If you want to do business in Turkey successfully, you should proceed a little differently than you normally would at home. In today’s blog post, we’d like to give you some valuable tips on which cultural characteristics to keep in mind when it comes to your business in Turkey.
With around 81 million inhabitants, Turkey extends over both the Asian [97%] and European [3%] continents. Initially established as an agrarian state, the country is currently transitioning into an industrial society, which is most noticeable in the major cities such as Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.
Because the Turkish business world isn’t perfectly comparable with those of Europe or America, cultural misunderstandings occur time and again. In the worst case, these can cause business relationships to founder. To keep this from happening to you and to ensure that your standing with your Turkish business partners remains positive, we’ve compiled a few important tips for you.
While communication in certain business worlds tends to be more objective, this is usually not the case in Turkey. People are at the fore there, in both private and professional contexts. In short, people are more important than pure facts. What this means for you is that your professional expertise alone is most likely not enough for you to be considered a potential business partner in Turkey.
It also tends to be important to Turks to do business with people they know well and trust. You should thus give your Turkish partners the opportunity to get to know you thoroughly. Take time to build personal relationships with each other. Eat out together or go for a tea, and keep your discussions on a mostly private level. We’d like to give you three practical tips to that end:
- Because family plays a very important role in Turkey, this is a suitable discussion topic. Ask, for example, about children, and send your regards to the family [even if you haven’t met them]. This will score you some points. Other potential topics for chats include national tourist attractions, sports and culinary specialties. Avoid topics like politics and religion, as these can occasionally lead to controversial discussions.
- A small gift for the host is typically well received [e.g., sweets or flowers]. However, be careful about giving alcohol from your home region as a gift. Since your partners are from a Muslim country, make sure in advance that they actually drink alcohol.
- Experience has shown that the ice is easier to break if you can speak a few words in your counterparts’ native language. If you feel comfortable doing this, take advantage of the opportunity! Your Turkish business partners will certainly appreciate it. Here are a few easy examples: Hello = selam; please = lütfen; thank you = teşekkür.
Careful with criticism
Another thing to keep in mind when interacting with Turkish people is that their reputation has to be maintained. You should take this into account when doing business there, as this moral concept is firmly rooted in Turkish society. You can show respect for your Turkish partners’ reputations by, for example, not criticizing them openly in front of other people, avoiding direct refusals and always remaining polite and courteous.
Please keep in mind that cultures and their value systems are continually subject to change. Especially in a world as global as today’s, cultural values can no longer be seen as immutable and thus don’t necessarily have to apply to every person from a specific culture in equal measure. Keep this in the back of your mind when interacting with your Turkish business partners. If you need more detailed information on international business customs [e.g., regarding business meetings in the USA, leading Indian employees or cooperative project management], we recommend taking one of our cross-cultural trainings, which cover more than 80 different target countries.