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Business etiquette, language & culture

Time-management

Monday to Friday from 09:00-18:00. However, some firms may work on Saturday too. Lunch-time during workdays is from 12:00-13:00 or 12:30-13:30.

Turkish people generally go on a summer holiday around July or August, so it is important to arrange a meeting at a time when both sides can attend and inform the other side about the meeting one-to-two weeks beforehand.

No business takes place on Turkish National Holidays. They are as follows:

2018

Date:

Holiday details:

Monday 23rd April

Children’s Day

Tuesday 1st May

Labour Day

Saturday 19th May

Youth and Sports Day

Friday 15th June 

Ramazan Bayramı starts

Sunday 17th June

Ramazan Bayramı ends

Sunday 15th July

Democracy and National Solidarity Day

Tuesday 21st August

Kurban Bayramı starts

Friday 24th August 

Kurban Bayramı ends

Thursday 30th August 

Victory Day Turkey

Monday 29th October 

Republic Day Turkey

 

2019

Date:

Holiday details:

Tuesday 1st January

New Year’s Day

Tuesday 23rd April

Children’s Day

Wednesday 1st May

Labour Day

Sunday 5th May 

Ramazan Bayramı starts

Sunday 19th May

Youth and Sports Day

Tuesday 4th June

Ramazan Bayramı ends

Monday 15th July

Democracy and National Solidarity Day

Saturday 10th August

Kurban Bayramı starts

Wednesday 14th August

Kurban Bayramı ends

Friday 30th August 

Victory Day Turkey

Tuesday 29th October 

Republic Day Turkey

 

Dress code

Generally, Turkish businessmen’s dress code is similar to the accepted mode of dress in Western Europe – a suit, shirt and a tie, and for women it is either a suit, dress or a skirt combination. During summer, it is very hot in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, therefore trousers, shirt and a tie suffice. For women light summer clothing is acceptable, (in some western cities hems are shorter than you may expect, but for business, knee-length is advised. Consider having a light jacket or sweater to cover shoulders – air conditioning can also be brutal).

 

Meeting and greeting

  • The traditional hospitality of the Turks determines business etiquette.

  • Although appointments should be made wherever possible, most executives will receive visitors without an appointment if they are able to do so.

  • On initial meetings a good, firm handshake is the norm.

  • Men may occasionally also hold your arm with their left hand as a sign of warmness. Unlike in the UK, the handshake is not usually used when departing. You may find once the relationship warms up that you are kissed on the cheek.

  • In the business context most women will shake hands with men. However, this may not be the case in eastern or rural Turkey where people are more conservative. If unsure, wait for the woman to extend her hand.

Making conversation

Personal relationships are highly rated, and no visitor should come straight to the business in hand without exchanging a few friendly words first. It is acceptable to ask about family, talk about football (a Turkish passion) and other sports and hobbies.

Turks say "yes" by nodding their head forward and down, and say "no" by nodding their head up and back while lifting their eyebrows. Wagging your head from side to side doesn't mean "no" in Turkish, it means "I do not understand". Talk about family, food and sports – they are very suitable icebreakers.

Modes of address

Turks prefer to communicate directly, so you are advised to phone rather than write to contacts. Turkish businesses are slow to respond to email. Turks answer the phone by saying 'Alo?' (a specific Turkish word for answering the phone), or 'Efendim' (respectfully meaning 'my master'). Turks may also say 'Buyurun', equivalent to saying "at your service". Turks also tend to use the expression 'hah!' as a sign of agreement.

Turkish letters are usually addressed with the name of the main street first, then the minor street and then the number of the building.

In Turkish when calling a person it is common to use ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs/Ms'. ‘Bey’ (pronounced bay) refers to Mr and “Hanim” (pronounced hunum) refers to Mrs/Ms and is used after the first name, e.g. Mr. Ali Ozan = Ali Bey / Mrs. Ayla Deniz = Ayla Hanim.

For officials, you (or your interpreter) should refer to them by their title.

Gifts

Do not offer gifts that are too lavish or personal and be sure to check that your Turkish counterparts drink before giving alcohol. The exchanging of gifts is not a predominant feature of Turkish business culture. However, if a gift is given it will be gratefully accepted.

Meetings

Business meetings are the time to present your company proposal and to talk about business seriously (but do not forget the initial pleasantries). In Turkey, English is the most common foreign language, so most businesspeople speak English.

In Turkey, it is important to shake hands firmly at the start of an introduction and a business meeting.

In Turkish business practice it is respectful to address a Turkish professional by his or her occupational title alone, should they have one, e.g. "Doctor" or "Lawyer". However, Turks are generally informal with names and when meeting someone for the first time they tend to address people by "Mr" or "Mrs" followed by their first name.

Business cards should be exchanged. Although there is no formal exchange ritual, you are advised to present your card with both hands and, if possible, have one side of your card translated into Turkish. Offer your business card to everyone you meet, especially to those with whom you wish to establish a business relationship.

Every visitor will immediately be offered coffee or tea; it is impolite to refuse, but you can ask for water. Coffee is served "sade" (without sugar) and "orta" (with some sugar). Tea comes with one or two lumps on the side.

After small talk, start the meeting and discussion by introducing yourself and your business.

In the meeting, it is better if you have both English and Turkish documents about your business.

An oral discussion can be supported by visual communicators like drawings, graphs, statistics etc. as Turkish people would enjoy the meeting both orally and visually.

When negotiating on financial terms, be patient because it may take some time to agree on a point mutually.

In Turkey the currency is Turkish Lira (₺/TL), but Dollars and Euros are currencies commonly used when doing business.

If negotiating, it may not always be necessary to focus on financial benefits. It is just as useful to point to areas such as prestige, influence, honour, respect and other non-monetary incentives.

Reach the decision-maker at the top, at least at the first meeting or on first contact. Send your top person to meet with their top person. This would be indicative of how much you value your prospective business in Turkey.

Presentations

It is good to bear in mind that people are primarily oral and visual communicators, so in addition to written statistics and projections try to present information vocally or with maps, graphs and charts.

Entertainment

Food lovers will be glad to know that dining in restaurants is part-and-parcel of Turkish business culture.

You will inevitably be invited to dine out and it would be impolite not to accept.

The meal is a time for relaxing, engaging in some good conversation, getting away from business and firming up that relationship.

In general practice, the entire meal is not ordered at once. One course is ordered at a time and after finishing it, the next is ordered. Expect many “starter” courses or “mezzes” before the main dish arrives.

The protocol of Turkish hospitality dictates that the host always pays for the meal. The concept of sharing a bill is alien. You may offer to pay, which will be seen as polite, but it is unlikely you will be allowed to do so. The best policy is to graciously thank the host and then a few days later invite them to dinner at a restaurant of your choice.

If you do so it may be a good idea to have a quiet word with the restaurant manager to inform them that under no circumstances are they to accept payment from your guests.

Although the majority of Turks are Muslims, not all abstain from drinking alcohol. However, it is wise to wait and see if your host or guest orders any alcoholic drinks before you do so, as it may be uncomfortable for them to sit at a table with alcohol or to pay for it.

Interpreters

Taking the time to learn the language is a useful asset but interpreters are plentiful. It will be expected that UK businesses will not necessarily know Turkish, so interpreters are expected in these circumstances.

Many Turkish businesspeople will know English, some to a high standard.

You can contact the DIT team in Turkey at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-turkey#contact-us for lists of local translators.

 

Negotiations

In-country partners and agents can be of real assistance with negotiations.

Many multinationals now manage their businesses in Turkey locally, with local nationals responsible for the business in Turkey.

If you have a joint venture, even in an unrelated area of business, this knowledge of your seriousness will be of reassurance to new Turkish customers.

Negotiating tricks of the trade

Turkish negotiators are shrewd and use a wide variety of bargaining tactics. The following are just a few of the more common stratagems:

  • Controlling the meeting place and schedule.

  • The Turkish know that some visitors will be reluctant to journey home empty-handed.

  • Putting pressure on foreigners just before their scheduled return can often bring useful benefits to the other side.

  • Threatening to do business elsewhere.

  • Foreign negotiators may be pressured into making concessions when the Turkish side threatens to approach rival firms if their demands are not met.

  • Using friendship to extract concessions.

  • Once both sides have met, the Turkish side may remind the foreigners that true friends would reach an agreement of maximum mutual benefit. Make sure that the benefit is genuinely mutual and not just one-way.

Attrition

Some negotiators are patient and can stretch out discussions in order to wear their interlocutors down. Excessive hospitality the evening before discussions can be another variation on this theme.

Counterplay

Here are some useful tactics that may help foreign negotiators dealing with their Turkish counterparts:

  • Be absolutely prepared.

  • At least one member of the foreign team must have a thorough knowledge of every aspect of the business deal. Be prepared to give a lengthy and detailed presentation, taking care not to release sensitive technological information before you reach full agreement.

  • Play-off competitors.

  • If the going gets tough you may let the Turkish side know that they are not the only game in town. Competition between Turkish producers is increasing. There may be other sources in the country for what your counterpart has to offer.

  • Be willing to cut your losses and go home.

  • Let the Turkish side know that failure to agree is an acceptable alternative to making a bad deal.

  • Cover every detail of a contract before you sign it.

  • Talk over the entire contract with the Turkish side. Be sure that your interpretations are consistent and that everyone understands their duties and obligations.

  • Be patient.

  • Turks generally believe that Westerners are always in a hurry, and they may try to get you to sign an agreement before you have adequate time to review the details.

 

Relationships

The one overarching point to consider before doing business in Turkey is that business is personal. The key to any good business venture relies heavily upon a good personal relationship.

Although facts, figures and projected profit margins do go some way towards getting contracts signed and deals done, the relationship is crucial. Your Turkish counterpart will need to have trust in you, both as a person and a professional, and also like you on a personal level. This combination spells a long-term association.

Such relationships are built through spending time together, either over long meals or socialising. Chatting over shared interests helps build rapport and find common ground. Revealing personal information and showing an interest in your counterpart's life and family is also important.

The concept of "hosting"

The Turkish take the concept of being host (and you being in the role of a guest) very seriously.

Companies doing business in Turkey are often treated to a wide range of assistance, including hotels, transport, meals and evening entertainment.

Turkish companies can often lean on an extensive network of relationships to provide these without incurring direct costs, or at a substantial discount.

Unfortunately, when they are visiting the UK they expect the same, and most UK companies do not have the budget to handle all-in travel for contacts they have never done business with and are not sure they ever will do business with.

Therefore, it is best to be cautious about the extent to which hospitality is expected. Do not be rude, but do take the trouble to explain that things are different back home.

 

Return visits to the UK

UK Visas

The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Istanbul Service has recently made a number of service improvements, and for full and up-to-date information we recommend visiting: www.gov.uk/government/world/turkey.

However, whilst the majority of visas are issued, some common problems can arise:

  • Unfamiliarity with the procedures – New applicants for UK visas need to have interviews, but may sometimes be unwilling to impart the information required or give bio-metrics. Reassure your client that the same procedures apply to all applicants.

  • Last-minute rush – Unfortunately, meetings in Turkey are often arranged one day in advance. Therefore, it does not occur to businesspeople that they need to prepare in advance for a visa application. This is particularly the case when they are visiting multiple countries and require multiple visas. With the best will in the world, given the numbers of applications – particularly in peak periods – there will be times when Turkish partners do not leave enough time to process applications.

  • The importance of paper – In the Turkish system, paperwork comes second to relationships. Unfortunately, this means that senior contacts can often neglect to complete visa applications themselves, and their assistants may miss vital information. 

  • Take account of social and business customs.

  • Leave your preconceptions at home.

  • It is all too easy to be overawed by the challenges, but keep hold of your business sense as tightly as you would anywhere else.

  • Do your homework on the market and on potential partners.

  • Patience is a virtue. Some things may take longer to set up than you think (especially if they involve bureaucracy), so allow for this in your preparations.

  • Take a long-term approach, but do not stick rigidly to your plans. Things often change rapidly and unexpectedly in Turkey.

  • Obtaining good quality independent legal and professional advice is essential.

  • If your product is in danger of being copied or counterfeited, seek specialist legal advice on how best to protect your intellectual property rights (IPR).

  • Do not forget to carry out due diligence.

[Source – DIT]


 

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