All you need to know going on business to Istanbul

Are you going to Istanbul on business? Check out our business protocol guide with the help of our protocol experts, Susana Casanova and Cristina Fernandes.

Are you going to Istambul on business? Check out our business protocol guide to Istanbul, with the help of our protocol experts, Susana Casanova and Cristina Fernandes. 

. The Republic of Turkey, whose capital is Ankara, is bordered by eight states and it is one of the top twenty countries in the world in terms of number of inhabitants.

. The official language is Turkish, which is spoken by the majority of the population, although other languages are spoken on a smaller scale. It is characterised by being a Eurasian country that, despite being located mostly in Asian territory, extends to the East Thrace in Southeastern Europe. It is, therefore, this privileged location that gives it a certain importance in geostrategic terms. The largest and best known Turkish city is Istanbul. Turkey is washed by the Black Sea (north), the Aegean and the Marmara Sea (west) and the Mediterranean (south). It is organised into provinces, a total of eighty-one, each with a governor who is responsible for managing various areas.

. According to the 1982 constitution, it is a democratic republic with a multiparty parliamentary system of government. It is member of the UN, the Council of Europe, NATO, the World Trade Organisation, among others; not part of the European Union, despite long time negotiations. It has attended several G20 meetings.

. The independence of Turkey and its transformation into a modern state are due to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who was the first president and responsible for major reforms in the political, economic and cultural fields. For example, the abolition of titles and the introduction of the nickname system, adding to his name "Atatürk" (meaning Father of the Turks). In what image is concerned, he gave men and women the freedom to use a certain type of clothing or not, but eventually banning all clothing with religious connotations. In his memory, November 10th is a holiday and it is considered offensive not to observe a minute of silence at 9:05, time at what he passed away.

. The flag, regulated by law, has its origin in the Ottoman Empire and its colour associated with the Turkish history. It consists of a crescent moon and a star at the centre on red background, the moon and star being symbols of the Islamic religion.

. The main religion is Islam and most population are Muslim. A small percentage belong to other religions. The country has a strong secular tradition, especially in the middle and upper classes. The Constitution prohibits discrimination and promotes religious freedom.

. With regard to values, there is a strong focus on respect, honour and pride; age is also an important factor because it is crucial to respect their elders. There is a great loyalty to family and the eldest son is given a prominent place. Family reputation is also relevant. Friendship requires commitment and mutual concern about the "dost" (friend).

. It is a hierarchical culture and all are classified according to their status: people and relationships are more important than time; making contacts is one of the keys to success.

. The traditional greeting is the handshake, which is usually firm. When parting, men can just tilt their heads. Those who are closest may exchange kisses on the cheek or a double handshake, using both hands. As the elders are treated with deference, greetings should start with them. Avoid taking the initiative to greet a lady, for religious reasons, unless she is presented to you, or has the initiative. When presented, you can say -"Memnum oldum" (much like to meet you).

. Professionally, businesses often occur within the "network". It is common to make huge personal questions to better know the partner. By establishing contacts with Turkish partners, make up a prior written presentation. Courtesy is used as a means to "seduce" the interlocutor. Business cards are appreciated and should be translated into English. When receiving one, show respect paying attention to the card.

. Use the correct forms of treatment for men "bey" and women "Hanim" but, unlike the use in Portuguese, it is placed after the name. For example, the treatment for a man named "Aslan Sadik" is "Aslan Bey". The professional title is followed by "bayam" or "bey", but in case of an expert, the applicable designation is "usta".

. The language used in business meetings with foreigners is mainly English. Some useful info in terms of communication is that the sound "tsk" means “no”, the Western head movement for “no” means "I do not understand", the gesture of raising your eyebrows expresses a “no” and shaking tour head, “yes”. Being excessively frank is not always well regarded, the search for harmony being more important. One should never antagonise your interlocutor - they will never forgive or forget it. For example, they may never accept or assume certain weaknesses.

. Meetings begin with a tea or a typical Turkish coffee, normally followed by a conversation about family, health status, or the respective business and the economy; it is expected that this part has a duration of 15 to 20 minutes. Only then it proceeds to the core of the meeting; the pace of negotiations is slow. Hierarchies play an important role, which means, for example, that one does not correct or interrupt your interlocutor while he intervenes.

. Invitations to business meals are frequent, not being usual practice that the business partner assumes payment. It is unusual to make up an invitation to their homes, except in times of social nature. In public places, women and children do not sit at the same table as men. European etiquette is used at the table.

. Women's role in society has changed greatly over the centuries, particularly at the present time, with an increasing educational level, giving them executive positions, for example. It is crucial women maintain their posture because it is considered that the behaviour between a man and a woman depends mainly on the feminine attitude. Inappropriate behaviour leads the family to ostracise women. Therefore, their attitude in public should be discreet.

. In terms of image, a more conservative style dominates. The way a professional is presented to a meeting reveals their social status. Turks attach great importance to fashion and a polished image. For men, it is advisable the use of suit and for foreign women to wear pants. Shoes should always be spotlessly clean.

. Taboos focus on addressing issues related to politics, Cyprus (dispute between Greece and Turkey) or the disrespect for Islamic customs. When entering into a mosque, men and women should take off their shoes; women should cover their heads, arms and legs.

Also consider behaviours to avoid: showing the sole of your shoe, crossing your arms or putting your hands in your pockets during a conversation, pointing your finger, stir the coffee, turn your back to someone of a higher status or age, openly criticising senior members of the organisation or even blow your nose in public, especially in a restaurant.

Cristina Fernandes | Susana Casanova

Tags: Protocol