In English-speaking cultures, credentials and references are an important key to getting the job you want, but in Turkey relationships and who you know play a major role in the decision. Maybe you have come across the Turkish word “torpil.” If not, let me explain how it works and its meaning: The use of “torpil” (a person with pull or influence) or “tanidik” (an acquaintance) is routine in the business world. This practice may fall into a grey area for a Westerner (e.g., you need a friend inside an official office in order to get approval for things: If you don’t have a friend it may not get approved). When choosing consultants such as lawyers, accountants or business partners, it is wise to choose those with the widest networks. A perfect example of this is my own. The accounting firm and lawyer I have used for many years are relatives of the director of the first language school where I taught.
An important element of Turkish culture is the idea of doing favors. If your Turkish friend has done you a favor, it is good to show your appreciation in some way. When possible, it is beneficial to return favors. Turkish culture tends to encourage the idea of returning favors: If someone has helped you, you owe them and need to do something for them when they need it.
Many expats write and ask me about shipping personal belongings to Turkey. Unless you are able to hire a professional international shipping company who understands Turkish customs regulations, I do not encourage this as it is very easy for items to be held up at customs.
Regulations can be a nightmare. Intricate rules are laid down for all sorts of things. There is a plethora of regulations issued by the various government ministries which carry the force of law. Regulations are amended and changed. The procedure you followed the first time round may be different the next time. It could end up being a costly mistake to assume it is the same as last time. It is important to stay up to date and informed because these regulations can change frequently.
From obtaining a telephone line to setting up a company, detailed supporting documentation, often countersigned by the public notary, is required when making applications to the authorities. Any application is accompanied by a “dilekce” (literally “statement of wish”), which usually has to be in a set format. Dilekce writers can be seen sitting outside most government offices, often with an old manual typewriter, ready to write a dilekce for those who are not sure of the correct process. As well as these, you will see photocopy shops and photographic shops nearby. Most applications require at least five or six passport-sized photographs. A wise businessman will always have plenty of passport photographs about his person, as you never know when they will come in handy.
Different officials may require different sets of documents for the same task. Getting multiple signatures on all paperwork is a tedious process, but without the mandatory signature and accompanying stamp you cannot proceed to the next step of the process. Government offices are full of people queuing for these necessary signatures and stamps. You may find yourself queuing six times for six different signatures just to take receipt of a parcel addressed to yourself at the main postal sorting office. Never argue with the officials, as the power to sign or not sign is in their hands. Just do what they say, bring them the paperwork they want, etc. Any disagreement may result in your file going to the bottom of the pile, probably not to see the light of day for a long while.
“The one who holds the official stamp in their hand has the power of Solomon” -- Turkish proverb.
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org