Ask Mehmet: Body language

When traveling throughout Turkey, travelers should be aware that hand gestures typically used in the U.S. have a different meaning to Turkish people. Travelers should avoid using any offensive hand signals or any motions that could possibly be construed as being rude, insulting or aggressive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Krystal Ardrey/Released)

When traveling throughout Turkey, travelers should be aware that hand gestures typically used in the U.S. have a different meaning to Turkish people. Travelers should avoid using any offensive hand signals or any motions that could possibly be construed as being rude, insulting or aggressive. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Krystal Ardrey/Released)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@incirlik.af.mil. Then, look for an answer to the question on the 39th Air Base Wing's official website at www.incirlik.af.mil and Incirlik Air Base's Facebook page.

Question:
Mehmet, I am new here. I love traveling and after I receive my truck I plan to go to a new place every weekend. I am really good at communicating with people using hand signs and body language. My question is; are there any signs or gestures that I should avoid? What are the most common signs in Turkish body language?

Answer:
The article below I got from www.mymerhaba.com gives the exact answer to your question.

Turks like to communicate with their hands and arms and they can surely compete with Italians on this matter. Even if you don't know a word in Turkish it is possible for you to get along with a Turk. Bow your head for "yes" and raise your head backwards for, "no"; in addition to your head you may also half close your eyes and raise your eyebrows for, "no". If you raise your shoulders and open your arms it means, 'I don't know.' In order to show that you trust him or her you can tap his or her shoulders. Moreover, Turks like kissing each other. It is customary to kiss each other's cheeks upon greeting and leaving - men also do this, however it is presumed that there is some level of familiarity, otherwise, a simple handshake would suffice. Kissing is done only among the same sex in public. You hardly see a man kissing woman in public. I recommend you as a foreigner don't kiss anybody.

As a sign of respect Turks kiss the elder people's hands. In addition of kissing the hand, the kissed hand is raised and touched on the forehead of the kissing person. That means "I respect you, you have a place on top of my head." As retaliation for that gesture, the elder ones say some words praising the young one and/or kiss the young one on his/her cheeks or head.

Besides Turks generate strange sounds as, "hiiii", (without opening your mouth and it really sounds as if you are moaning) or, "hi hi" (again without opening your mouth).

If you unite all your fingers and swing your hand up and down, every body will understand that you loved the meal. Above all if you close your eyes and make, "mmmmm" sound they will even think you are a Turk.

If you rub your thumb on the side of your index finger while your hand is in a fist position, it means money. If a Turk put his right hand on his chest and slightly bow his head, it means greetings through the heart. The same sign also means agreement with your ideas.

There are some hand signs considered impolite by Turks. The first one is to put your thumb between your index and middle finger while your hand is in a fist position. The other is more international. It is the middle finger standing upright again when your hand is in a fist. They both symbolize the male sex organ. Another sign is meeting of your thumb and index finger forming a circle. While in most countries it means, "okay," in Turkey it means homosexual and is considered a big insult.

If you point to your head with your index finger, it means, "Are you an idiot?" Again if you put your index finger to your temple and move it like screwing it means, "Are you crazy?"

While you are driving if you raise your hand and wave it about, it will indicate the car following yours, "What's the matter?" and it is sure to anger most drivers.

A note of caution: Foreigners would be well advised to avoid using any offensive hand signals or any motions that could possibly be construed as being rude, insulting or aggressive. Such acts could lead to serious consequences. Avoid meaningless confrontations - better to just walk away from trouble.