Aegean Coast (Bodrum) culture
Turks are famous for making others welcome, and the majority of people are friendly and courteous to strangers. Almost everywhere, you'll be greeted with "hosgeldiniz" (welcome) and asked a barrage of questions about yourself and your country. This should be treated as genuine curiosity and not an offensive intrusion.
When browsing in a shop, you could well find yourself offered tea. It's not rude to refuse - but in most cases it's probably not a pressure-sell tactic as most people are more than happy to talk to you about where you're from, what you do or whether you're married.
If you're invited to a home (which happens quite a lot, especially if you're out of the main resort areas) you can usually play it by ear. In the average Turkish home you'll be treated as an honoured guest, and if you accept the invitation it's more usual to take pastries, chocolates or flowers than drink. If you visit a Turkish family in a village you should also take your shoes off, and the custom is to kiss the elder's hand and bring it to your forehead.
Things to avoid are kissing and hugging ostentatiously with a member of the opposite sex in public, pointing at someone or blowing your nose. Topless sunbathing is forbidden, and beachwear should be confined to the beach or poolside. Smoking is widely acceptable but prohibited in cinemas, theatres, buses, coaches and taxis.
99% of the Turkish population is Muslim, with the rest split between Orthodox, Gregorian and Protestant Christians, Catholics, Suryani and Jews. Although most of the population is Muslim, Turkey is a secular country and everyone has freedom of religion and beliefs. Nobody can be forced to participate in religious ceremonies or rites against their will, and no blame is attached to anyone because of their beliefs.
Turkey is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited regions, largely because of its location at the intersection of Asia and Europe. The first major empire was that of the Hittites, from the 18th to the 13th century BC. After falling to Alexander the Great in 334 BC, the area was divided into small kingdoms, but succumbed to Rome by the 1st century BC. In AD 324 the Roman Emperor Constantine I chose Constantinople (now Istanbul), as the capital of the Roman Empire.
The rise of the Ottoman Empire after 1299 led to mass conversions to Islam, and created an Islam-based rather than a Turkish-based identity. The Empire interacted with both Eastern and Western cultures throughout its 631-year history, and was among the world's most powerful political entities in the 16th and 17th Centuries. But it fell after the First World War, when the victorious Allied Forces partitioned it through the Treaty of Sèvres.
Soon after, the Turkish War of Independence resulted in the birth of a Turkish state that formally abolished the office of the Sultan. The Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 led to the international recognisation of the sovereignty of the newly formed Republic of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's became the country's first president, and his political, economic, legal and cultural reforms did much to modernise the country.
In 2005, Turkey officially became a candidate country to join the European Union as a full member, having been an associate member since 1964.
The majority of the 73 million population are of Turkish ethnicity. The largest non-Turkic minority group is the Kurds, a distinct ethnic group traditionally concentrated in the South East, and there are also Greeks, Armenians and Jewish communities. However, these groups are well assimilated into Turkish society.
Though Turkish is the sole official language throughout Turkey, broadcasts in local languages and dialects on state media outlets include Arabic, Bosnian, Circassian and Kurdish.
The Turkish population is relatively young, with over a quarter falling within the 0-14 age bracket. Due to a demand for an increased labour force in Post-World War II Europe, many Turkish citizens emigrated to Western Europe (particularly West Germany).