Turkish culture is generally considered to be quite homogenous; even so many business people of Turkey are used to doing business with people from all over the world and from a range of different cultures (Katz, 2008). However, this doesn’t necessarily imply that Turkish people are open-minded. Sometimes they are quite the opposite and prefer to have things done “their way” or in the specific manner in which they are used to. In that sense, it’s absolutely helpful to have a guide of all the aspects of Turkish culture, so that one can better familiarize oneself with the nuances of this culture so that communication is facile, and so that one can achieve the business related goals that are most important and specific. When it comes to the culture of Spain and of those from Catalan, there are areas of overlap and areas of difference.
Relationships and Showing Respect
“Many businesses in Turkey are controlled by only a few powerful groups and families. It is vital to understand those influences upfront in order to determine who the real stakeholders in your negotiation are” (Katz, 2008). The dangers of not knowing what these factors of influence are can negatively impact one’s business dealings and the success of one’s business enterprises. Thus, the utmost importance revolves around being as aware of the expectations of protocol in these situations as possible, so that one can engage in the most effective etiquette and push the business dealing to success. “Turkey’s culture is generally group-oriented. Asserting individual preferences may be seen as less important than having a sense of belonging to a group, conforming to its norms, and maintaining harmony among its members. Building lasting and trusting personal relationships is therefore very important to most Turks, who often expect to establish strong bonds prior to closing any deals. “Turks are extremely patriotic. They are proud of their ancestors and of the achievements of their modern society. The family is the most important social unit. Each person is dependent upon and loyal to the family. Rural life is still traditional, but in cities women frequently work outside the home” (ediplomat, 2014). This comes back to the importance of the family and the tribe and the necessity of protecting the interests of the community. Group and family culture continues to prevail in Turkey and continues to be something that people value very heavily. In this sense, they are very similar to Spanish people and Catalan people in that both cultures value personal relationships.
Concrete Expectations of Business Etiquette
When it comes to meeting and greeting others, one needs to shake hands with all members present, such as men, women and children at business and social meetings: start with the eldest members of the group and then shake hands with everyone who is present, even the children. Be aware of the fact that it is relatively common for Turkish men and women to kiss one another on the cheek when they meet and when they part (ediplomat, 2014). Certain protocol such as never pointing the soles of one’s feet at another person is important to remember as is never standing with one’s hands on one’s hips when talking to others, particularly with older people and one’s professional superiors (ediplomat, 2014). For many Turks it can be quite common to avoid looking in the eyes of other people as a sign of humility (ediplomat, 2014). This is true for Spanish people as well.
One thing to bear in mind about both these cultures is that they are used to smaller arenas of space, so it is common to have them stand closer to one when doing business than other foreigners are used to. Being punctual is of the most importance; if one is going to be late, all Turkish people will expect an explanation and one should be ready and willing to provide one. It’s also important to know that certain actions which are considered normal in western culture, are seen as tremendous faux-pas in Turkish culture. For instance, “In Turkey, putting your thumb between your first two fingers is the equivalent to raising your middle finger in the United States. The ‘O.K.’ sign in Turkey means that someone is homosexual” (ediplomat, 2014). It does not have this connotation in Spain but it’s still not commonly used.
One effective method of starting and ending a business meeting is with small talk before an actual conversation is entered into. When engaging in a presentation, it’s important to make these presentations as concise as possible: they should all have a clear structure and need to be well presented with clear graphics and discernible text. With some Turks, less is generally more when it comes to a presentation. One should also be open to translating one’s most important messages into Turkish so that the messages are understood and so that nothing is left up to chance (EC, 2013). Other formalities need to be engaged in as well. For example, one will need to schedule all meetings ahead of time, at least one to two weeks in advance and to further confirm by email or a phone call; in the name of being prepared, one should also learn the appropriate titles, positions and responsibilities of people that one is meeting with and the proper pronunciation of their names (EC, 2013). Always go through the proper channels: “Make sure that your first contact is through a third party that is well respected. Trade shows, embassies and banks can provide contacts who can open doors and introduce relevant business partners” (EC, 2013). It’s also intensely appropriate to avoid making appointments during Turkish holidays and to become familiarized with the internal management hierarchy of all those who are connected within the given organization.
One needs to be well-versed and utterly prepared with the act of negotiating in Turkey as the process is very specific and can be intense. Just as punctuality is valued in Turkey, taking one’s time is absolutely valued during the negotiation process. Decision-making, particularly when it comes to a major decision, is something which occurs very slowly; thus, foreigners need to practice having patience. “The negotiation process may take longer than usual. Turkish business people do not like to be put under pressure and do not like deadlines. Therefore any attempt to hurry the process will only produce negative results” (EC, 2013). Thus, the importance of being patient is fundamentally crucial: one needs to not only stress the potential financial benefits which will come into play during a particular business deal, as that’s not the only thing that Turkish people are considering. One needs to explain and place importance on other benefits such as power, influence, honor, and respect. Also, one needs to focus on forging a strong bond with the people one is negotiating with, as that is something that is valued in Turkish culture. “Turks want to do business with those they are keen to, trust, feel comfortable with and can provide a long-term relationship. If they sense that you are hiding something, you will most likely be rejected” (EC, 2013). Thus, it’s not just what one is proposing which will be placed under scrutiny: one’s character and the character of all of one’s business associates will also be scrutinized as well. In this sense, one needs to work on creating a sense of trust and a sense of rapport. Also, one needs to be prepared for the fact that it is not uncommon for Turks to use tough or shrewd negotiating tactics when dealing with business associates, so be prepared to compromise and to try to initiate compromise.
EC. (2013). Meeting etiquette. Retrieved from http://businessculture.org/southern-europe/business-culture-in-turkey/meeting-etiquette-in-turkey/
Ediplomat. (2013). Turkey. Retrieved from http://www.turkey.doingbusinessguide.co.uk/the-guide/business-etiquette.aspx
Katz, L. (2008). Negotiating international business: Turkey. Retrieved from http://instruction2.mtsac.edu/rjagodka/BUSM_51_Project/Negotiating/Turkey.pdf
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