Sitting at the crossroads where Europe meets Asia, Turkey unfolds to reveal a culture that vividly represents both Eastern and Western mindsets, plus everything in between. With a welcoming and friendly nature, people in Turkey have long been known for their gracious hospitality. Courteous and honest, they are generous hosts. They display great etiquette, even if they are not always punctual, choosing a more laid back approach to life. They may also be curious with questions and eager to learn about you.
In Turkey, elders are both respected and supported. People here have strong ties to their families and even to their relatives outside the household. The majority of Turkey's population is Muslim and their beliefs and lifestyle are closely tied to their religion.
Turkish is the main language spoken throughout Turkey; however English is spoken sporadically in the major cities and tourist areas, especially by the younger generation.
Islam is the predominant religion in Turkey. Other worldwide religions are also represented in very small numbers.
If visiting a Muslim home, bring a gift. It is traditional to remove your shoes and put on a pair of slippers. It is a traditional Turkish custom to sit cross-legged on the floor. Only fill a glass when empty, not when it is still half full.
Dress appropriately with legs and shoulders covered when visiting mosques, where you will need to leave your shoes at the door. Women will also need a head scarf.
Other customs are often dictated by religious beliefs, specifically Islamic traditions. Practicing Muslims are to pray five times a day - at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. The exact time is listed in the daily local newspaper.
The most popular sport in Turkey is football, known in America as soccer.
Rich Turkish cuisine takes its cues from Mediterranean, Central Asian, and Arabic menus, coming together in a symphony of fascinating flavors, colors and textures. Beef and lamb take the spotlight, blending with exotic, aromatic spices and an abundant use of eggplant (aubergine), onions, lentils and beans, tomatoes, garlic and cucumbers.
Get acquainted with the local favorites by trying the country's variety of stews, kebabs and borek, a layered pastry filled with cheese, spinach and/or ground meat. Rice, bulgar pilaf, grape leaves and sourdough bread are other staples. You won't see much pork in Turkey, however, as Muslims are forbidden to eat it.
Both tea and Turkish coffee play a substantial role in daily life. You'll likely enjoy them after a good meal, possibly served with pastries or some of the finest baklava you'll ever try, a pastry made of phyllo dough soaked in honey and spices then layered with finely ground nuts. If you haven't sampled Turkish delight, don't miss out! This gummy confection may contain dates, nuts and/or honey, flavored with rosewater.
Once you've developed a taste for incredibly strong Turkish coffee served in tiny cups, Turkey brims with other unusual beverages and concoctions. Raki (anise liquor sometimes called "lion's milk"), boza (made from fermented bulgur and sugar), ayran (a popular yogurt drink) and red poppy syrup (from red poppy petals with water and sugar) are ones to look for, as well as Turkish wines and beer.