The non verbal culture of the turkish people essay sample

Intercultural communication is a practical means of learning one’s own culture because the more you interact with foreigners; the more you become conscious of your distinct cultural background. With my country’s relative proximity to Europe and the prevalence of the Islamic religion, I believe that the Turkish culture is a combination of Western and Asian cultures.

Personal relationships are important among Turkish people.  More often than not, a Turkish will not simply approach a stranger, try to be friendly and start chatting with him or her. Hence, it would be more appropriate if proper or formal introductions are made by a common friend to facilitate any form of conversation.  However, establishing a personal relationship with a Turkish takes time.  Hence in most cases, Turks only mingle with people they know and respect who are often Turks themselves.

A common form of greeting among Turks especially among relatives and friends even among men is by kissing on one or both cheeks.  This apparently seemed bizarre in most Western countries.  As a sign of respect for older people, Turks kiss the hand or place their forehead onto an elder’s hand.  Also, the eldest is often the first to be greeted in a group.  Physical touch is an expression of respect. Greetings are one of the first things one should consider before talking because Turks place a high value on respect and courtesy.  Greetings are a sign of respect. In terms of courtesy, this can be accomplished in the topic of the discussion.  Formal discussions including business meetings usually start with socializations instead of getting to the point or business immediately.  In my personal experience, it would be nice to start conversations about other broad matters.  This may be about family, without necessarily being so inquisitive; sports preferably football; or about Turkey and its culture. Turks take pride in their country and culture and are quite enthusiastic to discuss about it.  And these small talks serve to create rapport and a sense of affinity.

Once a good relationship is established, Turks tend to stand close to the person while conversing.  While some people find this intimidating or an invasion of personal space, this gesture is actually a Turk’s act of being friendly.  Corollary to which, withdrawing or backing off can be construed as being aloof or surly.  Moreover, maintaining eye contact when talking is very important.  Turks are truthful people.  Eye contact is a sign of sincerity and honesty.  It is also a means of showing one’s full attention to the speaker which is a sign of respect. Hence, when a Turk stares directly to a woman while talking, this should not be seen as a form of sexual intimidation or an expression of resentment. Moreover, hand to cheek touching with a sharp stare conveys the idea that one is seriously listening, fully attentive and interested in what is being said, unless of course, the listener is closing his eyes and apparently looks bored.

A Turkish gesture that is often misinterpreted is the shaking of the head sideways.  While nodding of the head means that one understands what one is saying, the shaking of the head means one does not understand what is being said. In European culture, the shaking of the head is a gesture of disapproval or rejection. In the Turkish culture, it is a gesture of uncertainty hence, the speaker is entreated to continue talking or explaining to clear one’s message or idea.  A gesture of disapproval can be perceived when one is raising an eyebrow or tossing one’s head backwards.

Non verbal communication is critical in the Turkish culture because they represent more genuine and authentic expressions of thoughts than words can say.  Turks are by and large more emotional and affectionate. And these gestures communicate feelings and sentiments better. Indeed, “ The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said” (Peter Drucker taken from Icon Group International, Inc., 2008)


Icon Group International, Inc. Intercourse: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases. Icon Group International, Inc., 2008