Keyfi roughly translated means “merriment,” or “pleasure.” But in Turkey ‘keyfi’ is more a way of life: sitting in outdoor cafes sipping endless glasses of tea served in tiny tulip-shaped glasses, discussing everything from politics to the constantly shifting weather; drinking raki, the local anise-flavored liquour with your favorite fresh fish; plates of mezeler (appetizers) filling the table; clapping and singing along to their favorite songs, women and men rising to their feet swiveling their hips and waving white napkins in line dances, shoulders bouncing.
Personality. Turks are hot-blooded! They love big. They entertain big. They celebrate big. They are always touching one another, hugging, petting, leaning up against their family members and good friends. But when they get angry they’re just as fiery. They yell and gesticulate and discuss their situation with everyone. Then they forgive, hug, kiss, and make up.
Foreigners. Turks are the most hospitable people in the world. They are open, generous, and love to stuff you with delectable Turkish food. Turks have an acceptance of foreign behaviour that doesn’t always extend to their own people. They smile when foreigners break customs, but expect their own to know the rules of proper decorum.
Time. Turks, except for business people, tend to view time as a fluid concept. Most business appointments between the higher-ups take place on time. Most friends show up late. An invitation for dinner usually means that people show up an hour past the appointed time. Clubs with live music start to fill up at around 11 p.m. Likewise for meyhanes, Turkish restaurant-live music bars where appetizers overfill the table, raki continuously pours into glasses, and people animatedly sing along with the performers or leap to their feet in hip-swiveling joy.
Shoe. Take them off!!! Never enter a home without taking off your shoes. Most homes are equipped with a lineup of terlik (house slippers) in every imaginable size, colour and style. Remove your shoes, slip on a pair of house shoes and leave the dirt of the street behind.
Language. Turkish is a maddening language to learn. However, that said, learning a few key phrases will bring much appreciation and accolades from the Turks. Unlike the French, Turks never expect foreigners to know their language and will go out of their way to try and accommodate them.
Politics. Ataturk is the father of Turkey. Never, under any circumstances, joke, poke fun at, or in way insinuate that Kemal Ataturk was anything less than a God.
Religion. Turks are Muslim.
However, most of them are the most relaxed Muslims in the Muslim world.
Ataturk banned the veil, separated religion and government, and set
the tone for an open-minded and liberal faith that extends warmth toward
those of other religions and beliefs. Parts of Istanbul, the western
Aegean coast, and the Mediterean are used to catering to tourists and
their own citizens have adopted many European ways of life. The East
of Turkey is more religious, but still the people are kind and relaxed.
Sport. One of the first questions a Turk will ask you is: “Who’s your favourite team?” They are wild about football, or as we Americans call it: soccer. At the end of a successful match it’s not unusual for people to drive around honking their horns, chanting their team’s jingle, shouting and parading about triumphantly.
Humour. Turks love a good joke. You can see them slapping their hands together, one hand rising up in the air and saying: “Cok komic, ya?” (It’s really funny, isn’t it?). Don’t take offense. Usually Turks are laughing with you and not at you. They love to poke fun and their favorite character is Temel, a dim-witted Black Sea man who always manages to misinterpret everything.
do it unless it’s absolutely necessary. Driving in Istanbul is
not for the faint of heart. Traffic is a nightmare, with cars swerving
into different lanes and drivers often heading into incoming traffic.
Take a bus, a taxi, the Metro, or a dolmus. Trust me on this.
Queuing. Basically Turks don’t queue, they bunch. My first time at the ATM machine I was totally alarmed when the woman behind me moved right up to my side, and nestled up to me. However, I quickly relaxed when I realized her motives were purely helpful. Sensing my confusion, she demonstrated how to use the machine. At banks, post offices and other offices, people tend to clump together. Lately, in the more westernized areas, banks have installed the western take a number and wait your turn systems. I kind of miss the old clumping.
Of Greatest Importance. Smile. Turks respond to a smile. The bureaucracy here is brain-numbing, the traffic is ridiculous and while wages are low, prices have become high. Despite all this keyfi rules supreme. Eat, drink, sing, dance, and enjoy! This is Turkey where enjoyment of life is the utmost goal.
One last word of warning after this insight — be careful of the stereotypes! Whilst you can always draw a thread of similarity between the nationals of a country, the extent and size of that thread may vary widely!