Turkish habits may seem different at the first sight. However there are really healthy habits that serve the purpose.
This might seem strange to start with, but it’s true and the habit starts first in the morning for many households and individuals in Turkey. There are usually multiple bread shops, both private bakeries and municipal bread stands, scattered throughout every town and even most villages in Turkey that hustle in the early morning hours to produce piping hot fresh loaves of wood-fire oven-baked white bread. In the mornings, there will be a line to snatch a fresh loaf to rip apart or slice up and dip into the offerings of a lavish breakfast. Or, for those on the go, they will make a toasted sandwich. Many apartments have “kapıcı,” which means doorman, but for all intents and purposes and especially back in the day, was tasked to leave a loaf of fresh bread in a bag or place it in a basket in front of each apartment’s door. In the evening hours leading up to supper, a similar hustle occurs at said bakeries as people scramble to get a fresh loaf for their evening meal.
During Ramadan, a special pide flatbread is prepared and people queue up before the iftar, a dinner to mark the breaking of the daily fast, and it is famous for being extensive. During the lockdown era of the pandemic, the bakeries scrambled to deliver fresh bread to homes in the morning with trucks that drove through each street of every neighborhood, honking to alert warm bread’s arrival.
We all know Turks love to enjoy a lavish breakfast spread shared together. But similarly, Turks like to eat every meal with people. For them, eating dinner together as a family is a norm and there will most likely be at least three or more dishes prepared that are shared. They also tend to eat slow, especially when they go out to dinner, and can wile away over tiny plates of mezes for hours. The funny thing is that if a Turk has to eat alone and, say, orders a döner or a lahmacun, those are meals gobbled down in seconds.
One of the most popular past times for many is to snack on sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which they skillfully pick out of the shells with their teeth. Now I don’t know about other countries, but growing up in the U.S., I personally had never seen seeds being eaten this way. For the Turks, too, I believe that the habit is more about the activity than the actual sustenance. There is just something relaxing about picking through dozens if not hundreds of shelled seeds at one sitting, which Turks especially love to do on park benches and other outdoor areas.
The Turks have a special affiliation with seeds, nuts, and fruits produced here and consumed in season. For most Turkish households, a shared plate of fruit serves as dessert, and nuts are often laid out for snacking throughout the day or on any occasion.
For the most part, Turks are quite healthy and live active lifestyles, especially those residing in the country’s rural areas. They are extremely conscious of weight gained and lost, whether it be their own or really anyone’s, and will openly comment on it. They are extremely frank when it comes to asking about someone’s weight and one of the first things they talk about is whether someone has lost or gained weight, whether they even know them or not.
The Turks have a lot of rituals when it comes to cleanliness and always keep a super clean home. They take their shoes off before entering, wash their hands before eating, and regularly refresh themselves with Turkish cologne.
Seriously, I don’t know how they do it, but Turks can drink their signature brewed black tea at all hours of the day. They will start their day with tea, take breaks with tea, enjoy an afternoon tea, have tea after every meal, and close out the night with yet more tea.
Many reading this will be familiar with the Turks’ affiliation with backgammon and how most homes, outdoor tea gardens, and even local vendors’ shops will have a set on hand for random games. Some might not know that there is also a whole category of coffee shops in villages and towns throughout the country where men gather to play games such as Okay.
Turks are an emotional bunch and love to sing along and even cry to a song, but they also love to start dancing spontaneously. Luckily, there are a lot of opportunities for this, from songs they love being played to accompanying musical performances in venues to simply just dancing when a wandering musician passes by; many Turks will instantaneously break into a dance when the opportunity arises. They are also especially famous for suddenly starting to create a “Halay,” a chain of people holding hands or fingers, linking their arms, or wrapping their arms over each other’s shoulders.
The summer season is a special time for Turks, who have a certain set of rules they tend to live by in the sweltering months. First, they only eat ice cream and drink lemonade in the summer. They are obsessed with watermelon and households may even get one every day. They will eat watermelon for breakfast, after lunch, and as dessert following dinner. While they like to sleep late, they also like to reserve their sunbeds and will get up early in the morning to lay out towels staking their claim. The Turks also change swimsuits, one into another after they swim and rotate between the two, so they can dry out in between.
Last but not least, it is the most important habit the Turks have made secondhand as part of their lifestyle. Turks are grateful and mention this throughout the day in words that refer to Allah, representing that sentiment for them. For example, Inşallah, Maşallah, and Allah’a Şükür are all words used regularly that evoke gratitude for what is good and the awareness that everything is God’s will.