What are some cultural taboos in Turkey?
There are lots of taboos in Turkey.
Taboos due to superstitions
Turkish people can be very superstitious at times, here are some things to avoid:
Some of these are common throughout Europe so you might be familiar with them:
- Looking at people the wrong way .
- Washing bird poop off of cars and outfits. (It's probably okay if its your hair or skin)
Some of the ones which you might not be familiar with include:
- Cutting finger nails at night time.
- (Rarely considered as a real threat) lying with your feet towards a door.
Stuff like "black cats", "tipping salt over" or "breaking mirrors" aren't considered too bad as they are superstitions brought through popular culture and there isn't much fear associated with them.
Taboo is a strong word. Let's call it sensitivity.
Turkey is a big country with various sensitivities in different regions. So, I'll try to generalize here.
- Ataturk. 90% of the people adore him (I am one of them). Rest is ultra Islamists who hate him because of his secular reforms. If you encounter them just ignore them. Nothing to gain by talking to them about anything.
- Alcohol. You can drink at restaurants and hotels, but don't do it on the streets. Most probably nothing happens, but just don't do it (especially in Ramadan)
- Don't eat or smoke on the streets during the day in Ramadan. Especially in rural areas, central and eastern Turkey. Most people will just stare at you angrily but rarely an ignorant idiot coupled with hours of hunger and thirst may just want to test his brawling skills on you. Of course you may try to talk some sense to him by saying something like "this is not real Islam. Islam forbids these kind of pressures to people who don't perform rituals" but I wouldn't rely on it if I were you :)
- Don't stare at women when their fathers/boyfriends/husbands are near. Don't forget that male insecurity is a common illness in Turkey.
- Tayyip Erdogan. 50% hates him to the bone, 50% loves him to the point of ignorance. Very much like Trump in US. So, just know the person you are talking to beforehand.
And that's it. Generally western Turkey is more liberal, open and tolerant while central and eastern Turkey is not.
It is a taboo to criticize, find fault, put the blame on the underdog, the wretched, the orphaned.., i.e. in Turkish, ‘gariban'. You are labeled as merciless, ‘zalim'.
Whatever they did wrong, to come to that miserable point in life, it is considered pointless to discuss, tasteless, brings bad luck.. It could have happened to you, as they say. They are ‘victims of fate', for sure. Pity them and pray god to be merciful. Those in jail in general are considered in that group, victims of fate.
In 80's, there was a specific category of movies completely dedicated to underdogs.. Whomever was cruel to them was punished one way or another, at the end.
Where to start...
The most obvious cultural taboo is "sex" in Turkey. This is a taboo which is shared among many countries with varying degrees, but in Turkey it is a serious one. This taboo generally causes lack of communication between sexes. Lack of interaction opens the way for alienation, therefore when society brings a couple together problems arise. With the addition of other variables, it returns results like sexually -hungry- men, lonely people and physiological or physical violence on both sexes.
Another taboo we can talk about is "culture of argument" or more precisely lack of it. In Turkey, people are short tempered, and live on edge constantly. This means even a simple argument can turn into a fight. The mentality changes accordingly, and when the word "argument" mentioned people expect a fight rather than a progressive problem solving. So people avoid arguments, and simple problems which can be solved with little effort grows into complex and unsolvable matters.
There are many other taboos you see in common life. Some examples can be homofobia, in some cases politics, atheism, women wearing mini skirts, men with piercings, men with long hair, people with tattoos, women with short hair, marrying a woman who is not a virgin, etc etc...
As you can see most of these taboos can be traced back to sex or culture of argument cases, so I am not going into detail with them. If you are interested, you can ask me about it in comments section.
I also would like to note that this taboos are not as serious as rest of the "Muslim world". I say that because many will try to make generalizations based on this information.