Turkey is quite quickly becoming one of the international destinations most researched by those thinking of moving abroad to find a more affordable and better quality of life. A great deal of media interest is also focused on Turkey as it develops and emerges and begins to present a more and more attractive façade to visitors and potential residents from abroad. It is no wonder therefore that the number of expats living in Turkey has risen significantly over the past two years, and that this year Turkey is preparing for even more arrivals than in 2007.
If you’re looking at Turkey as a potential retirement destination, somewhere to relocate your family to or just somewhere you believe you could feel at home no matter what stage of life you’re at, wouldn’t it be ideal if you could try before you buy into the dream? Well in this article we’ll explore the good and bad points about living in Turkey so that you can at least get some fairly neutral perspective on what it’s really like to emigrate to Turkey.
As is so often the case when it comes to nations Brits favour for relocation, there are very British enclaves now developing in Turkey particularly along the southern coastline. These communities of Brits tend to create their own social scene and dominate the local landscape a little too much for some who are hoping to move to Turkey to experience a new way of life. It’s understandable that you will reach out for the familiar when you move abroad, and if you don’t speak much Turkish and are new at the whole expat ‘thing,’ you can easily be drawn into leading a British lifestyle whilst living overseas!
If this appeals to you then that’s fine, but if the thought of living in a mini Britain in the sun with a few more minarets on the horizon is a distinct turn off, watch where you relocate to. Stay away from the tourism trail, step back from the coast and spend some time in your chosen location to check out how many of the local eateries sell all day English breakfasts! Fortunately Turkey is a big country and it’s possible to easily avoid the pockets of Brits if you want to. If on the other hand you want a bit more familiarity, you will be able to find it.
In terms of the negative aspects of living in Turkey – no matter who you speak to you will hear the same four things cited repeatedly. Officialdom, lack of skilled tradesmen, a number of dishonest people who will try and cross your path and the treatment of animals…
Dealing with officialdom first – when you want to register your residency in Turkey and perhaps even get a work permit, import your car and/or household effects you will encounter reams of paperwork, you will have to visit dozens of governmental offices which are barely open for more than a couple of hours each day and you will find yourself being given contradictory information whichever way you turn. In part this is because some people make the rules up as they go along, in part it is because some people don’t know what the rules are! For Brits this is annoying and stressful – but if you try and relax and go with the system you will find that you will pop out the other end with all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed – eventually. One top tip – if you can find a willing and friendly runner who will assist you for a small fee, take up their offer of help!
The next issue is the one of tradespersons. Each and every man you meet in Turkey will tell you that yes he is a plumber, electrician, builder, plasterer, tiler or whatever it is you say you are looking for. However, building standards in Turkey are low, there are no training or qualifications to be gained in any aspect of the building trade and chances are, you will have a better idea of how things are done. It you can possibly attempt it, do it yourself! If you can’t then we wish you the best of luck! Get referrals and recommendations from other Brits – there are a few Turks out there with decent building skills, but they are few and far between. We mean no disrespect – we are simply stating facts! After all, how many men in the UK think that they are good at DIY – and how many of them leave projects half done?!
Next up it’s the subject of dishonest persons who attempt to rip you off. Well, these are not exclusive to Turkey – they are to be found in every corner of the world and they pray on people naïve, newly arrived, seeking assistance and who are unaware of the way things work in their new home nation. Don’t part with large sums of cash for any service, object, commodity or asset unless you are so certain that the person you are paying can and will deliver. Tread very, very cautiously.
Finally on the negative side of things is the way animals are treated in Turkey. Turkish people do not value cats and dogs as we do, they see dogs as a working animal or guard for the home at best, and as an annoying scavenger at worst. There are therefore many strays and street dogs and cats and this can be shocking for Brits at first. The only thing you can practically do is adopt a few! Things will not change – in part because animals are viewed very differently in the Turkish culture and not valued for pure aesthetic or companionship value – in part because there is so much personal poverty in parts of Turkey that to take on, love and feed an animal would be complete and utter unaffordable madness.
Now all of that negativity is dealt with, what about the good points about living in Turkey? Well, they certainly outweigh the bad!
For a start the lifestyle in Turkey is fantastic. Most of the year the weather is so ideal that one can live outside. Meals can be taken on the terrace and walks can be enjoyed in the spring, autumn and even winter – even on cooler days people switch on a terrace heater and shelter from the wind and enjoy the winter sun. This outdoors lifestyle is healthier and also results in far more social interaction which is good for the soul! In the summer of course the sunshine boosts vitamin D levels and promotes a general feeling of well-being in most people.
The food in Turkey is amazing – and the abundance of locally grown fresh produce is staggering. Local markets are where you should shop and learn to live on fruit, veg, meat, cheese and bread rather than going to the supermarket and looking for vacuum packed ready meals! The cost of living is something that goes hand in hand with this – locally grown produce is so affordable as is eating out, and so it is possible to live in Turkey on a fraction of the income that you need in the UK for example. What’s more, there is less time spent in shopping malls and at indoor events where you’re likely to spend money in Turkey because all focus is on being outside, having barbecues, visiting the beach, sailing, walking and socialising with friends at restaurants or bars rather than paying for cinema tickets or for the family to have a day out an an overpriced theme park for example!
All in all the lifestyle, the way of life, the weather, the friendly and welcoming people are the main reasons for living in Turkey – but we advise you check out the lifestyle for yourself by spending a good amount of time in the country before committing to either a house purchase or a complete relocation.