Having experienced life in Turkey for six years, I am going to share with you my top ten tips for living in Turkey – By Corina Carthew
Admittedly, Turkey may not be on everyone’s radar as an ex-pat destination, but for those of us seeking a new adventure, life in Istanbul doesn’t fail to deliver. Bridging two continents, Istanbul oozes history, culture and a unique blend of traditional ways and modernism.
Turkey is very popular with retirees who prefer the sun-filled lazy days of the south. There are many expats in Turkey and cities like Fethiye, Antalya and Dalaman have thriving expat communities where one can buy their dream home at a fraction of the cost in their home country.
Here are my top 10 tips for expats in Turkey:
1. Research the country
It’s important to understand that Turkey is an Islamic country and that means a different religion to what you may be used to and many cultural differences. For me, the adhan or the Islamic call to prayer was exotic, romantic and a reminder of where I was living and how blessed I was to be doing so.
English is not widely spoken throughout Turkey and so, therefore, it is paramount to try and learn a language at least some basic Turkish. Of course, Google translate is there to help you but in the case of Turkish, I found that translations were often inaccurate. There are schools where you can take Turkish lessons and Duolingo now offers Turkish too.
3. Embrace the culture and history in Turkey
Understanding and respect for the many cultural differences is a prime factor in ensuring you have a positive experience in Turkey. The Turkish people are fiercely patriotic and you will see portraits and memorials to their founding father and hero Mustafa Kemal Atatürk everywhere. It’s worth reading up on his life and why he is so revered. Similarly, it’s important to respect religious beliefs and rituals such as prayer and fasting during Ramadan.
4. Customs for Expats in Turkey
Living in Turkey, you will soon realize how friendly and hospitable the people are. You will be welcomed where ever you go and it’s not unusual for neighbours to offer you food, students to bring you gifts and every assistance is offered to you. Expatriates are wholeheartedly welcomed in Turkey.
Be aware that honour and pride are strong traits of the Turkish people and therefore, it is generally taken as an insult to decline an invitation or offer of food. When entering a Turkish home it is expected that you remove your shoes and you will be offered slippers to wear during your visit.
5. Enjoy the Amazing Cuisine in Turkey
If you are a foodie, then your taste-buds will be continually tantalized in Turkey. I still class Turkish food as my all-time favorite cuisine. It offers much more than the döner kebab and vegetarians will be well catered for with a massive variety of salads and colorful appetizers. As the whole animal is used, there are some dishes that I wasn’t too keen on such as kokoreç or rotisseried lamb intestines. Some of my favorite dishes are gozleme, pide or Turkish pizza and çiğ köfte. Be sure to check them out.
6. Employment for Expats in Turkey
When I moved to Turkey, it was to teach English which I found to be a hugely rewarding job. Turkish students are respectful and eager to learn. They know how important English is for their future careers. There is no shortage of English teaching jobs if you have the necessary qualifications. Other than that, you will not find it easy to make an income unless your work is online.
7. Where do you want to live in Turkey
This differs depending on your taste and needs. If you love the culture, museums, galleries and a fast-paced life then Istanbul or Izmir will appeal. It’s important to realize that these cities are also highly populated and noisy but do offer so much colour and life that every day is an adventure. These cities would also be your pick if you were looking to find a teaching job. However, if you are thinking to retire and spend your days on pristine beaches, enjoying delicious food and more peaceful life, then the south-west coast is a popular choice. Fethiye region is very popular and there is a large expatriate community so you won’t be lonely or on your own.
8. Safety for Foreigners in Turkey
Despite what the mainstream media likes to project, I found Turkey to be a relatively safe country. Commonsense prevails; I didn’t go walking alone in Istanbul at midnight just as I wouldn’t in any large city. Wolf whistling is a thing but I found that to be harmless. Unwanted advances by men can be annoying but they quickly back off and I never felt threatened. As for crime, again this is everywhere in the world and Turkey is no different. Having said that, I once left my laptop in the overhead compartment on a bus and was delighted that it was returned to the bus headquarters for me to pick up. My advice is, of course, to be as cautious as you would be anywhere.
9. Finding a Place to Live in Turkey
You’ve decided on the area you want to live and now you want to find a home. In the current economic climate, there are plenty of bargains to be had both renting and buying. I strongly recommend renting for a year before buying to see if the area you chose is the right fit. The problem I found in renting was dealing with emlaks or real-estate agents. In Turkey anyone can deal in property, no qualifications required. Therefore, it’s important to find a trusted and well-respected emlak who won’t cheat you and expect a ridiculously high finder’s fee. If you can rent directly from the owner you will save yourself a lot of money.
10. Other Important Considerations for Expats in Turkey
As with any relocation overseas, it’s extremely necessary to check out visas, how to get a resident permit and international health insurance. If required by your passport, the 90-day tourist visa can be applied for online. If you then wish to apply for residency certain conditions must be met which include proving that you have enough money to finance your life in Turkey and proof of adequate health insurance.
If granted, this short-term residency can be renewed as necessary. This type of residence permit does not allow work of any kind. If you wish to work, your employer must organize a worker’s visa for you. There are so many different types of visas and residency, that it’s best is to check the Turkish government website. If this all seems daunting, there are services that can assist you.
Turkey is a fascinating and diverse country to travel and live in. If you have an open mind and are adaptable, Turkey can offer you an amazing lifestyle for a fraction of the cost of living in your home country. For expats in Turkey, every day is an adventure.