Local Lifestyle: Customs and Traditions of Istanbulites

Local Lifestyle: Customs and Traditions of Istanbulites

Local Lifestyle: Customs and Traditions of Istanbulites

The local lifestyle in Istanbul is deeply rooted in customs and traditions that have been passed down through generations. With a rich history and its location on the borders of Europe and Asia, Turkish culture has been influenced by various cultures, including Greek, Arabic, and Armenian. This article will provide insights into the traditions that European travelers may find useful when visiting Turkey, as well as some interesting customs that may differ from their own culture.


When meeting someone new in Turkey, a handshake is often given. However, friends and family members often greet each other with a kiss or two on the cheek. Elders are highly respected, and it is common to greet them first. Head shakes and other gestures are also common when greeting people.

Shop assistants in Turkey often welcome customers with phrases like Nasilsiniz (How are you?) or Merhaba (Hello). Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, and it typically includes foods such as eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and bread. Bread is a vital part of Turkish cuisine and is usually present at every meal.

In Turkish culture, food wastage is frowned upon as it is believed to be a gift. Blowing your nose or picking your teeth at the table is considered impolite, so it is advisable to do so in the restroom. Turks are known for their hospitality and often host get-togethers in their homes. When entering a Turkish home, guests are expected to remove their shoes and are provided with slippers to wear around the house.

While it is not expected to bring a gift as a guest in Turkish culture, it is understood that one may be received. A bottle of wine, rakı, or a bag of Turkish tea would be suitable gifts to bring to a dinner party. Baklava and other desserts are also common food items to take with you when attending a Turkish dinner party.

Bathing and self-care are deeply ingrained traditions in Turkish culture. Turks are raised with a strong emphasis on cleanliness and tidiness. Turkish baths, known as Hamams, are public places where people can take a bath. There are also individuals in the Hamam who offer scrubbing services called Kese. Authentic Hamams for locals are usually segregated, and visitors are provided with a peştemal, a cotton wrap or fast-drying towel, to wear around the waist.

As you explore the streets of Istanbul, you will likely hear cars honking throughout the day. Turks are known for their edginess when it comes to sitting in traffic, and honking is a common practice. Car horns are also used to celebrate special events, such as weddings. If you rent a car during your time in Turkey, you may embrace this Turkish tradition.

The national drink in Turkey is tea, although some prefer Rakı. Turkish tea is typically served black in tulip-shaped glasses and can be consumed with sugar according to personal preference. Teahouses, known as kahvehane, are places where men gather to play games and drink tea with friends throughout the week. Women and families traditionally visit tea gardens on weekends. Coffee is also consumed in Turkey, although less frequently. Turkish coffee is made with finely ground coffee boiled with water and sugar in a special pot, and it is typically served in small porcelain cups.

Turkish culture places great importance on politeness, and there are certain etiquette rules to remember to avoid coming across as rude. When someone offers you something, it is customary to initially decline the gesture with a no thank you, it's ok, and then accept if they insist. If you offer something, be sure to do it a few times. Chewing gum while talking to someone, especially in formal situations, can be considered rude. In restaurants, bills are not split, and it is usually the inviter who pays. Punctuality is also highly valued, and being late is considered rude.

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Turkey, with the national team having achieved notable success in international competitions. Grease wrestling, known as Yağlı Güreş, is another traditional sport that has been practiced in Turkey since ancient times. The international oiled wrestling tournament, held annually since 1362, is the oldest continuously operated competition in the world. Nazar Boncuğu, also known as the Evil Eye, is a talisman believed to protect against danger and is commonly seen throughout Turkey.

Historical Context and Evolution

  • Turkish culture has been shaped by its rich history and its geographical location on the borders of Europe and Asia.
  • Influences from various cultures, including Greek, Arabic, and Armenian, have contributed to the customs and traditions of Istanbulites.
  • Traditions have been passed down through generations, preserving the cultural heritage of the city.

Analytical Insights

Table 1: Traditional Turkish Breakfast Foods

Food Description
Eggs Commonly served boiled or as an omelette
Cucumbers Sliced and served fresh
Tomatoes Sliced and served fresh
Olives Black or green olives
Bread A staple food in Turkish cuisine

Table 2: Popular Turkish Sports

Sport Description
Football (Soccer) The most popular sport in Turkey
Grease Wrestling (Yağlı Güreş) A traditional sport practiced since ancient times
Basketball Another popular sport in Turkey
Volleyball Enjoyed by many Turks

Future Outlook

The customs and traditions of Istanbulites are deeply ingrained in the local culture and are likely to continue evolving while preserving their core values. As Turkey embraces modernization and globalization, it will be interesting to see how these traditions adapt to the changing times. However, it is expected that the essence of Turkish customs and traditions will remain an integral part of the local lifestyle.

As Istanbul continues to attract tourists from around the world, it is important for visitors to respect and appreciate the local customs and traditions. By understanding and embracing the cultural nuances, travelers can have a more enriching experience in this vibrant city.

In conclusion, the customs and traditions of Istanbulites reflect the diverse influences that have shaped Turkish culture over centuries. From greetings and hospitality to food and sports, these traditions provide a unique insight into the local lifestyle. By immersing themselves in the customs and traditions of Istanbul, travelers can gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of this fascinating city.

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