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Business negotiations with Turkish partners are usually carried out in a more formal spirit than what we are used to from the Czech Republic. Turkish businessmen are used to taking more care of their appearance, it is true that a Turk wears a tie more often than a Czech. It is not appropriate for a formal meeting, even if it is online, to go without it. It is necessary to prepare for the fact that the discussion usually does not go straight to the point, but various “soft” cultural or sports topics are discussed. Establishing a more friendly relationship is the initial prerequisite for overall success. Drinking alcohol is not a rule, you need to get to know your partner better first. The coronavirus pandemic has changed greetings at initial meetings quite a bit, instead of the classic handshake, Turkish partners approach a slight bow with the right hand on the heart or a touch with a clenched fist or elbow. Visit Animalerts for more information about Turkey culture and traditions.
Turkish partners formally address each other by their first name, after which they add “Bey”, i.e. Mr. In formal communication, they would therefore address their partner as Mustafa – “Mustafa Bey”. If it were a woman, the ending “Hanım” is added – read “hanym” in Czech, i.e.: “Zeynep Hanım”. If the foreign partner shows such knowledge when addressing them, it is usually evaluated positively. This style of address is based on history, surnames were introduced in Turkey only by Atatürk. However, the vast majority of businessmen understand European ways of doing things, and therefore it is not a “faux-pax” to address a partner by their last name. In Turkish, there is a distinction between ticking and pooping, and business partners usually poop.
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The initial meeting usually takes place at the partner’s headquarters. Meetings are usually not arranged before 10:00 a.m., and meetings in the late afternoon are no exception. Traditionally, black Turkish tea or coffee is drunk and the meeting usually starts with a polite conversation about the family or another general topic such as sports or culture. Turkish partners from the upper echelons rely on polite conversations and it is not recommended to delay answers to such questions or not pay enough attention to them. A Turkish partner is interested in closing a business with a friend, and you won’t do that if you don’t go through a similar conversation. Business cards are handed out at the initial meeting. A mobile phone is expected to be on the business card, preferably with a working WhatsApp number. If your partner handwrites your mobile number on his business card, it is a sign of greater trust.
An invitation to lunch or dinner is an expression of greater closeness to your partner. As a rule, these dinners take place in restaurants, invitations to homes are not common. In better restaurants, prepare for a multi-course menu dominated by traditional appetizers and meze. Most Turkish restaurants do not serve alcohol, however, especially in seaside towns, there are plenty of those that do. As for the type of alcohol, it is possible to prepare especially for anise brandy (rakı) or red wine. Alcohol is drunk more for protocol reasons.
Presenting a gift is common during official visits. It is usually handed over to the highest-ranking person. In this regard, it is not worth saving. Turkish partners are used to beautiful decorative gifts. It is not recommended to give alcohol as a gift if you do not know your partner well and you do not know 100% that he drinks alcohol. Most Turks are familiar with Czech glass and you will certainly please them if you present them with a gift of this type.
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It is not recommended to plan working meetings during Ramadan or during the summer months. Since the time when Ramadan is celebrated changes every year, it is a good idea to inform yourself about this in advance. From roughly the end of June to the beginning of September in Turkey, similar to the Czech Republic, summer vacations take place. Most Turks use them for their long summer vacations, which is why even a visit at this time of year can be problematic. Once arranged, the appointment is valid. When it comes to meetings, Turks are usually punctual and it is not recommended to be late for meetings. Especially in Istanbul, we recommend planning enough time for transportation due to long traffic jams.
It is very important to establish a strong or even friendly relationship with the main business partner. Due to the complexity of the judicial system, one must be fully confident as a partner and not rely on the fact that any dispute will be resolved in court, although in the case of conciliation proceedings and debt recovery, the Turkish court proceeds more forcefully and quickly than possible arbitration in other countries. We recommend pushing Turkish partners to ensure that mutual contracts are always, if not only in English, then at least in two copies, when the English version is also agreed upon. When evaluating their partners, Turkish partners take experience and seniority into consideration. For this reason, it is therefore possible to recommend that Czech companies be represented in the country by more experienced persons.
Turkish businessmen are polite in negotiations, but very tough, using both modern negotiation techniques and old proven emotional speeches. Turks stand out for their immediacy, flexibility and excellent orientation towards the goal, which is always the best possible price. It is also a good idea to prepare for a variety of negotiations. Turkish partners differ greatly depending on whether they are secular or religious (mostly central Anatolia or the Black Sea coast), and since informal discussions play a very important role in concluding contracts, they must be approached accordingly. Turkish partners emphasize a friendly relationship in business contacts. For this reason, the relationship with the partner must be maintained even in situations where it is not directly about business. However, during business negotiations, the Turkish partner always remembers the situation,
For many centuries, the territory of Turkey was the center of Middle Eastern trade, where traders from Asia, Europe and Africa met. This experience is reflected in the negotiations. The Turk can go hard for what he wants and can skillfully mask this process in a nice way with a smile on his face. Long-term experience and multicultural negotiation gives locals a relative advantage in current contacts. It is impossible to expect to impress your partner only with the price or the perfection of the product. The resulting decision will depend on a number of factors, and it is this complexity where price, product quality and your personal relationship with your partner play a role.
Before the meeting, it is common to ask about the language of the meeting. If the partner does not speak English, an interpreter is indispensable. ZU/GK have contacts for ČJ/TR interpreters, which they are happy to provide. Of course, there is also the option of hiring an AJ/TR interpreter, which is easier.
Knowledge of English is at a relatively low level in the population. Outside the tourist centers, the arrangement is very complicated. However, high-ranking managers from major Turkish cities are mostly fluent in English. The number of language-equipped people is increasing rapidly, especially in cities.
Turks generally avoid topics related to sex or minority rights. Jokes on this topic even with better contacts are not appropriate. Talking about the current political situation in the country is also very sensitive and generally not recommended. Turks are generally very proud of their country and history, and they are quite alien to e.g. access to their own history, incl. critical distance to irony. Therefore, for example, any other than positive statements about the founder of the republic (Mustafa Kemal) Atatürk are politically and socially unacceptable. Turkish-Armenian relations are also a sensitive and lively topic. then the Ottoman genocide of the Armenians in 1915, which TR relativizes and denies, and considers the very use of the term “genocide” to refer to the “events” of 1915 (displacement and mass killing of the Armenian population) to be very irritating.
Prepare for well-prepared, tough partners accustomed to long negotiations. Patience and flexibility are important. In any case, it is also not possible to expect the Turkish counterpart to be unprofessional and inexperienced.
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