What do Turkish people wear?
The first bit of Turkish etiquette you’ll probably learn is to remove your shoes when entering a Turkish home. Your host will give you slippers to wear during your visit, and greet you with “hos geldiniz” (it’s nice you came). You reply with “hos bulduk” (I find it nice). This never varies. There are various phrases to be said on specific occasions: When someone is sick or had something bad happen to them you say “gecmis olsun” (may it pass). When they buy something, “gule gule kullanin” ( use it smiling – reminding me of when my grandmother used to say “use it in good health”). When you see someone working or studying, you say “kolay gelsin” (may it come easy), unless you are the first customer of the day, in which case you say “hayirli isler” ( may your work go well).
If you’ve ever eaten in a Turkish restaurant you’ve heard “afiyet olsun” which Turks translate as “bon apetite” or “enjoy your meal”. But it’s a bit different and is said at the end of a meal as well as the beginning, which causes waiters to say “enjoy your meal” to English speakers exiting their restaurant. Eating at someone’s home, the response to afiyet olsun is “elinize sagilik” (health to your hands). There’s even a phrase to be said to one who has recently showered or had a haircut. Apparently swimming in the sea is included in the shower concept: After a woman who stopped me walking back from the beach to ask about the temperature of the sea she’d said “saatler olsun” (may it be healthy for you).
Of course, foreigners aren’t expected to know these courtesies. But there are some rules of etiquette that do require compliance. The only time I saw my host mother, Fadime get angry was when an American who had been staying with us for a few days failed to come home one night. He had moved in with a woman. When he came back to collect his things, the woman waited outside. Fadime was furious, calling the woman all sorts of names. Mehtap (my Turkish teacher) was laughing hysterically, shocked at her mother’s language. Mehtap and Fadime are extremely close but very different. Fadime goes to the beach covered head to toe; Mehtap turns heads in a tiny bikini.
I did get to see Fadime laugh uncontrollably once. I’d gone to the weekly pazaar and come home with a pair of salvar, the extremely baggy pants with flowered print. Fadime thought this was hilarious, and told me I looked “like a girl from the village!” I didn’t see any problem with that, but I soon learned how salvar were perceived by city folk who don’t wear them.