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The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

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Ibusuki, Japan
posts: 36
The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

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.

The List:

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.

2) Clothes

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.

6) Alcohol

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)

1) Books:

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
Kayakoy, Turkey
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
posts: 8,337
reviews: 41
1. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

İ have been reading your views on buying presents with great interest, and İ do wonder if you are a TJMaxx sales person...?????

İ guess buying a present for a stranger (whether in your own country or abroad) is always the hardest thing to do. But İ cannot agree on several of your points. İ live in Turkey now for 12 years and there are occasions İ need to buy presents birthdays or visits.

I do not completely want to contradict your points but I think a different opinion is necessary as I disagree with some issues.

1. Good idea but expensive, in that sense not a good idea to give to a fully stranger you can humiliate them. Also do never forget certain gadgets need to be registered in a passport to be able to use them. Any mobile phone that comes from abroad needs a registration otherwise they get disconnected very quickly. İt can only be registered in a passport within a few months after returning to Turkey (or entering to Turkey).

Very important too is who do you visit, differences are huge in Turkey between country side and the city.

And sure asking is always good if possible, that goes for all presents actually.

2 Clothes... most difficult, except for kids. You can just bring the wrong brand, the wrong size, the wrong color. Except here a very important difference city people with village people. Village people can be very happy with just about everything even second hand clothes, but given by a stranger then not.

3 Great, even not always useful a cheap fun thing won't go wrong!

4. Chocolate good, Swiss chocolate, Belgium whatever, but keep in mind that a lot is available in Turkey and if you travel in hot weather not a good idea either.

Cigars, a very bad idea... İ have hardly ever seen a person smoking a cigar in Turkey. Turkey is a cigarette country but under strict laws people smoke less and less. Any other local sweet can be good but İ have noticed that Turkish people do not like licorice.

5. Toys always good for kids all over the world. What can be good as well is cartoon movies on dvd but you need to know if the family speaks English

6. You can do a very very big pleasure, but only if you are sure the people drink alcohol, and many do! People like rum, wodka, sometimes gin, they love Amaretto and other sweeter drinks, Kahlua does it very well, minty liquors... wine and even typical foreign beer.

then on the bad gifts...

1 Books... great idea but only if you know if people read English, German, French... and what type has their interest. Buying a Turkish book is pointless as they are cheap here. A cooking book could be a good idea as well

2.. crackers, it would never ever cross my mind to buy crackers for anybody anywhere on this planet. But cookies that hold well are fine, the Turks love cookies, either sweet or savory. And even people bring within Turkey only sweets like on sugar feast or other special occasions as a gift it is well appreciated. As a guest you do not need to conform to the family traditions especially.

3 pens... socks... İ fully agree the weirdest presents... only here too, if you go to a more remote place, color pencils, markers, crayons, paint with brushes, coloring books... they love it!

And really people do not easily make jokes because you bought such a wrong present, that is not something Turkish people do.

Ibusuki, Japan
posts: 36
2. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

well in this life, it is possible to contradict any though. Well, I would expect what were your list.

But I think by saying Turks dont smoke cigar, is like Turks dont like to drive BMWs.

Yes because it is rather expensive, and not easily found. Tons of people in Turkey smoke, everytime I go to Turkey the first thing I notice is the smell of tobacco.

Turkey is in top 15% in smoking, even though prices are crazy expensive due to astronomical taxes.

I will not delve into points you misunderstood, but let me ask do you know Turkish? How direct your dialogues with Turkish people? I think answers to those questions is the reason why you dont agree mostly.

Edited: 4:07 am, August 09, 2013
Kayakoy, Turkey
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
posts: 8,337
reviews: 41
3. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

Perhaps Turkish drive less BMW but they do drive Porsche... (even in the small village where İ live!)

But no cigars and no pipes, that is just not their culture, cigarettes are, and even with the rising taxes on cigarettes, they are still cheaper here than in other European countries (İ think... İ don't smoke :-)

There is a huge difference between city people and village people, and İ have lived in İstanbul and İ live in a tiny rural village near the Mediterranean. İ do speak Turkish enough to understand and get around and İ have Turkish family through marriage, friends and staff. I do believe that I can say of myself that İ know quite some of the habits and traditions of the Turkish people, things they like and they dislike, things they can obtain and things they can't. Turkey is a country that is so rapidly changing and with that its people. Life standard is growing and from so many things i could not find in Turkey say 10 years ago lots is now available.

There are of course, like in my own country, always things you can please people with, flowers, fruits, local products, perfume, if you know the people's taste a bit better: vases, lanterns, teacups, coffee cups, alcoholic drinks, funky bracelets...

Something not mentioned, food culture has deep roots in this country, you can always invite people out for a meal, does no need to be to an expensive restaurant.

But to start on your search for a present İ think about most important is to know who is it for, the background, a city person, somebody more rural, İ have made mistakes with buying presents like for instance buying dresses for two little girls... the parents are more traditional village people so the dresses were never worn. Even a child in a small town would wear a dress in summer.

That makes me think of another present... scarfs and shawls, and cheaper watches for kids.

İf you would ask me what would İ buy for a first time for a stranger in Japan (or any country in the world)..., then that would be some local artisan work, shawls, baklava, local honey, silver perhaps so İ guess that works the other way round too.

Ibusuki, Japan
posts: 36
4. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

I mostly agree, when I was writing my target audience was city people. Because village people will be fine with anything, as you said there is a huge difference with village and city people.

Well baklava, local honey are worst possible choice for japanese people, tested several times. Because Japanese are not used to eat that sweet. As you said you need to know the background of people.

So on my first post, I wrote in that manner. If you wanna IMPRESS, then you need to understand the desires of the people, rather than dictating what you like. Of course if you dont want to impress just buy anything.

Also smokes are of course cheaper in Turkey than Europe, but salaries are much lower in Turkey.

Edited: 5:22 am, August 09, 2013
Kayakoy, Turkey
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
posts: 8,337
reviews: 41
5. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

Food is always hard sure, the further away from your home country the bigger the taste differences. But İ do not think İ would ever buy a present to someone that says in the largest possible font size "this kills"....

You see how hard it is to buy just something for strangers! But so far that has never crossed my path, usually İ know the people at least a tiny bit.

And aside... as long as the Turkish people keep buying their ridiculously expensive petrol (most expensive in the world) than there is no worries for their cigarettes :-)

Istanbul, Turkey
posts: 15,057
reviews: 3
6. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

I would not wish to give a gift to 'impress'.If you are doing that then it is likely to be a business relationship.The vast majority of people who come here and wish to give a gift are usually doing so to people they have met on previous trips,perhaps someone who was kind to them in the past or someone in whose house they are/were a guest.

Under these circumstances whether city or village giving a gift to impress would be regarded as ostentatious and tasteless.This is clearly a culture difference between Turkey and Japan.

Of course if you know that this person is very wealthy then giving a cheap pen as a gift would be inappropriate but even then it would not be sneered at but would be accepted with good grace simply because that is the good manners of Turkish people.

But for the average Turk of modest means(or lower)then a gift of high value would put them at an uncomfortable disadvantage,something no guest would surely wish to do.

With the exception of alcohol (unless you know for definate they drink it)then what ever you bring will be accepted with pleasure.Colouring books and crayons for children,yes,foreign sports items too.Handicrafts famous from your home area,photograph book of famous sites from your home,speciality foods if they travel well are always nice.I know they can't be brought in but on arrival buying flowers or a nice potted plant are always well received by the wealthy and the not so wealthy.Turks love flowers and a potted plant in particular gives them a gift they'll remember you by long after you've gone.

Whatever,it isn't an issue to get paranoid about.Neither is it a matter of trying to impress,it is simply a courtesy not to arrive empty handed,however modest the gift.

Ibusuki, Japan
posts: 36
7. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

sarikanarya you seem to have prejudice, which I came across second time. Your prejudice was to assume that I was Japanese. No I am not.

But my friends who want to impress people, they ask suggestions, as you can see from the older posts here. They wanted to impress their boyfriend/girlfriends family, which is totally fine I think.

Anyway good luck on that note.

Edited: 7:40 am, August 09, 2013
Istanbul, Turkey
posts: 15,057
reviews: 3
8. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

As you are listed as Japan and having a user name that is(or at leasts sounds like)Japanese I would say that is basic assumption not prejudice.Frankly I couldn't care less where you come from,Mars even.

As this is a travel web site most people reading it will be holiday makers so more practical idea's would be relevant.

BTW,forget the 'trying to impress' angle if this is aimed at bf/gf parents.Turkish people are not stupid;they can recognise sucking up when they see it haa haa!

Antalya, Turkey
Destination Expert
for Antalya
posts: 2,964
reviews: 16
9. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

Takui you seem ro be making rules based on your own perceptions then criticising suggestions made by people who both have lived here in Turkey for a good number of years and participate fully in society interacting with Turks all the time.

Gift giving is seen usually not as an opportunity to impress but rather as a gesture of goodwill such as a small thank you for being invited for a meal. I would always take a small gift if invited to a friend's for an evening or meal.

Sari was not being prejudice but just pointing out the different motives behind gift giving in different cultures.

I feel that most people here would be highly embarrassed by an expensive technological gift.

Personally I often give English chocolate or if a special person a very small piece of English china. But that's when I have been to the UK and still have a small stockof gifts

Lately my gifts have been small aloe vera plants that I grow in a decorated pot. Children love picture books or pencils, erasers etc from England.

It's the thought that counts rather than the gift.

Bottrop, Germany
posts: 12,682
reviews: 89
10. Re: The Guide: What gifts to give Turkish people

It´s not very useful if forumites don´t post the destination where they come from or are actually living, it´s misleading ... Just my opinion.

As to this thread and discussion, as I have been at Turkey many times and as we have brought gifts many times too I hope that our turkish hosts didn´t feel offended about the small and not impressive gifts we gave them. As most of the previous posters have said, it´s the tought that counts.

Perhaps we have been wrong sometimes but nobody seemed to be shocked. :-))

Edited: 1:14 pm, August 09, 2013