The first thing to say – and this might seem obvious – is that everybody in Turkey does not speak fluent English. There are many good speakers of English especially in the major cities in the Western Turkey but it is also possible to find yourself in a meeting where English language levels are very patchy. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check in advance if a translator is needed.
Like many countries in the Middle East emotion is not seen as a negative. On the contrary, the lack of an emotional response will often be viewed as a lack of interest in the issues which are being discussed. Therefore, if you find yourself in a meeting in Turkey where your counterparty seems to be overly emotional (from your perspective) you should in fact read this as a positive development. If a Turk remains concretely impassive throughout your discussions this is likely to be a much more worrying development.
An emotional communication style is often accompanied by an expansive use of body language where gestures, strong eye contact and tactility will be very much in evidence. Again, these should all be seen as positive signs and although you may feel somewhat uncomfortable at this point do not let this distract you from pushing forward in the negotiations.
Titles such as doctor or professor are very often used and are very much appreciated. In fact, the titles are often used without adding the person’s name. Using the titles is seen as a sign of respect and it is a good way of showing that you understand the importance of hierarchy within the organisation.
Finally, as English language levels are somewhat patchy throughout Turkey you should take great care to speak English in a as user friendly a fashion as possible. Speak slowly and clearly and make sure to avoid complex vocabulary, colloquialisms and sentence structures. If the Turks are taking the trouble to speak English to you, the least you can do is to speak English as clearly as possible.
Good communication is key to doing successful business in Turkey.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Turkey only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.