Turkey serves as a bridge between Asia and Europe, not only in terms of its strategic geographical location but also in cultural, social, and political perspectives. The country’s lands span Anatolia (Asia) and Thrace (Europe), providing a unique setting where numerous great civilizations have flourished throughout history. These civilizations have contributed to a cultural and ethnic richness, creating a harmonious blend of East and West, traditional and modern, old and new.
The cultural tapestry of Turkey is evident in its diverse elements, whether you explore the bustling metropolises or the smallest cities. Each corner of the country reflects a fusion of cultural elements, traditions, beliefs, and different languages or dialects.
Present-day Turkey is home to people from various religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, encompassing communities and empires that have left indelible marks on history. Positioned on migration and trade routes, Turkey has evolved into a melting pot of diversity. Perhaps as a consequence of this diversity, the people of Turkey are known for their harmonious coexistence, friendliness, hospitality, and helpfulness. This cultural richness and the spirit of unity among diverse communities contribute to the unique identity of Turkey as a bridge between continents and cultures.
Sincere Human Relations
In Turkey, the Interest and curiosity towards foreigners is a common attitude. There is no hesitation in communicating with new people, and intimacy can even be developed in a short time. As a new resident of your city, university or dormitory, there will be people who want to meet and talk to you.
In Turkey, you’ll quickly observe that verbal communication is often characterized by a lively and “noisy” atmosphere, which may stand out compared to many other societies. It’s not uncommon to witness individuals making sudden loud comments or bursts of laughter. This behavior is not indicative of conflict or disagreement but rather reflects an enthusiasm that easily emerges in conversations. Furthermore, it’s common to see people engaging in physical contact, such as chatting or joking while touching each other, as a natural part of social interaction. This physical closeness is a customary aspect of communication in Turkey.
Strong Family and Friendship Ties
In Turkish society, sharing food, clothes, emotions and secrets is common, whether for solidarity or as a courtesy. People do not prefer to be alone in many senses, and family and friendship relationships are vital in this sense. If you ask anyone in Turkey, regardless of their age, gender or social position, you will get the answer that they have a close friend from their neighborhood or school, particularly from the university.
Friends sometimes excel even family members in terms of closeness and depth of sharing. The existence of the concept of “friend” in Turkish, unlike “friend”, also indicates this. If you decide to study in Turkey, you can gain not only a good diploma, but also lifelong friendships giving you confidence and peace.
In Turkish society, the practice of visiting family, friends, and neighbors is a common and cherished tradition. Being hosted as a guest is regarded with great respect, almost as a sacred experience for the Turkish people. When you visit the home of a close friend or relative, you can expect to be treated with utmost hospitality. The host will go to great lengths to ensure your comfort, offering an abundance of meals or snacks, encouraging you to stay longer, and, if you choose to stay overnight, even offering their own room or bed.
Turkish society also exhibits widespread sympathy, particularly towards students. If you are a young student or employee living far from your family, it’s not uncommon for a neighbor to knock on your door one evening and offer you dinner. The sense of community extends to small gestures like sharing basic household items; if you run out of salt in your kitchen, your dorm roommate or next-door neighbor is likely to be more than willing to help.
Turkey’s hospitality is not limited to its citizens. The country has opened its doors to millions of refugees forced to flee their countries due to war, showcasing a remarkable demonstration of hospitality and compassion. Turkey has consistently exemplified its commitment to offering support and assistance to those in need.
Giving a Gift
Turkish people love sharing and giving gifts. Novelteies are often celebrated by giving and receiving gifts. As an exmple, a gift is given when your friend moves to a new house, when you are a guest at a house for the first time, or when a new baby is born. As a student from a different country, you will have acquaintances who would like to present you with a gift. Not accepting a gift or a treat offered at the house you are a guest in may offend people.
Catering is a concept that is difficult to translate into other languages. Treating is a way to welcome the guest and is a presentation made in a short-term encounter or meeting environment. Like gifts, treats are offered free of charge, but they do not require closeness in the established relationship and are on a smaller scale. For example, refreshments are offered in restaurants or in an institution you visit as a guest. You will soon observe that one of the most common treats is tea. Turks love to drink and serve tea.
Daily life in Turkish society is shaped around meals and long meals. The center of home life is the kitchen. Even in big cities, families often prefer to eat dinner together and at home. Especially after meals where guests are hosted, the table is not cleared immediately, long conversations are held, music is listened to and fun is had.
Turkish cuisine is world famous with its rich ingredients and dishes made with intense effort. You can taste these unique flavors in restaurants or in a house you are visiting. Cooking at home is very common. You can buy fresh cooking ingredients from greengrocers, supermarkets or markets held on certain days.
Although eating at home is common in Turkey, you also have a wide variety of satisfying options to fill your stomach outside, from traditional dishes to simple sandwiches. Restaurants and cafes offering red/white meat and seafood dishes and vegetarian alternatives are easily found in all major cities.
In restaurants, several types of snacks and appetizers are served before the meal you order arrives. Decide on your order, taking the treats into account. Remember that refreshments and jugs of water are free; Bottled water is chargeable!
Unlike many cultures, Turkish breakfast is a real meal and should not be skipped, as mothers recommend! Pastries such as bagels, pancakes and pastries are indispensable for a quick breakfast. But don’t be surprised to see that at a long, enjoyable weekend breakfast the table is strewn with: cheese, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, sausage, pastry, pancakes, jam, honey and, of course, tea.
Here are quick and affordable options for eating out:
Doner: You will see in the windows of many kebab restaurants in the city that the meat is cooked by rotating it on a vertical axis. This is döner kebab, a Turkish specialty. The good thing about doner for students is that it can also be eaten as a snack.
Manti: Manti, which has similar products in different countries, are dough pieces prepared by putting minced meat inside. It is usually served with yoghurt and tomato paste.
Soup: You will see that soup is made of everything in Turkey. Various vegetables and legumes are used in soups, which are mostly vegetarian and have plenty of water. Soups, including meat varieties, are ideal for a light lunch or dinner that a student might want.
Dried Beans & Rice: It is indispensable for the menus of university cafeterias and home-cooking restaurants. Pilaf is made from bulgur or rice and is often served with stews. It is said that when beans are eaten with rice, their nutritional value increases!
Pastry, Pancake, Pastry: Pastries are the basic foods that will save you at breakfasts and snacks. You can find many different varieties in university canteens, pastry shops and some restaurants: with vegetables, meat, cheese…
University Dining Halls & Canteens
Many universities have a cafeteria where students are served 2 or 3 meals a day. The prices of the meals, which you can choose from table d’hôte or à la carte, are very reasonable as they are subsidized by the government. In many universities, it is also possible to find canteens, restaurants and cafes in addition to the central cafeteria.