10 Phrases to Know Before You Visit Turkey

Turkish is not an easy language to get your head around so a lot of hand gestures and smiling usually does the trick. It’s good then that Turkish people are also known for their hospitality. However, if you do want to prepare yourself with a few commonly used phrases to impress your Turkish counterparts, here’s a list of the essentials.

Hoş geldiniz

You’ll probably see this word as soon as you get off the plane and its direct translation means something along the lines of ‘your arrival is lovely.’ On more direct terms, it means welcome, and is used to greet guests in almost every situation, whether you’re entering a store or someone’s home. The right to thing to say when you hear this phrase is ‘hoş bulduk,’ which means something along the lines of ‘I’ve found your welcome lovely.’

Welcome | © Nathan/Flickr

Geçmiş olsun

In sickness and in health, the Turkish language has a phrase for all of life’s conditions. These two words come together to wish the receiver a quick recovery, or in literal translation, for the ailment to ‘go away soon.’

İyi ki doğdun

If you have a Turkish friend and want to impress them with your Turkish language skills on their birthday this phrase should come in handy. Translating to ‘good thing you were born,’ it’s a bit more emphatic than the simple ‘happy birthday.’

Birthday | © Paul Downey/Flickr

Çok yaşa

A sneeze should never go unnoticed and in Turkey ‘may you live long,’ is the proper way to respond. If you’re brave you’ll say it to a stranger who will probably be very appreciative.

Nazar değmesin

Nazar is a huge deal in Turkish culture and revolves around the belief that jealous people emit negative energy through their eyeballs that affect your everyday life with bad luck. Apart from the evil eye charms sold everywhere (meant to cancel out the negative eye rays) you’ll hear this phrase uttered to protect the receiver from said Nazar, literally translating to ‘may you not be touched by the evil eye.’

Evil Eye | © Brian Suda/Flickr

Hayırlı uğurlu olsun

Auspiciousness is a big deal in a country whose majority is Muslim. As such, every life event is blessed with these words, ‘let it be auspicious and lucky,’ in order to ensure that your new car, new wife, graduation etc. is indeed protected by the higher being.

Balık etli

It’s no secret that Turkish men prefer their women to have some meat on their bones and this expression is used often to complement the curvier ladies. ‘Balık etli,’ literally means ‘fish fleshed,’ which probably has something to do with the fact that fish with more meat on the bone are more delicious.

Fish | © Tony Hisgett/Flickr

Kolay gelsin

This is the perfect acknowledgment for someone who is working hard, while you are not. Whether it’s the nice lady who is cleaning you hotel room, a waiter who just cleaned up your mess, or a cab driver, saying ‘let it be easy for you,’ is a pretty nice thing to say.


There’s a lot of Turkish pop songs that use this particular phrase since music is, after all, meant to lighten the mood. Translating to ‘forget about it,’ this is one of the most popular bits of advice given to those who are going through heartbreak or an unnecessary bit of woe. Turkish people like to take it easy.

Ellerine sağlık

If you’ve enjoyed the meal someone has carefully prepared for you, this is the way to show your gratitude in Turkey. Translating to ‘health to your hands,’ all Turkish mothers and grandmothers have heard this phrase on a regular basis after feeding their grateful families.

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