are generally very friendly from all the love they receive and may even want to sunbathe on your lap while you drink your Turkish tea.
Book a Turkey holiday package and immerse yourself in this beautiful and unique country.