Business Culture in Turkey is characterized by: business communication, business etiquette, business meeting etiquette, internship and student placements, cost of living, work-life-balance and social media guide.
Turkey is situated at the meeting point of Southeastern Europe and South Western Asia. Geographically, the west of the Bosporus lies in Europe and Turkey is surrounded by the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. Turkey is bordered by Bulgaria to the northwest; Greece to the west; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, Iran and Nakhchivan to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the southeast.
Turkey is in the Eastern European Time Zone and adheres to EET (UTC +2) during the winter and EEST (UTC +3) during the months of March to October.
The climatic conditions in Turkey vary. In the coastal regions, the summers are hot and dry with mild and wet winters. The central areas have a prairie-like climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters with very little rainfall.
Turkey has a population of about 80 million people (July 2012 est.) with Ankara as its capital. The European part of Turkey (named Thrace) covers about 3% of the total land area and comprises more than 10% of the total population. Istanbul alone has a population of about 11 million. Thrace is separated from the Asian part of Turkey by the Bosporus. Turkey is divided into seven regions: Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea Mediterranean (Southern), Anatolian plateau, Eastern Anatolia, and South Eastern Anatolia, which are further sub-divided into 81 provinces.
Turkish is the official language of Turkey and 93% of the population is Turkish and about 7%-other minorities. It is estimated that 99.8% of the Turkish population are Muslim with the remaining 0.2% made up of Christians and Jews.
The modern Turkish state, officially named the Republic of Turkey, was created in the years immediately after World War I. Modern Turkey was founded with the creation of the Republic in 1923 by Turkey’s national hero Mustafa Kemal, who became Turkey’s first president and was honoured with the title Atatürk or ‘Father of the Turks‘. Archaeological evidence shows that Turkish history dates back to the ‘Hittities’ who settled in Anatolia from 2000 to 1400 BC.
Turkey has an open economy and is considered an emerging market with high-growth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), making Turkey a newly industrialized country. Turkey’s trading partners are Germany, Iraq, UK and Russia. Its main exports are vehicle parts, machinery parts, knitted and crocheted goods and articles,
Turkish people are hospitable, polite and extremely professional. They tend to work extremely hard and long hours; so, taking a job in Turkey is not an easy task for a foreigner. Turkish authorities are averse to any foreign national taking a job that can be done by a Turkish citizen. So, foreigners are usually hired for teaching, working in large international companies or by press agencies that require native expertise in a foreign language in one of their branches in Turkey. Before arriving to look for work in Turkey, it is better to find and make contact with a company that will offer you a job. Sign a contact with the employer and then apply for your residency and work permit visa.
Generally, Turks like to get acquainted with the people they will work and do business with. They will most likely do business with those they are able to trust and those that can provide a long term relationship.
International business in Turkey
To succeed with any potential venture in a thriving new economy, understanding the Turkish culture, the people, etiquette and the way they do business is essential. The first section focuses on the attitudes and values of the Turkish people. Business ethics will then be examined, introducing the typical cultural and ethical differences that you may encounter when doing business in Turkey. The second section examines education and training in Turkey.
In Turkey, the education system is provided by the government. New legislation introduced by the Grand National Assembly in March 2012 increased compulsory education from 5 to 12 years for children from the age of 6 to 18. In order for students to continue their studies at a higher education institution, they are then obliged to take the National Entrance Examination or OSS exam.
Pre-school, primary, secondary and higher education institutions are part of the formal educational system in Turkey. In addition, there are also training centers that offer informal education and are supervised by Turkey’s Ministry of National Education (MEB). Informal education provides services for those who would like to complete their education and teaches people from different professions the knowledge and skills necessary for their personal development.
There are tuition fees for public higher education institutions. However, students can be granted financial support, if they do not have the funds necessary to continue their education. According to the National Education Statistics for Turkey at the end of 2012, there were “168 universities in Turkey, state and private out of which 2/3 are State and 1/3 are Private”.
According to the National Education Statistics, the universities are comprised of faculties and four-year schools, which offer bachelor’s programs, and two-year vocational schools offering pre-bachelor’s programs of vocational nature only. There are also master’s and doctoral programs, which are coordinated by institutes for graduate studies. All doctoral programs require a Master’s degree and must be completed in four years. The doctoral programs consist of courses, a doctoral qualifying examination (both written and oral), and the defending of a doctoral thesis.
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The Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Turkey has raised the quality and access to education through the implementation of projects aiming to upgrade and strengthen the education system. Its main objective is to increase attendance in the twelve years of compulsory education and also the rate of uptake at other education levels, particularly at the pre-school level. In order to upgrade the education level, a lot of effort and work will be spent on developing individuals who will make up the knowledge society of our modern age. Being a country with a young population, education must be a priority for the future.
Other issues such as transport infrastructure
Because of Turkey’s geographical position, the improvement of transport is a priority for both its economy and its social development. In recent years, Turkey has invested in improving its transportation infrastructure, which has contributed to developing foreign trade and tourism.
Travelling By Public Transport
Turkey has excellent bus services, which are the main form of public transportation, as they are inexpensive and rather frequent. There are some bus companies that have modern buses, but unfortunately very few, and the majority of the buses are not very comfortable.
Istanbul is a major metropolitan city, which is divided by the Bosporous strait between the two continents and hosts another significant form of transportation. There are private passenger boats and public municipality boats, which carry passengers from one side of the continent to the other. Regular passenger ferries and fast ferries also provide services for passengers wishing to travel between the shores of Bosphorus.
Tickets or coins are used for the public transportation in Istanbul, however over 60% of passengers use the “smart ticket” (Akbil) system with an electronic chip. There are free connections between different modes of public transportation, which makes travelling affordable.
Travelling By Train
Travelling by train is not as popular, although it can be more comfortable and safer in bad weather conditions. People usually prefer buses as they are faster, cheaper and provide better services.
The government has given special attention and priority to the railways. A large amount of investment has been allocated for the construction of a high-speed railway network, including a tunnel under the Bosporus strait, for both passenger and freight transportation.
Travelling by Taxi
There are numerous taxis all over Turkey, which are recognisable by their checkered black and yellow bands. Taxis operate using a metering system which starts at a base fare of 2.95 TL. Taxis can be rather expensive and it is recommended to agree on the fare beforehand, especially for longer journeys. Tipping is not necessary, but it is recommended to leave the change or round up the fare.
Dolmus is a minibus service that carries up to 8 passengers, which follows a pre-scheduled route and charges a fixed fare based on distance. It isvery practical and considered cheaper than a taxi.
Travelling By Car
Turkey’s road network is continuously improving. Major cities are connected with motorways and well-maintained modern highways. However, in the east and in rural areas roads may not be as good. Driving standards in Turkey are not very good and serious accidents are a frequent occurrence, despite the police presence and camera systems. It is recommended to drive with extreme caution and apply defensive driving techniques.
Travelling By Plane
Turkey has a network of five international airports and twelve additional domestic airports that are serviced by Turkish Airlines (THY) and a number of private airlines. While Ankara is the major connection point for domestic flights, Istanbul is the busiest airport and the main airport for international routes.
Another airline frequently used is Pegasus, which is very affordable and flies to many places locally and internationally.
By understanding Turkish culture and abiding by the appropriate etiquette, you can gain respect from the people of Turkey. Being a Muslim country, religion plays a major role in people’s everyday lives and it also shapes their values and ideals. Certain issues that are considered inappropriate and should be avoided when communicating with Turkish people:
Family is sacred; don’t disrespect their family.
Turkish people stand close to you during a conversation. It is normal in Turkey to have very little interpersonal space and not something to be apprehensive about.
Certain gestures and body language have different meanings varying from rude to insulting and offensive, such that the following should be avoided:
Standing with your hands on your hips or in your pockets.
Pointing at someone with your finger.
Showing the soles of your feet.
Making the ‘”OK’” sign with your hand.
Discussing business right away without getting to know your partner first.
Using pressure tactics, such as imposing a deadline.
Showing a lack of respect for cultural values and adopting a patronising or authoritarian attitude.
Talking about sensitive historical issues, such as the Armenian issue or the division of Cyprus.
Understanding Turkish culture, in order to avoid misunderstandings and showing a lack of respect for Turkish beliefs and views, will help to develop business relationships and maintain future ties.