Growing up in a Turkish household and being married to a Turk for 12 years, it was important to know how to recognize everyones needs, even before they know it themselves. As a young girl and a married woman, I needed to know the signs over the course of the day, the meal, and daily interactions of what to do so that I would not appear to be rude.
I still remember my engagement dinner at my soon to be In-law’s house. As the new bride, I needed to be especially aware of when people were done with each course so that I could go and change out the dishes and silverware. On this day, my back was to the other table and I missed the cue of the my soon to be father in law’s sign that he was done with his plate. My dad, seeing him place his knife and fork next to each other on the plate, loudly whispered to me: “You missed a cue! GO GET HIS PLATE! Go on, Go on, before he notices!” Up I jumped, gathering plates and replacing them with fresh ones for the next course.
My friends tease me that when I have a gathering at my house for tea that I spend most of my time filling everyone’s tea glasses than drinking my own tea. That comes from years being aware of empty tea glasses and the need to make sure they were full. Apparently, I make my way around to each person every 30-45 min!
Curious about other dining etiquette, I thought I would poke around the internet to see what else was on the list! Here you go-now YOU are ready to visit, politely, to a Turkish household!!
- Turks tend to offer food several times and prompt their guests to have more servings than they can feasibly eat. Try to accept as many things offered as possible, even if you can’t finish all of it. It is best to arrive to a meal on an empty stomach so you can accept multiple servings.
- Wait for the oldest person at the table to begin eating.
- Fill your neighbor’s cup, never your own.
- When finished eating, leave no food on your plate, and place your knife and fork side by side on your plate.
- If a neighbor brings you food in a dish or plate, always return the plate full of other food or treats. Never return the plate empty.
- Tea is usually served in little curved glasses that you hold not by the stem, but by the lip. Since it is offered all the time and everywhere, it is a gesture of hospitality and you must always take the coffee or tea, even if you only put it to your lips or just take a few sips. Your cup will always be refilled if it is less than half full.
- The honored guest is served first, then the oldest man, then the rest of the men, then children, and finally women.
- Do not begin to eat or drink until the oldest man at the table has been served and has begun. You may want to ask your host when it is appropriate to begin.
- Avoid sitting in any position that allows one’s shoe to face another person. This is considered insulting. Similarly, it is inappropriate to cross your legs when facing someone.
- It is considered improper for a woman to cross her legs while sitting.
- It is a great honor to be invited into a Turkish home. Once inside, you may need to remove your shoes (this is not the custom in restaurants, however). If you move from room to room in a Turkish home, be sure to always allow the more senior members of your party to enter the room ahead of you. It is customary to say “Afiyet olsun” (“May what you eat bring well-being”) before eating, and to say “Elinize saglik” (it is a compliment to the hostess, meaning “Bless your hand”) after the meal.