The more cross cultural skills you develop, the easier it is to conduct business in a different country. Therefore, if you’re visiting Turkey on business, it isn’t enough to understand local customs, you also need to familiarize yourself with business etiquette. This way, you know how to act in all business settings -- whether you’re attending a meeting in an office, or enjoying a business meal.
Here are simple and practical tips to help you master business etiquette in Turkey.
Business Meetings and Negotiations
- Firmly shake hands when meeting a business colleague. For the most part, men also shake hands with women. -- although this greeting is less common in rural Turkey. If you’re unsure whether to shake a female colleague’s hand, only shake hands if she extends her hand first.
- When addressing a Turkish business person, first names are commonly used, followed by Bey or Bayan. This is the equivalent of Mr. and Mrs., respectively. If the business person has a professional title, such as Dr. or Prof., you can address the person by title only, or use their title followed by their first name.
- Business is not usually conducted on the initial meeting. This meeting is primarily to build a working relationship and engage in light conversation. It is okay to ask a Turkish business person about his or her children, and you can also inquire about the culture and history of the country. Many Turks are also happy to talk about their favorite football (soccer) team.
- Since Turks are oral and visual communicators, it’s important to use maps, graphs and charts when giving a presentation.
- When negotiating with a Turkish business person, proposals should not only focus on the financial benefits. You should also focus on other aspects, such as power, honor, respect and non-monetary incentives.
- Many businesses in Turkey are family-owned, and many Turks only do business with those they like and trust.
- The decision process is slow. Often times, you will first negotiate with a less senior member of a family business or company. And if this person believes that you’re trustworthy, you’ll be invited to meet with senior members. Decisions are made by the head of a company or family.
- To achieve a desired goal, be prepared to make a few concessions when negotiating.
- Turks do not respond well to pressure tactics. If you set a deadline, they may threaten to end negotiations.
- Arrive on time for meetings, although it’s not considered rude to be late in social settings.
Present a business card with one or both hands. Understand, however, that some Turkish business people will not hand out a business card unless they plan to start a business relationship with you. Turkish is the official language of Turkey. If necessary, translate one side of your business card into Turkish, and bring an interpreter. Many Turkish professionals however do speak English but it is best to check before going to the meeting.
Conservative styles are common in business settings. For men, this includes a suit, or a suit without a tie. Women typically wear skirts and dresses around knee length and tops that cover their shoulders. Revealing and tight clothing and excessive make-up are unacceptable. Women rarely wear suits and pants in business settings, but this style of dress is acceptable in some situations. Business casual dress is acceptable during the hotter months.
Business meals are common in Turkey. This is an opportunity for colleagues to relax and enjoy good conversation. The host always pays for the meal. Thank your host for the meal, and return the favor by inviting him or her to dinner a few days later. When taking a guest to dinner, tell the restaurant not to accept a payment from your guest.
Gifts are not expected in business settings. But if your host invites you to his or her home for dinner or a drink, you can bring alcohol, desserts, chocolates or a plant holder as a gift.
You might feel overwhelmed, and you may fear embarrassing yourself. However, adapting to the local business culture is easier than you might think. It’s all a matter of knowing how to greet your host, how to conduct yourself in meetings and how to be a gracious guest. Turkey is certainly not as intimidating as many Muslim countries and for the most part is secular. Good luck