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PrerequisitesSurvival vocab and travel guide for your first visit to Turkey
Survival words & phrases
What are Individualism and Collectivism?
Individualism and collectivism are two distinct cultural values that describe the relationship between the individual and the group.
Individualism emphasizes the importance of an individual person’s goals, rights, and achievements over those of the group. In individualistic cultures, people tend to be more self-reliant, assertive, and autonomous.
Collectivism, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of group goals, values, and achievements over those of the individual. In collectivistic cultures, people tend to be more interdependent, cooperative, and loyal to their social groups. Collectivistic cultures prioritize harmony and conformity over independence and autonomy.
Cultural differences between countries
Different cultures can have varying degrees of individualism and collectivism. For example, Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom tend to be more individualistic, while Eastern countries such as China, India, and South Korea tend to be more collectivistic.
In individualistic cultures, success is often defined by personal achievement. Because of this, people may be more likely to compete with each other to achieve their goals. In contrast, in collectivistic cultures, success is often defined by the group’s achievements. This means people in collectivistic cultures are often more willing to work together to achieve a common goal.
Understanding the differences between individualistic and collectivistic cultures is important for effective communication and collaboration across cultures.
Country comparison: Turkey compared to the U.S. and U.K.
If you are not from Turkey and want to learn about Turkish culture, it may be helpful to know how your country of origin compares to Turkey in terms of collectivism and individualism. According to Hofstede Insights, Turkey is a collectivistic society. This contrasts with the United States and the United Kingdom, which are examples of countries with individualistic cultures. This means that if you are from the U.S., the U.K. or another country with a similar culture, your culture values independence, autonomy and personal achievement, whereas people in Turkish culture typically prioritize the group or community’s goals over their own individual goals.
Hofstede gives numerical scores on a variety of cultural dimensions in order to show how a country’s culture compares to other cultures. For the Hofstede dimension of individualism versus collectivism, a lower score means a country is more collectivistic and a higher score means the country is more individualistic. According to Hofstede, Turkey has a score of 37, which is a low score compared to the U.S. (91) and the U.K. (89). This means that Turkish society is more collectivistic than individualistic while the U.S. and the U.K. are highly individualistic societies.
However, it’s important to note that these scores are broad generalizations. They are based on national averages and do not necessarily reflect the attitudes and behaviors of every individual in these countries.
What makes Turkey Collectivistic?
If you are wanting to learn about Turkish culture, it is important to know what aspects of Turkish culture make it collectivistic. This is true even if you are familiar with other collectivistic cultures, because there are different forms of collectivism in different cultures.
Collectivism in the family
One study suggests that the family is the institution in which collectivism is most clearly seen in Turkish culture. The study looked at relationships between individuals and the various groups they belong to. According to the study, the family is the main group that a person belongs to that shares common interests, values, and a sense of identity. This is reflected in many aspects of Turkish culture where people rely on their family or prioritize their family over other groups. For example, many Turkish people prefer to borrow money from family members rather than from a bank. Many Turkish people would be uncomfortable with the idea of placing elderly relatives in nursing homes, but would prefer to have them move in with a relative. Additionally, many people in Turkey believe that parents should financially support teenage and young-adult students rather than expecting them to take an after-school job. The study also compares the attitudes of students from the big city of Istanbul to students in the more rural setting of Van. The results suggest that the cultural values of hierarchy and family loyalty are stronger in rural areas than in urban areas in Turkey.
Conformity to the group
One example of collectivism in Turkish culture is the willingness to endure personal discomfort to conform to group desires or to conform to cultural norms. A common example of this is in drinking and serving tea or coffee. A person acting as a host in Turkey is expected to serve tea or coffee even if they don’t like it. Likewise, the guest is expected to eat or drink whatever is served.
Conformity to group decisions is highly valued in Turkey, both for important decisions and relatively unimportant decisions. For example, if a group of friends goes out to eat together and one person expresses a preference on food or drink, others will often follow suit. Often everyone in the group will order the same thing, even if some members of the group normally would prefer something different.
In Turkey, inclusion is also a high value, with kids being taught from a young age to play together and not to exclude anyone. Whenever an activity is mentioned in conversation, there is a cultural expectation that everyone listening to the conversation is invited. Likewise, if a person is eating a meal and someone they know walks by, the person eating the meal will typically invite the friend to sit down and eat with them (even if they only have enough food for one person).
Challenges for people from individualistic societies
People from individualistic societies may face challenges in Turkey due to the cultural differences. Here are some of the common challenges for people from individualistic cultures moving to Turkey.
- Struggles with the concept of “face”: People in Turkey often place a high priority on social harmony and avoiding conflict, which can lead to a concept called “face-saving.” People in these cultures are sensitive to maintaining their own and others’ face or reputation. This can be challenging for people from individualistic cultures who prioritize direct and precise communication over saving face.
- Communication barriers: In Turkish culture, people often use indirect communication as a way of showing politeness and maintaining a positive relationship. For people who are not used to indirect communication, however, it can lead to miscommunications and extra frustrations.
- Difficulty adjusting to the emphasis on group harmony: In Turkey, people tend to prioritize group goals over individual goals, which can be challenging for people who are used to operating more independently.
- Difficulty building close relationships: Social relationships in Turkey are often built on family and community ties, which can be challenging for people coming in from the outside who don’t have those same connections.
- Struggles with cultural views on decision-making: In Turkey, decision-making is often a group process with input from family, friends, and community members. This can be challenging for people from individualistic cultures who are used to making decisions independently.
Overall, individuals from individualistic cultures may face challenges in adapting to the more collectivistic cultural norms and expectations in Turkey and may need to be patient, flexible, and open-minded in order to successfully navigate these cultural differences.
Countries that are more collectivistic than Turkey
Although Turkey has a collectivistic culture, some cultures are even more collectivistic. According to Hofstede Insights, some of the countries with more collectivistic cultures than Turkey include:
- South Korea
- Vietnam 
Turkish culture compared with more collectivistic cultures
Just as people from highly individualistic societies may have trouble adapting to Turkish culture, people from more collectivistic cultures can also face difficulties adapting to the less collectivistic culture in Turkey.
For example, it may be hard for a person coming to Turkey from China or South Korea to adjust to an environment where people are more likely to pursue their own personal interests instead of working toward a common goal. Likewise, people from more collectivistic cultures typically communicate more indirectly, which may lead to miscommunication or frustration.
 Hofstede Insights. Country Comparison. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/turkey,usa,uk/
 Ayçiçeği-dinn, Ayşe; Caldwell-Harris, Catherine. “VERTICAL COLLECTIVISM, FAMILY-CONSCIOUSNESS AND URBANIZATION IN TURKEY.” Electronic Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 12, no. 47. https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/download/article-file/70512
 Hofstede Insights. Country Comparison. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/