Body Language in Turkey
Rationale: While we expect the language to be different when traveling to another country, we may not expect differences in the body language and gestures. Take the following Body Language quiz to see if you are ready to travel in Turkey!
TAKE THIS QUIZ
1. The gesture created when a circle is formed by touching the forefinger to the thumb means "ok."
FALSE. In Turkey this symbol means you are a homosexual. It is quite offensive.
2. The gesture created by protruding your thumb between the first and second finger has an extremely offensive meaning.
TRUE. This gesture is called "the fig" and is considered obscene throughout much of the Mediteranean area.
3. If a Turk waves their hand up and down at you, palm towards the ground, they are waving "goodbye."
FALSE. This gesture means just the opposite.They are signaling you to come.
4. The handshake is the most common greeting among friends.
FALSE. Male and female friends in Turkey greet by kissing each other on both cheeks.
5. Turks tend to stare at one another and foreigners more than Westerners are accustomed to.
TRUE. The Lets Go Turkey guide suggests "Westerners should not feel singled out or watched when such behavior occurs."
6. The "thumbs up" gesture is commonly used for hitchhiking.
TRUE. It can also mean "ok". In a college area of Turkey I saw students hitchiking with the thumb down. It meant the student only wanted a short ride somewhere close within campus not into town.
7. If you see someone holding their hand with palm up and slowly bringing fingers in toward thumb, they are cursing you.
FALSE. This gesture is a compliment and generally means something is "good." This may be done when talking to beautiful women.
8. Raising your chin and simultaneously clicking your tongue means "NO."
TRUE. A sharp downward nod means yes. Shaking your head sideways means, "I dont understand."
9. The idle habit of snapping your fingers with one hand and then slapping the top of a closed fist is considered obscene.
TRUE. This may be one of the rudest possible gestures and you may be asking for a fight.
10. Smiling, often interpreted in the West as outgoing and friendliness means the same in Turkey.
FALSE. In Turkey people dont smile as much as Westerners. They often interpret too much smiling as a lack of sincerity or even a degree of deception. Similarly, Westerners shouldnt think that just because Turks dont smile they are unhappy.
11. It is rude to point your finger or the sole of your shoe toward a person.
TRUE. Similarly, you should not use your finger to beckon a person. This gesture is used only for animals.
12. If you see two Turkish men sitting on a park bench, they will probably be sitting at opposite ends of the bench.
FALSE. Turks tend to touch much more than Westerners. It is not uncommon to see two men sitting very close on a park bench or two women walking down the street arm in arm.
Axtell, Roger. Gestures: Do and Taboos Around the World. Pp. 153-154.
Lets Go Turkey. New York: St. Martins Press, 1991, pp. 66-67.
Morris, Desmond. Peter Collett, Peter Marsh and Marie OShaughnessy. Gestures: Their Origins and Distribution. New York: Stein and Day. 1979.
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