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    6 Really Weird Turkish Customs

    You can't move a metre in Turkey without being sprayed by lemon cologne. And what's with all the tea?

    1. Close talking

    Seinfeld Wikia / Via

    In the west, we like our space, preferring to keep a respectable distance whilst conversing with others. We might offer a friendly tap on the arm to emphasise a point, or perhaps go in for a hand hold at the courting stage. But in Turkey, your preference for personal space goes unheeded. Complete strangers will cosy up to you, staring into your eyes in the most intimate way. Backing away is considered rude, but Turks are polite and would hate to think you’re uncomfortable with the interaction, so if you can’t bear it take a polite step back - or pretend you’re coming down with something.

    2. Throwing water before a journey / Via

    For most of us, the last thing you do before leaving your house for a holiday is obsessively check that your passport is still in the secret compartment of your bag, and lock the front door. You might make a last minute dash for your toothbrush. For Turks, a journey of a thousands miles begins with a cup of water, thrown behind the car for good luck.

    The tradition expresses a desire for a long journey to go smooth as water, and while we can’t be sure where this custom comes from, we do know that, like a horror film, if you look back you’re screwed: no holiday luck for you.

    3. Don't leave your handbag on the floor

    Not only is putting your handbag on the floor thought of as unhygienic, Turks believe it’s a sure-fire way to lose money: it’ll leak to the ground, or you’ll be tempted to fritter your cash away on fripperies. It’s not only the Turks who go by this philosophy: an old Chinese proverb states “a purse on the floor is money out the door”, since the Chinese believe a lack of respect for money means it’ll soon be trickling through your fingers.

    4. Don't throw bread away


    In Islam, bread represents prosperity, and the ability to feed yourself and your family. This means humble baked goods take on a certain significance, and should never be thrown away. Although this is quite an old fashioned view these days, a good many Turks still can’t bear to throw old bread out, and instead leave it outside, hanging in a prominent place, for others to find. As far as superstitions go, this is a good one, especially when your neighbours might be going hungry.

    Similarly, you should never step on a piece of bread in Turkey - pick it up and say “Bismillah” - “in the name of God”.

    5. Lemon cologne is EVERYWHERE


    In homes, restaurants and workplaces; taxis, bags and buses: lemon cologne is ubiquitous. You’ll have it sprayed on you when you enter someone’s home, or offered up before a meal. And then again afterwards. It’s used to revive someone who’s feeling a little faint, or to cheer up the depressed. When someone’s sick, it’s used to clean hands, faces, doorknobs and light switches. There’s simply no escaping the reviving, disinfecting qualities of lemon cologne.

    6. Never refuse a cuppa

    cha / Via

    When Turks ask if you’d like a cup of tea, they mean much more than a drink. They’re offering you hospitality and sustenance. And who would refuse that? Drinking tea with someone is a crucial social interaction that forges a bond of friendship, so refusing is seen is rude. A bit like a spray of lemon cologne, you’re never far from a cup of cay. Drink it with your family, your friends, in tea gardens and on ferries, in smart restaurants and small cafes. When you consider that Turks drink around a thousand cups of tea each year, it’s a wonder they can find time to do anything else.

    Discover more weird and wonderful Turkish customs here.