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Doing Business in Turkey



Turkey is a vibrant amalgamation of two unique cultures, reflecting a diverse collection of ideas, beliefs and values as an inheritance of the Ottoman Empire that had sovereignty over the Middle East, Asia and some parts of Europe, and then collapsed at the beginning of the 19th Century, just before the Republic of Turkey was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Crossing both European and Middle Eastern boundaries, Turkish society is patriotic and proud of its ancestry and achievements.

The rapid modernisation of the country along with the westernization process, combined with its traditional values, makes Turkey a fascinating market for foreign businesses, and as such requires an understanding of its cultural design in order to secure your future business success. Turkey is among the world’s leading destinations for foreign direct investment. Turkey is strategically located in the middle of Europe and Asia, and is an excellent base for international investments. There is great access to the wide markets ranging from Europe, the Middle East, the Black Sea region and the Turkish speaking republics in Asia. For thousands of years, this region has been a commercial center connecting the East and the West.

Official name – Republic of Turkey
Population – 72, 660, 559 (July 2005 est.)
Languages – Turkish (official), Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, Greek
Currency – Turkish Lira (TL)
Capital city – Ankara
GDP – purchasing power parity (PPP) $508.7 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - Per Capita – purchasing power parity (PPP per capita) $7,400 (2004 est.)

With its network of developed infrastructure and a globally competitive work force, Turkey has become a geo-strategic base for international business. A rapidly growing emerging market of 72 million people makes the country today one of the key trading partners of the European Union (EU).
Turkey’s economic legislation is progressively aligning with the main policies and standards of the EU, as a result of the 1995 customs union agreement with EU and the EU pre-accession process.
With a services sector constituting almost 60% of its GDP and a public procurement market of over €30 billion, Turkey offers immense opportunities for European companies in development projects from which they should get higher than usual rates of return. In addition, Turkey is among the 20 biggest economies in the world. Furthermore, it is an unsaturated market in almost every category of consumption goods, ranging from fast moving consumer goods to high technology products. When the distribution of the companies operating in Turkey with foreign capital according to their country of origin is concerned, it is seen that 6,153 companies of the total 11,685 companies with foreign capital are of EU origin, in which Germany leads with 2,045 firms followed by England (926 firms), and Holland (925 firms).

Foreign investors are welcome to participate in all kinds of businesses. Imports and exports are unrestricted and exchange control is limited to certain formalities. Foreign investors may invest through authorized banks, investment funds and organizations in Turkey. Real estate can be bought by foreign investment companies and, within municipal limits, by individuals. In both cases, a simple permission may be required.

The monetary unit Lira has been replaced by YTL (New Turkish Lira) by leaving six zero (‘000.000 ) out of the Turkish Lira. Over 50 banks operate in Turkey, including 15 foreign banks. Within the banking system there is a wide range of very large full service banks, active in both the wholesale and retail banking.


Turkish language   

The Turkish alphabet is a part of an Altaic language family with Latin alphabet writing system. Replacing the earlier Ottoman Turkish script, the script was created as an extended version of the Latin alphabet at the initiative of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Turkish alphabet consists of 29 letters.

a b c ç d e f g ğ h ı i j k l m n o Ö p r s ş t u ü v y z

   ças in Check                ı  (i without dot) as in Wireless     şas in Croatia              

   ğ as in Mercy                ö as in Verb                       ü   as in Parachute

The official language Turkish is the first language spoken by 90% of the 72m population. Minority languages include Kurdish, spoken by 6%, Arabic, spoken by 1.2% of Turkish population. Other minority languages include Greek, Armenian and Judezmo spoken by Jews.
Turkish people are always delighted to hear a few greetings in their own language such as: Günaydın! [Guniyden]=“Good morning”, iyiakşamlar! [iakshimlir]=Good evening!, Güle güle! [gula gula]=Goodbye!, Teşekkürler [tasakkurlar]=Thank you!, Lütfen [Lutfan]=Please, Affedersiniz [iaffadarsenes]= Excuse me!, Evet [avat]=Yes, Hayır[hiyer]=No, şerefe [sharafa]=Cheers (but only when you raise your glass in a toast while in a pub or in a restaurant).


Business etiquette

The accepted dress code for business discussions is a suit for men and fashionable clothes for women. In Turkey, meetings are arranged by early appointments and visitors are expected to arrive on time. If the company or the person that you have appointment with is in the one of the big cities like Istanbul, you should allow some time for travelling to arrive on time as there are 2.5 million cars in Istanbul which means traffic jams are normal, especially in the winter. The common greeting is handshaking, but in some occasions you can also expect to be kissed on both cheeks. Handshaking takes place both at the beginning and the end of the meeting. You should address your Turkish business partners with their title and family name, but you can expect to be asked to call them by their first name fairly soon. Most members of the Turkish business community have a good command of English and sometimes German and French, especially in international business contexts as it is highly demanding and ability to speak one or more languages is a must. In some cases, an interpreter can be provided if necessary. After arrival, it is important to not to jump directly on the business issues as Turkish people would like to hear about you and your thoughts about Turkey, e.g. you can talk about cities that you have been or you would like to been in Turkey.    

Turkey is the one of the countries where the power distance in business or governmental departments is high. This means that in most cases, especially in 100% traditional Turkish companies, an employee is expected to keep the distance between his/her superior and him/herself. For instance, unlike in a British company, an employee in some traditional Turkish companies usually can not make casual conversations that are out of business. However, in internationalised big Turkish companies managerial structure is much more flexible and different than especially family-run traditional Turkish companies. Elders are highly respected in Turkey. If you are seated, rise to greet them when they enter a room. When being introduced to a group of men, shake hands with each one, starting with the one who appears to be oldest. After a meeting, usually guests are served with delicious traditional Turkish coffee and delight or chocolate.


Dining etiquette

Most business dining will take place in restaurants where you can find wide variety of traditional Turkish cuisine. For Turks, the meal is a time for relaxing and engaging in some good conversation. i.e. European Cup, Big football teams like Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas etc.

Before the main course, you will often be served with some starters called meze [maza] in small plates over all the table where you help yourself while drinking alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. 

Evening meals may be accompanied by some alcohol, usually the local tipple called “Rakı” [pronounced as “rak-uh”]. The main content of Rakı is aniseed and grape and it is drunk best with starters such as cheese, salad and tomato. As a main course, seafood, especially fish, is the best complementary of Rakı. Keep in mind that Rakı is a highly strong (45% degree of alcohol) national alcoholic spirit that is usually mixed with icy cold water (1/3 or half of the glass) and ice cubes before drinking. After mixing, it gradually turns into milky white colour; that is why it is called “Lion’s milk”. Here the word “Lion” symbolizes the “courage” and “milk” symbolizes the colour. If you are not comfortable of drinking Rakı, you can ask for traditional Turkish beers or fine Turkish wines that are absolutely worth trying.

Turks like toasting their glasses while saying “şerefe [sharafa]”, meaning “Cheers”. Some Turks smoke during meals and will often take breaks between courses to have a cigarette and a few drinks before moving onto the next. Let them know if you are disturbed by the smoke; they will not take it personally.

After the meal, drinking Turkish tea and coffee is a must. In most cases with tea or coffee, traditional desserts like “baklava” (with pistachio recommended) or “Turkish delight” are served. Turkish coffee is very strong and served in 3 options such as plain (sade), with little (az şekerli), medium (orta şekerli), or lots of sugar (şekerli). Bear in mind that however you want to drink your coffee whether plain, little, medium or lots of sugar do not drink the bottom part that is quite strong and useless part of your coffee. Milk is not added to Turkish coffee but is generally offered with instant coffee. One of the most important rules of Turkish hospitality is that in most cases if you are invited for a diner, people who invited you pay the bill. Even if you offer to pay the bill, they will insist you to not toIn most cases people who pay the bill, leave some money for tipping.

You are free to use the information on this web site under the condition that you include a link to our site on the same page on which you cite us.

If you would like to know more about Turkey, please visit our country profile page.

For further information about our language services, please see our Turkish interpreting and Turkish translation pages.

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