18 May Hammam etiquette: A guide to hammam harmony
Wherever we go there are rules and etiquette to follow. So, how about hammam etiquette? What is Turkish bath etiquette to know and follow? The first thing you should know is even though partially naked, modesty is very important. We will give you tips on how to be modest in a Turkish bath.
That is why we have gathered all this information here for you on what to do in a hammam, and what to wear to a Turkish hammam, so you will have a pleasant and memorable experience. So, don’t be shy and read on to find your answers.
Before you go: Pre-hammam preparation
There is not much preparation needed when you are planning to go to a Turkish hammam but still knowing what to expect at a Turkish bath is better than being surprised by not knowing what to do. You are going there to get cleaned and to have a scrub down, so doing them beforehand is not necessary. However, do take a quick shower so there are no funny smells.
Furthermore, avoid wearing any kind of body lotion or sunscreen. That way, your hammam attendant can give you a good body scrub to remove all the dead skin. You might need to bring your own personal supplies such as:
- A towel
- A pair of slippers
- Underwear or bathing suit
These are for you to wear during your hammam experience.
Understanding hammam etiquette
With every place comes its own set of rules and a Turkish bath is no exception either. Here we have gathered some of the basic rules that it is best to follow in order to better enjoy the Turkish bath experience. Hammam etiquette that you should follow includes:
- Dress code
- Personal space
- Cell phones
Now, let’s give each of them a spotlight and take a closer look to understand hammam etiquette!
Even though it is normal to not wear any clothes, modesty is appreciated. During your time in the Turkish hammam, you can wear a traditional Turkish towel called peştemal (peshtemal). Men wrap it around their waist and women around their chest. Some bathhouses might provide you with disposable underwear to put on during your treatment. If you are not comfortable with any of these options, you can always bring your bathing suit and wear it.
As we mentioned, modesty is most welcome in Turkish hammams. Even though you might feel comfortable being completely nude, it is not a common practice in a Turkish bath. All hamam attendants wear a hammam towel called peştemal or in some modern hammams, the attendants might have special uniforms.
Communication is key! Being nice and friendly with the patrons is always a good idea. This is one of the hammam essentials. If you are going to a Turkish bath, you can learn a few useful Turkish words to tell your bath attendant.
You can say “teşekkür ederim” in Turkish, meaning thank you. And if you feel like it is hard to remember, you can memorize this phrase: tea-a-sugar-dream.
Sounds pretty similar. You can also use your body language to show you are thankful. Simply place your hand on your chest and do a small bow even a little head tilt would be enough.
If you want more of these useful phrases check out the frequently asked questions.
Turkish people might not be famous for having a big personal space but in traditional hammams, it is a different story. There is definitely enough space for you to relax and not be too close to any of the guests in the bath.
There is no question that cell phones are prohibited inside the hammam. You are not allowed to take your cell phone inside the bathing rooms. No video recording or taking photos is allowed. The hammam staff will give you a locker to put your belongings and especially your cell phone in it.
Tipping is not very common in Turkish culture, but nowadays with the growing number of tourists, it is becoming more acceptable. You do not need to tip every single hammam staff, but it is a good idea to tip your masseuse. Anything from 10% to 15% of the whole cost of your hammam treatment would suffice.
During your hammam visit
Alright, now that you have been prepared for your hammam visit, let’s see what some of the hammam etiquette you should follow during your hamam visits.
There are usually no time limits when you go to a Turkish bathhouse, and you can stay as long as you want. However, depending on the place you go to if it is a tourist hammam or a public hammam there might be some time limitations to better service the visitors and avoid any human traffic jams. It is always a good idea to check the hamam policies before you go. With that said, spending anywhere from 1 to 2 hours is common.
Other than getting your entire body clean in a Turkish bath, there is the relaxation part, which is as important as the cleaning. Part of your relaxation is to lay on a heated marble slab and you will have your scrub down and later your soapy wash.
Whether you are going to a Moroccan hammam or a Turkish hamam you should know that socializing is a big part of the tradition. But that does not mean being loud and disrespectful toward the other guests and attendants. Also, remember there is no pressure to communicate with the patrons or other guests. Even if you do not feel comfortable talking with your attendant simply smiling and being nice will suffice.
This has been our article on hammam etiquette. Now, let’s explore some of the frequently asked questions about visiting Turkish hammam.
Frequently asked questions on Turkish hammam visits
1. What should I do if I'm not comfortable with the level of nudity in the hammam?
When you learn about the fact that in a Turkish hamam, you will mostly be naked is somewhat intimidating. But the whole experience is not about nudity. It is to achieve peace and tranquility, but if you are not at all comfortable with any level of nudity, you could ask whether the hamam you are going to offers separate rooms for your massage and other treatments. Also, remember you can always wear your bathing suit, and you also have a Turkish towel so, you are never fully nude.
2. How should I communicate with my hammam attendants if I don't speak the language?
This could be a challenge especially if you are visiting another country. If you are planning to go to a Turkish hammam, especially in Turkey you could learn a few simple Turkish phrases and how to say them, so you can convey your needs and wants to your patron.
Thank you: Teşekkürler
Due to the popularity of Turkish hamam among tourists nowadays a lot of the historical hamams have staff members that speak English so to make your whole experience much better.
3. Is it appropriate to make a conversation with other hammam guests?
Yes, mostly. Living in the age of technology has made us a bit anxious to have real-life conversations. But a big part of the Hamam experience is socializing. We understand that there are boundaries and for most people having a chit-chat while receiving a full-body wash is quite weird. But if the opportunity calls for it do not shy away and strike up a conversation with your fellow guests.
4. How can I avoid offending other guests in the hammam?
Generally speaking, if you are a mindful person who follows and understand social boundaries you will not have any problems and for sure no one would be offended. But here are some things to bare in mind. Don't walk around completely naked. Having a level of modesty is definitely appreciated. If you are going to a hammam with a group of friends or family make sure when you are talking you maintain a low voice. Yes, we said hammams are places to socialize but that doe not mean being too loud. Nobody likes noise pollution.
5. What should I do if I feel uncomfortable or claustrophobic in the steam room or sauna?
Usually going to saunas or hot rooms are prohibited for people who suffer from asthma and heart condition. So if you have any of those conditions you better let the staff know so they can accommodate you better. If you do not have any of those conditions but still do not feel comfortable or claustrophobic in the hot room you can ask your patron to lead you to the other room so you can relax.
6. Is it okay to leave early if necessary?
Yes absolutely although you would be missing out on the whole experience. Just a reminder that there are no time limitations so whenever you want you can simply tell your patron so they can better assist you to get ready to leave.