11 Fun Facts About Life in Turkey That Excite Foreigners
Turkey has become a very popular tourist destination thanks to its exotic culture, beautiful beaches, and, of course, its delicious food. However, there are many fascinating tidbits about the life and customs of these people that you won’t always find in guidebooks. To really get to know a place like Turkey, there is nothing quite like immersing yourself in the locals’ way of life.
1. The Turkish baths, or hammam, are a delight for tourists and locals alike.
The famous Turkish baths are not only popular thanks to the relaxing effects of the steam. They also represent a very important part of Turkey’s culture as a meeting point and a place for deep cleansing, both of the body and the soul. These public baths are very common and can be found throughout the country. Another thing that makes them a favorite spot among tourists is their impressive architectural beauty.
2. Tea is the national drink of the Turks.
It’s true that there is a huge tradition around coffee in Turkey; however, the most popular drink for Turks is tea. There is no special time to enjoy a delicious cup of tea. They start drinking it at breakfast time and continue until bedtime. Offering a cup of tea to guests is the greatest sign of hospitality, and you can always find a kettle ready to be served in any Turkish home.
3. You can cross from one continent to another in 3 minutes.
Istanbul is divided between 2 continents, Europe and Asia. To cross from one continent to the other, you can take a boat across the Bosphorus, or simply drive across the 15 July Martyrs Bridge. In only 3 minutes, you’ll be on a different continent, plus, on both sides of the city, you can enjoy the rich history and fascinating mix of cultures.
4. Feral cats are respected and welcomed everywhere.
Actually, Istanbul is known as “the city of cats.” It’s not at all strange to find cats taking a placid nap in cafes, restaurants, or stores undisturbed. In Turkey, cats are highly respected and welcomed in all establishments. People take care of them by providing them with food, clean water, and safe shelter.
5. In many bathrooms, you’ll have to squat instead of sit.
Public toilets are probably one of the most unusual things for foreigners. While you’ll find the common raised-commode from the West to be the prevailing toilet, in public restrooms or in the less developed parts of the country, the so-called squat toilets (alaturka) will be your only option, and although some people may find them uncomfortable, others find them more hygienic.
6. They take hospitality and attention to their guests very seriously.
Turks are known for being extremely hospitable people. When receiving a guest in their home, they will go to all the trouble to prepare the best things they can offer. They will welcome them with a cup of freshly brewed tea or Turkish coffee and offer them something to eat. They will share even the last slice of something if it means making their guests happy.
7. They don’t celebrate Christmas, but they do party on NYE.
Christmas is not celebrated or thought of as a holiday in Turkey. On December 24 and 25, people are usually working. However, you’ll find that people still decorate the city with all kinds of Christmas symbols and even Santa Claus figures for January 1.
For Turks, Santa Claus is also an important figure, as the man who inspired the legend was named Nicholas and was a bishop in the Turkish city of Myra, which is called Demre nowadays. Locals call him “Father Christmas,” and he is considered a hero for his actions of generosity and kindness.
8. The typical dessert is made with chicken breast.
The Turkish palate is accustomed to exotic flavors and mixtures of ingredients that are sometimes difficult to imagine. This is precisely the case with a very simple yet common dessert for them: chicken breast pudding. It is a creamy recipe that mixes milk, vanilla, sugar, and thin strips of chicken breast. At the end, it’s sprinkled with cinnamon and often served with tea or coffee.
9. Smiling at strangers is frowned upon in Turkey.
Turks are undoubtedly one of the most hospitable people in the world. However, when dealing with strangers, they can be quite reserved. Smiling at strangers is quite uncomfortable for the locals and even frowned upon. On the other hand, with acquaintances, Turks are quite warm and will go out of their way to make them feel welcome.
10. Yogurt is a must on all meals.
Yogurt is essential to Turkish cuisine and is served at practically every meal. It is used as a base ingredient for a cold soup with cucumber and herbs, sauces, dressings, and even to prepare ayran: a very popular and refreshing drink diluted with water and mixed with salt. Fruit and sugar may also be added to it, turning it into a dessert. For Turks, there are no limits when it comes to including yogurt in their dishes and drinks, whether it be sweet or savory.
11. Shoes are left at the entrance of the house.
In Turkish homes, it’s more than forbidden to enter with shoes. But unlike in other European countries where shoes are also removed and left in a special shoe cabinet, Turkish people remove their shoes upon entering a home. The host is likely to offer their guests house slippers, and that’s why most homes have quite a lot of them.
What curiosities from other countries do you know of that have surprised you? Tell us what unusual customs from other places you would like to adopt in your own home.