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Turkish Body Language

6/19/2010

Turkish Body Language

Non-verbal communication can help or hinder a conversation just as easily as words can. And this is where it might get tricky in Turkey if you don’t understand the meaning of certain body language.

To help you understand what Turks really mean but do not say – and how to avoid inadvertently giving offence – we list a few examples here:

 

Tutting or clicking your tongue. Yes and no.

In certain countries in the West, clicking your tongue at someone is used to show displeasure. You are unhappy or angry, as such it is considered rude to tut at someone. Not so in Turkey. Look out for it – chances are once you first notice it, you’ll see it everywhere.  You’ll also notice that is accompanied by a quick upwards tilt of the head and raised eyebrows. So what does it mean? It means no. No, they do not want a glass of tea; no, they do not want to buy this carpet, for example.  This is one of the hardest gestures for other nationalities to adopt. The traditional shaking of your head at a Turk actually means that you are confused. Likewise, a sharp downwards nod of the head combined with a longer than average blink means yes. 

Kissing and touching

The Turkish are much more tactile than Westerners. It is very common to see two men walking with their arms around each other or sometimes even holding hands. It does not say anything about their sexuality; just that they are close friends. It is useful to bear in mind that men tend to get physically closer to one another in Turkey than in many other countries; it is not something to feel threatened or awkward about.The Turkish too like to kiss one another – one kiss on each cheek – when meeting. This can be done man to man, woman to woman or woman to man. This means that you are close to that person. In some resorts, it may also be used to welcome return guests to a restaurant, for instance.If you are not close to the other person, it is usual to just shake hands. A man’s handshake with a woman, however, will often be very soft, sometimes even limp.If someone is very religious, they may not touch the other person at all. 

Staring

Turks tend to stare at one another, and foreigners, much more than Westerners are used to. It is not something to feel singled out by, though it can be a little intimidating at first for Westerners who are constantly told that it is rude to stare!Other positive gestures:

Palm up, bringing fingers in towards the thumb

This is a compliment. It can be used to mean that the food, new clothes or a new car etc… is good. It can also be used to demonstrate that a man or woman is attractive. 

Hand kissing – usually by someone younger to someone older

This is a mark of respect. 

Come here

 If a Turk waves his hand downwards in a scooping motion, while saying to you Gel, gel! (Come, come!), he is asking for you to come or to follow him. 

 

Gestures to avoid

There are certain hand gestures and actions that are considered offensive in Turkey – some of which may be perfectly acceptable in your own country. They include: 

  • The OK hand gesture (when your forefinger touches your thumb) – in other countries this is a positive sign, in Turkey it is not. It means you are accusing someone of being a homosexual and is considered very bad.
  • In Turkey, it is rude to point your finger at someone.
  • It is also rude to sit with the sole of your shoe raised and pointing at someone – the sole of the foot is the lowest part of the body and is considered unclean.
  • Blowing your nose loudly in public is considered very bad manners
  • Remember playing ‘got your nose’ with children? Best to avoid it in Turkey. That’s because if you make a fist and put your thumb between your index finger and middle finger, you are making a gesture called a fig. This is telling someone to F*** off.
  • The idle habit of snapping your fingers and then slapping the top of a closed fist is possibly one of the most offensive gestures for the Turkish people. This is considered obscene.
  • Stroking the chin with your fingers while starring at a woman is a sign of sexual intent. 

 

Chances are if you go to a tourist resort in the west of the country and inadvertently make one of these gestures, they will give you the benefit of the doubt, but it’s best to avoid if you can!

 

Have you seen any other gestures people should know about? Add your comments below.





NomadQueen, taylortgq and FionaEAitken liked this essay

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