Now it is time back to give this forum I think. Recently my friend had asked me this question, I looked to previous threads here in TA.
As a person, who gave gifts to Turkish people many times in the past, I would like to share my views. This thread is for picky people only.
I ll sort list from the most impressing to least impressing. Well there is no bad gift, whatever you give you will always receive gratitude. The below list is a safe, non-risky list for average Turkish people.
In the list below, there may be some good ideas I may have forgot or skipped, but the things I wrote about were tested countless times.
For short: Keep in mind, its always to buy better non-edible, long-lasting gifts.
1) Technological Hype (Iphone, Ipad, Macbook Mini, PlayStation)
Some technological hypes are very expensive in Turkey. For example an Iphone price maybe 3-5 times more expensive than US.
Knowing which products belong to this category, which are not is another question. Iphone probably belongs to this category, but Samsung Galaxy may not for example.
Just check the situation, before buying.
Better way, is to ask the Turkish people directly.
If you know the Turkish friend closely, you may want to ask before going to Turkey whether they specifically want something. This is totally fine between Turkish people.
Now if you buy such a thing they will not forget lifetime. Also, they will be totally fine say they order from Amazon, it arrives, and you just bring it Turkey.
So your gift is basically just transportation, but believe its much more valuable than anything you can, they ll tell years how you get them something from some other country.
Turkish people love big brands: Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel, Levis etc. And those Turkish people who discovered TJ Maxx, think they discovered heaven.
You can never go wrong if you but sleeved shirts for adults, bags for women, shirts for teenagers with a brand from that store. Its better if it has those brands I mentioned. Even if an 50 year old Turkish man may not
know say Diesel, he can understand its a good quality product. TJ Maxx did wonders with 10$ shirts, where 50$ big college athletic clothings were disappointment (people thought the prices must have been the other way around).
Because you are basically paying for the license.
Another option is NBA clothing. Not sports, not baseball, not college. There is a huge difference between NBA and the others, as there is no baseball or serious collegiate sports in Turkey.
Of course they will appreciate any clothing, but NBA things especially famous ones like Lakers, Bulls, Heat are your best bet. Try to avoid smaller teams like Bucks, Clippers or Toronto Raptors (due to Hido incident).
An NBA shirt, cap, cup is probably best bets.
For soccer, if you are coming from England,Spain, Germany, Italy which has important soccer clubs, that is great, otherwise don't bring soccer team. If you are coming from US, and bringing a Barcelona jersey is not as strong.
3) Cultural Gifts
Its almost as good as above category, a cowboy hat, a Mexican hat, Ushanka, yukata, Swiss army knife etc. If your country is not famous for clothing or accessories, you can get any small decorative gift from a gift store emphasizing your country.
Also avoid religious items, don't bring Bible just because you are from Vatican.
4) Cultural Edibles
Cuban cigar, Swiss-Belgium chocolate are best choices, if you are coming from there. Also cigarettes may work as well.
Another good idea is cigars.
5) Interesting toys, accessories
Some creative toys may be good. But well its hard to find them. Zippo kind of things are fine too.
I think this is very risky. According to surveys the people who never drink alcohol in their life is 50% to 70%. Even if those surveys were exaggerated, I think it is very safe to say at least 30% of Turkish people never drink, never put alcohol in their home.
So you can give it, and unless they are radical (maybe 5% of Turkey), they will be thankful, seem happy just because of hospitality even if they don't like it. So I suggest skip alcohol. It would not worth the risk. IF you give this wrong 30%, they will think you are socially inept or ignorant.
Even you come across an alcoholic, it will still not be the best gift. But if you dedicated that you ll buy, here are best options: Tequila, Wine, Whiskey and Vodka. Needless to say, if you are taking a France/Scandinavian Vodka, not that good. Must be Russian.
Not a matter which one is better, it is a matter, where it was originated. Others like Gin, Rum etc are not that popular.
Bad Ideas: (from worst to bad)
Most Turkish people hate reading books, even if they graduated from a university. Some people even brag about how they never read a book, and they do not need to read a book.
Turkey is among the one of the bottom countries by book reading. Just observe how few bookstores you will see next time you go to Turkey, look if anybody is reading book in airport, train or etc.
Unless a Turkey person specially asks for a book, begs for it, says that without that book his life is meaningless, then consider buying that book.
Needless to say that is the worst gift.
2) Crackers, edibles
Well not bad as books but I mean this is totally pointless. They may like peanut butter crackers, but it is not classy to bring such a gift, as there is no potluck culture in Turkey.
Talking about traditional Turkish people (About 90%), when families, friends visit each other they don't bring drinks, sweets or food. The host is responsible for everything. Moreover, bringing such a think would probably offend the host.
Only very close family members rarely brings, like the Uncle or Aunt, for their nephews.
Turkish people take only chocolate/baklava on special occasions: when visiting a patient in hospital or asking permission for marriage.
Or cheap university students may do that, for obvious reasons. So if you are not the brother of that family, nor a cheap university student, it is not a good idea.
Though Turks are not the best society at empathizing, they may understand that its because of your culture.
If you are bringing some exotic fruit not available in Turkey, that may work though.
Books is a bad idea, but crackers are just weird.
3) Non-original things
Pens, socks.. I don't know, just anything not special, and can be easily found in Turkey.
Summary: so the solution is easy, just go to TJ Maxx kind of a store. Even if you bring the worst gifts, people will be happy.
REally there is nothing to worry about, at worst, they will tell your friend how funny you are that you brought that book or alcoholic drink. Yeah if in the past you did such a misfortunate choice, the next time you go there, you can act like those gifts were a joka first time since you did not know them well, and you give gifts when you truly know people.Edited: 1:14 am, August 09, 2013