Common verbal greetings include Merhaba (Hello), Nasilsiniz (How are you?), and the Islamic greeting Asalamu alaykum (Peace be upon you). It is customary for men to greet each other with a firm handshake while maintaining direct eye contact. Among friends and family, a hug or a pat on the shoulder is usually expected. Some men also kiss each other on both cheeks, although this is not so common in business settings. Women often greet each other with a handshake also. Nonetheless, when greeting close acquaintances or family members, they usually kiss each other on both cheeks and hug. While there are no spoken or unspoken rules when it comes to greeting people of the opposite gender, it is best to wait for the other person’s cue.
Turkish communication is usually indirect at first, but this mainly depends on the social context. Offending is greatly avoided and disagreement or criticism is often approached with some caution or hesitation. However, communication tends to become direct between family and friends and people don’t usually refrain from speaking their mind. Turkish people generally have a great sense of humor and are receptive to playful communication. In business settings, small talk is mostly appreciated.
Personal Space and Touching
Personal space is generally less than that kept in the west, at least among family and close friends. In business scenarios or when interacting with acquaintances, keeping a distance of an arm’s length is what is normally expected. Turks are usually tactile people and watching people walk arm in arm or hand in hand is not unusual. However, touching between opposite genders is not widely accepted, and all touching below the waist level is highly off-limits as it is considered inappropriate behavior.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Maintaining direct eye contact is expected and it demonstrates sincerity and consideration for your counterpart. However, some women and devout Muslims may divert their gaze when interacting with people of the opposite gender.
Different from the West, in Turkey, the ‘okay’ symbol has an offensive connotation regarding homosexuality.
Making a fist with the thumb sticking out between the middle finger and the index finger is considered an obscenity as is slapping your hand onto your fist after snapping or clicking your fingers.
On a positive note, raising your hand with the palm facing upwards while the fingers touch your thumb is a very common gesture that demonstrates appreciation.
Turkish Culture Reference Guide
Turkish Population in the United States
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Spoken in the region of Central Anatolia, the area where the capital Ankara is located, right in the center of Turkey, this dialect is also known as Orta Anadolu. This dialect differs from standard Turkish mainly in pronunciation. For instance, the consonants K and P are often replaced by G and B, respectively. It is the case of the word Koyun (sheep) pronounced with a K in standard Turkish but pronounced as Goyun in Central Anatolian; or the word Piliç (chick) in standard Turkish, that is pronounced as Biliç in this region. Additionally, the vowels Ö and Ü are often reduced to O and U, respectively. It is the case of the word Öküz (ox), which is pronounced as Okuz in Central Anatolian.
This dialect is spoken in the west of Turkey, more specifically in the Aegean region, hence the name. The dialect spoken in this region is sometimes referred to as Ege. Even though this dialect is mutually intelligible with standard Turkish, it does differ from the standard form in pronunciation and vocabulary, and speakers of Aegean dialect are notorious for using words or expressions not used in other regions. Some examples include the standard Turkish words Bakayim (let me see) and “Ne yapiyorsun?” (What are you doing?), which correspond to Baken and “Napdurun?”, respectively. One of the most distinguishable features of this dialect is the soft pronunciation of the R sound or its complete omission.
Black Sea dialect
The Black Sea dialect is mainly spoken in the Black Sea coastal region in the north of Turkey. As opposed to Central Anatolian, speakers of this dialect replace the B with P. For instance, Burun (nose) in standard dialect is pronounced as Purin in the Black Sea dialect. Another difference that can be observed in this example is the replacement of U with I. Additionally, this dialect has some vocabulary similarities with the Turkish spoken in Azerbaijan. It is the case of the word uşak that means young boy in both dialects but not in standard Turkish.
Also known as Balkan Turkish, this dialect is spoken by those who migrated to Turkey from the Balkan region before the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Rumelian speakers usually soften the Ö sound when it is in the first syllable, which results in an Ü sound. It is the case of the standard pronunciation of the word Böcek (insect), that turns into Bücek in Rumelian. The consonants R, H, and G are also weakened, resulting in the elongating sound of the vowel that precedes them. For instance, the word Börek (pastry) is pronounced as Böörek in this dialect.
Cypriot Turkish is spoken in Cyprus. The dialect shares some similarities with the central Anatolian dialect, even though it has few resemblances with the dialect spoken in the urban areas of this region. Cypriot Turkish varies from standard Turkish in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. One of the main differences is the preservation of the ancient Turkic nasalized ŋ, not found in most other dialects of Turkish. For example, in Cypriot Turkish the question “How are you?” is pronounced “nasılsıŋ?”, while in standard Turkish it is pronounced “nasılsın?”.
Currently, around 88 million people speak Turkish worldwide. Turkish is the official language of Turkey, where around 75 million people speak the language. Turkish is also one of the official languages of Cyprus, alongside Greek.
The language is also spoken in countries previously ruled by the Ottoman Empire, such as Bulgaria, Greece, and Macedonia.
Additionally, Turkish speakers can also be found in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Germany, and the United States.
Countries Where Turkish is the Official Language
Between 1820 and 1950, around 360,000 Turkish migrants arrived in the United States either seeking economic or educational opportunities or fleeing religious or political persecution. After the end of World War II, there was a second wave of immigration from Turkey to the U.S., mainly due to instability in the region, which resulted in a high number of skilled migrants looking for specialized job positions in the United States. From the 1970s onwards, around 2,000 Turkish migrants arrived in the United States yearly. As of 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 212,489 Americans claim Turkish ancestry. Over 116,000 Americans speak Turkish either as a first or second language.
States with the highest numbers of Turkish speakers:
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