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What's it REALLY like to be a Turkey Expat?

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Ken Grubb

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Tell us what your life is really like as a Turkey expat. What problems do you have? What annoys you? What do you like about your experience? What do you dislike?

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a Turkey expat?

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I rather like living the "quiet life" in the area we live in Turkey, but of course a few things bother me sometimes.

 

One thing that REALLY annoys me is the queueing system for service in the banks !  Just take a ticket & wait for your turn.... and wait.... and wait!  There's more than one queue (number sequences) -- in fact, several.  And yet all the tellers deal with most of the different types of business.  Seems there's a priority system depending on what your business is, & whether you enter a kimlik number, customer number, card number, or no number at the ticket machine.  And some customers zoom in without even taking a ticket!

 

I recently entered a bank with no-one waiting and just one customer at the single teller booth open,.so just took an ordinary ticket, thinking I'd be next.  In the meantime a few other people came one by one, and all got called before me.  I've learned my lesson -- ALWAYS put in my customer number, no matter what !!!

 

It's extremely discriminatory because each customer's business is important for that customer. It should be first come first served.  This is just one small way citizens are arbitrarily prioritized in Turkey, which I think reinforces a sort of class culture. :(

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Meral, when you say that you put in your customer number, do you do this by swiping your card, or manually?. I find that the different sequences confusing but do not feel that I am being discriminated against. In fact they are exceptionally polite to the token foreigners of the town. The bank call me up when a time deposit account has matured to remind me to reinvest it. That is real service.

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..


I rather like living the "quiet life" in the area we live in Turkey, but of course a few things bother me sometimes.

 

One thing that REALLY annoys me is the queueing system for service in the banks !  Just take a ticket & wait for your turn.... and wait.... and wait!  There's more than one queue (number sequences) -- in fact, several.  And yet all the tellers deal with most of the different types of business.  Seems there's a priority system depending on what your business is, & whether you enter a kimlik number, customer number, card number, or no number at the ticket machine.  And some customers zoom in without even taking a ticket!

 

I recently entered a bank with no-one waiting and just one customer at the single teller booth open,.so just took an ordinary ticket, thinking I'd be next.  In the meantime a few other people came one by one, and all got called before me.  I've learned my lesson -- ALWAYS put in my customer number, no matter what !!!

 

It's extremely discriminatory because each customer's business is important for that customer. It should be first come first served.  This is just one small way citizens are arbitrarily prioritized in Turkey, which I think reinforces a sort of class culture. sad.png

A rather lame set of complaints since they have to do with a bank which is a commercial interest and not a government office. This is certainly not been my experience--anywhere in Turkey.  glare.gif

We use YapiKredi bank, many of the very friendly staff speak enough English that a foreigner can do a simple transaction with other staff more available with English skills. There is a machine at the entrance where we insert our ATM card, either English or Turkish can be chosen and then there is a list of transactions you may wish to make. You choose one, the machine spits out your card and a waiting number. I think it is very fair and all aboveboard.

If someone were to walk in, not take a number, and then get served ahead of me I would complain. Do you, have you?  Do business elsewhere if you do not like the service your local bank gives.  kicking%5B1%5D.gif


There are various levels of "ex-pats;" some are immigrants, some just stay for extended holidays, some bounce back between their home countries and Turkey for long periods of time, unwilling to make either a permanent home.

A few things I like:
The friendliness of Turkish people, I have always been greeted as if I were a long-time friend no matter where I went, no matter the economic or educational status of the greeter. I have so many examples of Turkish people who did not know me at all going out of their way to assist me that I could not note them all here.

I will give two examples...
Istanbul many years ago, four of us new "yabcilar" in a car, not sure how to find my house even though we knew we were close. We found a parking control officer, on duty, in uniform and tried to ask him with our "Tarzan" Turkish.  I then called the Missus on her mobile and she started to tell him where we lived, then her battery went dead. The officer jumped in the car and made it clear we should drive. We drove what seemed like a lot, right, left, back and forth until we were in sight of our house. He made us stop and got out, we tried to thank him and also tried to pay him something. He refused any payment and we know he had a long walk back to his area of duty.

Kaş; a few weeks ago. An American friend who is visiting for a couple of months and renting an apartment had an eye ailment that I thought might be serious. His downstairs neighbour is a Turkish doctor in the Kaş hospital. It was 2100 on Saturday night. We knocked on the doctor's door. He asked us in before we had a chance to explain why we were there. In his living room were 10 people, friends who were visiting and they were in the middle of watching a film on their TV. They practically ordered us to sit and made tea for everyone. Everyone in the room was a doctor, they were all students together at medical school. The neighbour of the American asked how he could help. The American told of his eye problem and the other doctors, along with the neighbour, asked a series of questions. The neighbour doctor then got on the phone and called both Fethiye and Antalya to speak to an eye specialist on call. He had to make many calls on his mobile. Eventually he found an opthamologist who said that the American can wait until Monday morning and that he should come to his clinic office at Esnaf in Fethiye. No appointment necessary, just show up and he would see the American. After the call the neighbour doctor said if the American wanted, he, the neighbour, would go to Fethiye with the American. Both the American and I were stunned, the neighbour would take off from his hospital to escort the American to Fethiey. More tea and conversation followed. The American saw the eye doctor on Monday and is doing well now.

I lived in the US for fifty-five years before I came to Turkey and lived in or visited virtually every state in the "lower 48" plus Alaska. I found a lot of friendly people but nothing to the level I have experienced here.

Food:
And then of course, there is the food. The UK contribution to cuisine? The chip.  confused1%5B1%5D.gif  The Turkish contributions would fill a library. There are more than 40 known ways to prepare just patlican (aubergine (UK/EU). eggplant (US).

High quality of medical care:
AND that you can call a doctor directly on his or her mobile phone!?!  shock2%5B1%5D.gif  Unheard of in the States. I understand that there are areas where public hospitals (halk/devlet hastaneleri) can be a trial of patience and may provide uneven care. That, of course, begs the question since this seems to be true in the UK and is certainly true in the US. The cost of SGK and its coverage is very good and the co-pay at private hospitals is very low. There is also very affordable private health insurance.

A few things I do not like:
Ecological UN-awareness: littering and damage to the ecology both by the average citizen and so-called "builders" (aka despoilers).

"Ustas": Carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other technical/professionals who do not take any notes of conversations and are loathe to sign contracts for jobs to be accomplished. Later, when there is a problem, they will either blame someone else or say "I thought it was better that way."

Male drivers: (aka maniacs) who have obviously never had driver training, any at all. There is one speed, top speed, they use the center line as a means of navigation taking up parts of both sides of the road. Nearly none of them can parallel park and they will park anywhere, even in the middle of the street ("bir dakka") wacko.png  Most of the women drivers I have observed seem to do quite well thank you.

Amplified call to prayer: (ezan) Is it me or has the volume gone up on mosques everywhere? We have a mosque within 100 meters from our house in a village. I dare say, that people 10 km away can hear it.  I not-so-humbly propose a new law that every ezan must be done UN-amplified by the imam or müezzin who have to run to the top of the minaret and call out---five times a day.  closedeyes.gif

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Ecological UN-awareness: littering and damage to the ecology both by the average citizen and so-called "builders" (aka despoilers).

 

I agree with that. Recently I saw some builders cut down an entrie hill. Beautiful hill with trees and various shrubs. It's flat now and they've built the most hideous buildings ever. Some painted pink and cream and others green and cream. Why those colours it's like they got the paint free lol. wacko.png
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Ibrahim Abi, I don't use a card at all (and that, Hobbit, is likely the reason I end up waiting longer because, as I understand, swiping a card puts the customer in highest priority for service).  I manually input either customer or kimlik number (not sure which of these gets next priority).

 

Hobbit, if you've always taken a ticket by swiping your card, you may not have noticed what I described above (?).  Just try getting a number without your card and you'll see what I mean. I've never had a problem with their politeness. Some staff may speak English, but I have no trouble dealing with them in Turkish.  In our town we've done business with Ziraat, Halkbank, Vakıf Bank & İşbank (but not YapıKredi),  and all of these have the same confusing number system. I once asked one of the managers why, but all he could say was it's the way every bank does it.  Haven't banked anywhere else in Turkey either. 

 

Perhaps we should all use an ATM card -- that would certainly push everyone onto just one even queue !  In any case I still think their system is unfair.

 

Having said that, I must agree with you about the general friendliness of Turks, and the food !  Likewise with the ustas -- many of whom have no formal qualifications, but just learned on the job.  You must watch them closely to make sure they do the job to your specifications & not to the way they think it should be done (without telling you)! wacko.png

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Meral, if I use my credit card in the machine I get served much quicker than if I just press for a ticket, quite right too, as I'm a valued customer! biggrin.png

 

Afraid I don't agree on the food, there is very little choice- Turkish food or Turkish food. There needs to be much more international cuisine.

 

Generally people think that an ex-pats life  is glamorous and exotic, when in fact it is very much the same as living in your own country with the cooking, cleaning, housework etc. Obviously there  are perks, such as the lovely beaches and the glorious weather which are a big reasons for living here. ;)

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Afraid I don't agree on the food, there is very little choice- Turkish food or Turkish food. There needs to be much more international cuisine.

 

Generally people think that an ex-pats life  is glamorous and exotic, when in fact it is very much the same as living in your own country with the cooking, cleaning, housework etc. Obviously there  are perks, such as the lovely beaches and the glorious weather which are a big reasons for living here. wink.png

 

Turkish cuisine is one of the unique in the world, but, one has to experience the great variety amongst an equal varity of kitchens.  If one wants "international" cuisine, one can go off to the United States and experience a polyglot of such. Of course, none will be authentic, one has to go to the land of the food to experience that, in America, it is "Americanized."  Of course, there is no such thing as "American" cuisine. So why is more international cuisine needed?

I did not know others thought of life in a forign country as being glamorous or exotic.  I suppose s life in a foreign land can be "exotic" if one makes it so. Else, it is as you say, just ordinary house chores.

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Meral, if I use my credit card in the machine I get served much quicker than if I just press for a ticket, quite right too, as I'm a valued customer! biggrin.png

 

Afraid I don't agree on the food, there is very little choice- Turkish food or Turkish food. There needs to be much more international cuisine.

 

Generally people think that an ex-pats life  is glamorous and exotic, when in fact it is very much the same as living in your own country with the cooking, cleaning, housework etc. Obviously there  are perks, such as the lovely beaches and the glorious weather which are a big reasons for living here. wink.png

 

Yes I know Sunny, but I don't use a credit card -- that's my choice & I'm not complaining about that.  My issue is with their numbering system being so inequitable to customers.  Since all tellers do all the different kinds of transactions, a fairer system would be simply first come first served.

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Turkish cuisine is one of the unique in the world, but, one has to experience the great variety amongst an equal varity of kitchens.  If one wants "international" cuisine, one can go off to the United States and experience a polyglot of such. Of course, none will be authentic, one has to go to the land of the food to experience that, in America, it is "Americanized."  Of course, there is no such thing as "American" cuisine. So why is more international cuisine needed?

I did not know others thought of life in a forign country as being glamorous or exotic.  I suppose s life in a foreign land can be "exotic" if one makes it so. Else, it is as you say, just ordinary house chores.

 

It's not unique, you can find all the same recipes in Greece, Armenia, Persia, and all Arab countires homes and restaurants. Most savory dishes use the same spices and everything is cooked in tomato puree, sauteed in onions or topped with tomato sauce and yogurt. I make turkish food all the time it's basic. The most complicated dishes in turkish cuisine are the sweets and deserts.

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It's not unique, you can find all the same recipes in Greece, Armenia, Persia, and all Arab countires homes and restaurants. Most savory dishes use the same spices and everything is cooked in tomato puree, sauteed in onions or topped with tomato sauce and yogurt. I make turkish food all the time it's basic. The most complicated dishes in turkish cuisine are the sweets and deserts.

Partially correct, who started what and when is arguable... But I would find it very difficult to say "It's not unique."

The center of Ottoman cuisine was Istanbul, the capital, where the imperial court and the metropolitan elites established a refined culinary tradition bringing together elements of regional cuisines from across the empire:

...despite the disintegration of the Ottoman political empire, we can still see the survival of a large region which could be called the Ottoman culinary empire. The Balkans, Greece, Anatolia and the Fertile Crescent... are common heirs to what was once the Ottoman life-style, and their cuisines offer treacherous circumstantial evidence of this fact. Of course, they represent at the same time a good deal of local or regional culinary traditions. Besides, one should not forget that it is typical of any great cuisine in the world to be based on local varieties and on mutual exchange and enrichment among them, but at the same time to be homogenized and harmonized by a metropolitan tradition of refined taste

 

This, of course, does not include the various regional receipes whereby "The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt and mantı), creating a vast array of specialities—many with strong regional associations.

 

Turkish cuisine varies across the country. The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, and rest of the Aegean region inherits many elements of Ottoman court cuisine...cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively...cuisine of the southeast -Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana- is famous for its variety of kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts..."

 

The Ottoman Empire influenced, and was influenced by, a vast area, the Mediterranean area was dominated by them at one time, well into Europe as far as Vienna, high above the Black Sea well into Russia, the Arab countries and nominally North Africa and Spain. 

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As An ex-pat here for over 5 years İ have these likes and dislikes.

Likes:

Good climate.

Beatiful scenery.

Lots of friendly people,

Families actually still spend time together, like used to happen in the UK. They have lots of picnics.

Some things get done quicker and with less fuss than in UK, for instance, phone about air-con and it can be installed that day.

People put the fuel in your car and offer to wash it.

The fruit and veg is natural, home grown, good quality, lots of it, good price.

You can see a doctor or a consultant within a few days.

 

Dislikes:

The majority of Turkish drivers, men and women, are terrible. İ can not believe that they ever had any lessons or passed a driving test. They have no concept of driving safely and competently. My pet hates are, drivers speaking on mobiles and texting, cars coming out of junctions dangerously, non observence of double white lines in middle of road, ( for any Turks reading this, the double white lines are a mandatory DO NOT CROSS! it was not put there for any other reason other than to prevent head on smashes! The parking is also terrible and don't think you will be safe on a zebra crossing!

Queue jumping, even at the hospital.

Litter! Many beautiful spots in Turkey ruined by locals leaving their mess when they go. Bag it and bin it!

Being ripped off because, as a foreigner, İ must be a millionaire!

Having to jump through many hoops every year to renew Residency. İt should be simple and straightforward to renew it.

Having to constantly complain to Belediye about flooding and drainage issues.

 

Conclusion: İ still love it here, the weather, scenery, lack of stress, friendliness etc. are really good. İf the Turks could just learn to drive competently and safely and take their litter home from picnics and learn to queue it would be paradise.

 

 

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"Since all tellers do all the different kinds of transactions, a fairer system would be simply first come first served."

 

Not if you go to the 'Work' bank that you use - I'd be there forever. 

Must admit I do wish they'd change the banking systems, as the simplest task seems to take far longer than any transactions in the UK. I've been into my UK bank and had 9 people in front of me in the queue and still been served and out within 5 or 6 minutes whereas you'd be lucky to get out in that time if you only had one person in front of you here.

 

There's nothing wrong with the food here, it's just that it would be nice to have more choice, not just in the big cities. For example, French food, Chinese food and Indian food  would be nice to have available without it being sacrilege  because I dare to want a change from the local stuff.

 

Hobbit, if you mention to people that you live in Turkey when back home, they generally do see it as being somewhere exotic. Mind you, anywhere south of Calais would be exotic to some! :D

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Hobbit, if you mention to people that you live in Turkey when back home, they generally do see it as being somewhere exotic. Mind you, anywhere south of Calais would be exotic to some! biggrin.png

 

Going to Walmart can be exotic to some Americans. wacko.png

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Agree with all above, and adding a few:

 

I like:

Turkish hospitality. The closest I experienced to that was in the deep South in the US, but nothing beats the Turks. When I moved I was offered a lot of delicious dishes prepared by the neighbors.

The Çay habit

Kahvalti culture

The way Turks love when yabancilar speak Turkish, and help us with those little mistakes

 

I don't like:

Censorship. Come on, we know those people are smoking and drinking raki. And I know what's going on the streets, why the media isn't covering? (I wish I had started living here before 2002, I guess)

Queuing (anywhere)

When the neighbors decide to clean their carpets... from their windows

"Cold beer" means "cool beer"

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It's basically a good place to live as an expat. The one thing that I always need to get around is handling questions that I don't want to answer about myself. 'Where are you from?' I answer that I'm Turkish, sometimes I add some remote village area that mother came from (this is not true but it helps me avoid giving out info that I would rather not in these times of uncertainty). They often think I must be married to a Turk since I have a baby with me most times, and this is how they understand when I say I'm Turkish. Anyway, it works for me, and I feel safer that way.

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It's basically a good place to live as an expat. The one thing that I always need to get around is handling questions that I don't want to answer about myself. 'Where are you from?' I answer that I'm Turkish, sometimes I add some remote village area that mother came from (this is not true but it helps me avoid giving out info that I would rather not in these times of uncertainty). They often think I must be married to a Turk since I have a baby with me most times, and this is how they understand when I say I'm Turkish. Anyway, it works for me, and I feel safer that way.

Your profile says your home country is the USA yet you can pass as Turkish? Your language skills must be fantastic. What do you mean by saying "in these times of uncertainty"?  You are not married to a Turk? You put out just enough information here to make me curious.

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  • 1 year later...

I live in a rooftop apartment. Last night somebody, from the roof of the apartment next to mine, was celebrating the victory of his football team by firing a pistol into the air. Stopping at intervals to re-load. He probably fired off some 30 rounds during the whole episode. I had no inclination to stick my head out of the window

But I had cover, so I just kept working at my desk.

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13 hours ago, Ken said:

I live in a rooftop apartment. Last night somebody, from the roof of the apartment next to mine, was celebrating the victory of his football team by firing a pistol into the air. Stopping at intervals to re-load. He probably fired off some 30 rounds during the whole episode. I had no inclination to stick my head out of the window

But I had cover, so I just kept working at my desk.

I'll bet they weren't blanks either!

 

Çukurbağlı's blog. Warning - takes you off the forum and into the www.wilderness

 

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In our small town the post office 'closes' for lunch between 12:30 and 13:30. They leave the building open, counters unmanned with the heating or a/c on so that customers can sit in comfort to wait for the staff to return at 13:30. In the UK this would be impossible.

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When I was in Kumluca I went to their Ethnographic museum. The door was closed, and there was no sign saying it was closed, so I opened the door and walked in. There was nobody there. I tried to let people know that the museum had been left unlocked, I got looks like "so what?"

Thinking I was doing my duty, I found the guy in charge of the museum. He seemed delighted that a foreigner would be interested in the Kumulca Ethnographic museum. So he escorted me with a smile back to the museum, turned on the lights, and gave me a personal tour. He showed me each exhibit with pride. And as we left and said goodbye, I had to say "don't forget the door!"

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