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40Lillies

Moving to Turkey from the USA

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Hi Ken,

Since you’ve lived there so long and have 20 years of experience, I was hoping you’d let me pick your brain on a few things.  : )

You had asked about what my fear is? Well one thing that comes to mind is getting ripped off in a rental because I’m foreign and I don’t speak too much Turkish. Lol (although I want to learn if I’m going to live there, of course) From the months of time I spent in Turkey in the past, I learned the hard lesson that what Turks vs. Americans consider a lie is completely different, and so my biggest fear I guess is that I can’t trust anybody’s word.

 So, here are my questions:

   - I read your article about renting an apartment and was looking on sahibiden.com at ones that were available. I noticed that the majority of them say there is no heating insulation. Are apartments not insulated as standard? How do you keep the cold out? 

   -I think as far as heating options it’s mainly split-units and not central, is that correct? How do you heat up the place in the winter and not have high electric bills with no insulation? I know it can be chilly in winter and one of my worst nightmares is being stuck in a cold, damp apartment. (happened to me in a place I stayed at in Antalya years ago and I got really ill) Do you find the majority of places you've been in damp since Antalya is by the water and is subject to humidity?

   -Is it difficult to find a furnished apartment? I have seen unfurnished seems to be the norm with a few sprinklings of furnished apartments. Are furnished ones the exception rather than the norm? I'm not going to be importing my stuff from the US if I move there, so I would need something furnished.

   -In your article you were saying how you can get sued if you don’t stay the term of the rental contract. How open or reluctant in your experience have you found landlords in adding in a “leaving before lease term” clause?

   -I also saw where you said you may not be rented to if you’re single – that’s another issue, made even worse because I am a single woman! lol Do you think I will have a lot of difficulty with this?

   -Is there still a sizable expat community in Antalya?

And finally – (I know…. Sorry for all the questions!)

   *Regarding income taxes – I tried reading the agreement between Turkey & the US, but I can’t understand it. If I am working remotely for a US company and paying taxes/SSI in the US, do I also have to pay in Turkey?

-   With Social Security - I don’t think the US and Turkey have a Social Security agreement, is that right? How can I maintain payments into my US Social Security and not into Turkey's? I read that you have to have worked in Turkey like 20-25 years to be eligible for SSI so I don’t want to have to pay into something that I will never get. I’d rather maintain my US Social Security, which will be higher when I'm at that age, and continue to pay into that.

Thank you for your time and patience in all of my questions! I really appreciate it since I am not “on the ground” over there and have spent countless hours researching things but not finding any concrete answers to these so again, thank you so much : )

Lily

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My apologies for this late reply. I have been busy with a lot of things and haven't had time to give you a well thought-out and organized answer. But here I am now, and I will try!

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You had asked about what my fear is? Well one thing that comes to mind is getting ripped off in a rental because I’m foreign and I don’t speak too much Turkish. Lol (although I want to learn if I’m going to live there, of course).

Actually, that shouldn't be a big worry at all. When writing the article on that I tried to cover all of the bases, but it might have come across in too much of a negative way. The vast majority of landlords are good people, but they also have to be very cautious because of being ripped off by tenants! When you rent, there is a standard rental contract that you can get from any stationery store. Anything the landlord adds be sure you understand, or have someone translate it for you. It helps if you make a Turkish friend, even if it is the person working the desk at the hotel you are staying. The main thing you need to look out for is being charged an excessive deposit (like two months rent or more) because it indicates the landlord is going to find any excuse to keep it.  That is only if you pay the deposit in cash, which by law, you don't have to do. The banks have special deposit accounts where you can put the deposit. I think it's like 60 days or 90 days after the contract ends, you can withdraw it, UNLESS the landlord can show that they have filed papers with the court to take it to cover damages.

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From the months of time I spent in Turkey in the past, I learned the hard lesson that what Turks vs. Americans consider a lie is completely different, and so my biggest fear I guess is that I can’t trust anybody’s word.

In business, many Turks do things differently. And they may omit material information or give you exaggerated information. However, when renting an apartment, this doesn't really apply, because you'll visit the apartment and see everything, test the shower and faucets, or whatever it comes with. And Turkish apartments are usually stripped bare (even the light fixtures). After that, you're responsible for everything from the paint on the walls inwards.

Here it seems to me that your fears are general in nature. If you do come to Turkey and face anything specific, post about it here, and I will reply in a more timely manner than I have so far!

Insulation and Heating

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I read your article about renting an apartment and was looking on sahibiden.com at ones that were available. I noticed that the majority of them say there is no heating insulation. Are apartments not insulated as standard? How do you keep the cold out? 

The more recently-built ones should be insulated, I think... I seem to recall a new law was being passed to require this. My apartment is not insulated, which irritates me when I think of all of the energy which is being lost. It's cold in the winter and hot in the summer. I bought a klima (split-unit air conditioner) for each room which I run a lot in the winters and summers. But the apartment I live in is definitely nothing luxurious! But it is large, and has three bedrooms, one of which I use as an office. And it only costs me like $200 per month at the current exchange rates. I'm not complaining too much. There are probably more expensive apartment buildings nearby which have insulation, maybe even central heating. I don't know. I might spend more on my next place when I move again.

Some places are heated by a soba (a coal or wood-burning stove). That would be in a very cheap apartment, and you would have to buy and install it yourself, probably. I would NOT recommend this... it usually only heats one room well, while the other rooms are cold. I tend to move from room to room a lot, so the klima is a better solution for me. Also a heck of a lot safer. with the soba, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you leave the top open, it is generally a bad idea. There is no risk of this with a klima.

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I think as far as heating options it’s mainly split-units and not central, is that correct?

Yes. Some places in Turkey have central heating, maybe in Istanbul or Izmir (maybe Antalya, I don't know), with natural gas. Some buildings (typically older ones I think) have a big heating unit in the basement, which a kapıcı (building superintendent) gets coal for before the winter sets in. Then everybody pays a yearly premium for the coal. I don't know the situation in Antalya. I have a few friends who live  in higher-rent, more luxurious apartment buildings. I will ask them for you and get back with you on this.

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How do you heat up the place in the winter and not have high electric bills with no insulation? I know it can be chilly in winter and one of my worst nightmares is being stuck in a cold, damp apartment.

I do indeed have much higher electric bills in the winter and summer. Up to around 400-500 TL some months. It is a drawback to living in a place like this. If you have the klima running, it's okay. But shortly after you turn it off, it gets cold (or hot) again. I also have ceiling fans which I run sometimes instead. Once I went to stay with a Turkish friend during the winter. His place was FREEZING! They walked around wearing sweaters all day inside, and were quite happy with that, no complaints whatsoever. But me, I don't like being cold. I have lived in some very cold places, like in Belgium (not far from Bastogne!) and have pulled duty outside in the freezing weather a lot in my former military life. Enough cold days and nights for me!

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Do you find the majority of places you've been in damp since Antalya is by the water and is subject to humidity? 

Not damp per se. I also once lived in the Azores, which was VERY humid, with mold growing on the walls and sometimes the walls were damp. It's not like that here. It "seems" not to be damp, but there is dampness in the air, and even when it isn't so cold, the cold air feels like it goes right through your clothes. Your clothes are cold. Which is different from say, Maryland, where I grew up. In Maryland, you could go out for a time when there was snow on the ground in a tee shirt. The sun would even be out with no clouds in the sky. And you didn't feel all that cold even when the temperature was around freezing. Here, with the humidity, it does feel colder than that. Also, the days in the winter are often rainy and overcast, and gloomy. It is a good idea to get out of here for a month (the worst month is February). My ideal life would be to live in Turkey, then go to Thailand from December through the end of February, when the weather is beautiful in Thailand! But even a trip back to the States is great, it breaks up the winter months in Turkey.

Finding a Furnished Apartment

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Is it difficult to find a furnished apartment? I have seen unfurnished seems to be the norm with a few sprinklings of furnished apartments. Are furnished ones the exception rather than the norm? I'm not going to be importing my stuff from the US if I move there, so I would need something furnished.

Seems to me I've seen quite a few furnished apartments in Sahibinden.com. Maybe just 10-15% of them are furnished I'm guessing. I think it is more common with one or two-bedroom apartments. But the majority of them will always be unfurnished. And when I say "unfurnished," I mean nothing is in them. Even the light fixtures, and things attached to the wall, have been removed by the previous tenant. Also there are usually no curtains. So that is one of the first things you have to do--buy lighting and have that installed, and get curtains made and hung up. They certainly aren't as plentiful as furnished apartments, but it seems to me you should be able to find a furnished place. Of course you will be paying more for a furnished place because you will be renting the furniture. One other option is to go to a "spot shop" (same word in Turkish as it is in English). These are second-hand furniture and appliance sellers. You can bargain the price down, then sell it back to them when you leave. You'll lose money of course, but considering that with a furnished place you would be paying more anyway, your loss might not be so much.

Early Termination of a Rental Contract

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In your article you were saying how you can get sued if you don’t stay the term of the rental contract. How open or reluctant in your experience have you found landlords in adding in a “leaving before lease term” clause?

In the article, when I said the landlord can sue you for the remaining rent if you leave early, it is true, but not very likely. I've actually never heard of anybody being sued by a landlord. My intent in saying that, in the article, was to emphasize the difference in Turkish law from, say, US laws. In the US, the first contract is for the full year, then it converts to a month-by-month contract, automatically. But not in Turkey. In Turkey the contract automatically renews for another year, with the same terms. Even if you want to terminate the contract on a one-year anniversary date, you have to send the landlord a formal notification, which is done by a notary public. The notary actually drafts this notification, stamps it, puts it in the envelope, and mails it to the legal address of the landlord. That's the 100% legal way. How many people actually do this, I don't know. The courts are very slow, and according to a lawyer I talked to about this, the court would only award the landlord two or three months' rent and not the balance of the entire contract. And, most importantly, it just may be that the landlord will be happy to release you from the contract if you pay a month or two additional rent so they have time to advertise and get another tenant. Which is fair. I have to emphasize here that I am not a Turkish lawyer, I am just passing on what I have learned from talking to some of them about this.

You certainly can ask for a clause in the contract to allow yourself to leave early. This is common in Izmir with foreign military personnel, who can be reassigned at any time.

I am in a situation like this now. My contract ends at the end of October next year. I'll send the formal notification and terminate the present contract. But I may not be able to move on exactly that date. So I'll ask for a monthly contract after that. He may want a higher monthly amount, but that's okay.  I won't be here long after that. And it's a lot better for him to do it that way than to have the place empty, receiving no rent money at all.

I think a lot of tenants just leave in the middle of the contract. Which leaves it up to the landlord to sue, which just isn't worth it in terms of time and money. But it isn't the right way to do things and is unfair to the landlord, so I do things the proper way.

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I also saw where you said you may not be rented to if you’re single – that’s another issue, made even worse because I am a single woman! lol Do you think I will have a lot of difficulty with this?

That's true. And usually it will say in the advertisement if they don't want any single people. Or students! However, that can change if you talk to the landlord. Or you can just find another place. I live in the working-class part of the city where few foreigners live. The rents are lower than in, say, Konyaaltı or Lara. So that could be an issue here. However, I think a refusal to rent to a single person would be a lot less likely in Konyaaltı or Lara, which has more of a higher-income clientele, and landlords who are not so traditional and don't have such prejudice. Personally, after moving and shopping for apartments maybe a dozen times since moving to Turkey, I have never seen a place where I wanted to live where this was even an issue. I mentioned it, again, because it is different from places like the USA, where such discrimination is illegal.

I think I need to tone-down that article!

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Is there still a sizable expat community in Antalya?

Yes. How many I don't know. Right now, at the gatherings, maybe 30 or 40 people show up. Lately we've been having quiz nights every two or three weeks. Expat communities kind of go up and down. There used to be big events with even more people coming, where one person would arrange venues and discounts, and do a lot of work setting things up. But this kind of thing pays nothing, and if an expat community doesn't have such a social coordinator, things die down. Right now, our community has been running on volunteers who set things up wherever and whenever they can. But only a few really put effort into setting up social gatherings. And in that group, there are smaller groups of friends who get together, which are not announced in the Facebook groups. So you may find that your social activities involve a smaller circle of friends you call or chat with and get together for drinks or coffee, while every couple of weeks you go to a larger, announced event.

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Regarding income taxes – I tried reading the agreement between Turkey & the US, but I can’t understand it. If I am working remotely for a US company and paying taxes/SSI in the US, do I also have to pay in Turkey?

I don't know. For something that important, I think you should talk to a professional tax advisor. The default is, if you live in Turkey, you have to pay taxes in Turkey on all worldwide income, then you get a tax exception in the USA. This involves being paid your full amount, with no withholding. Then you pay the taxes in Turkey, and show the documents to the IRS that you paid taxes in Turkey, and you are not taxed on the income in the USA. As far as I know, working remotely isn't covered under the work permit laws. Let me work on this question. I have a lawyer in mind that I want to talk to about providing legal advice on Turkey Central. I will ask him for a legal opinion on this and get back with you.

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With Social Security - I don’t think the US and Turkey have a Social Security agreement, is that right? How can I maintain payments into my US Social Security and not into Turkey's? I read that you have to have worked in Turkey like 20-25 years to be eligible for SSI so I don’t want to have to pay into something that I will never get. I’d rather maintain my US Social Security, which will be higher when I'm at that age, and continue to pay into that.

This is another thing I will need to ask the lawyer about.

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Thank you for your time and patience in all of my questions! I really appreciate it since I am not “on the ground” over there and have spent countless hours researching things but not finding any concrete answers to these so again, thank you so much

My pleasure! Again I apologize for my not-so-timely reply. This topic required some thought and arranging of ideas to reply to, and I just didn't have the time to give you a decent answer until now.

I appreciate your questions, and the fact that you have posted them here. This is actually excellent content that I think will help a lot of people. I will get back to you regarding the unanswered questions.

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Hi Ken, 

Thank you so much for your thoughtful answers to my questions. I really appreciate the time and energy you've put into your responses. You've helped me tremendously with becoming more comfortable in the idea of moving there permanently and what to expect, and have quieted some of the fears I've had in my mind. And regarding your article - I wouldn't change it at all :) I think it's good to give folks the extremes of detail just so they know what they might be up against, so they can prepare better. 

I have a strong aversion to being cold as well. I can't stand it! I traveled throughout the Balkans in the wintertime a few years ago and many of the places I stayed in had no heat - I just couldn't get over cooking in my coat and sleeping in a cold bed! It's not something I want in my permanent life, that's for sure. I mean, I'm from the east coast in the US as well and even though it gets cold here, we can find sanctuary inside with our heating. But when the inside is colder than the outside.... sheesh. I just can't lol I didn't appreciate heating so much as I did when I no longer had it . So hopefully, I can find something insulated with a strong enough klima to get me through the winter. Good to know the dampness isn't really an issue inside, though.

I also remembering a few Turkish people telling me they go to SE Asia in the winter time. I would love to have that luxury but I'm sure that gets expensive over time, though. Are winters really that bad? Like, does it rain constantly from Dec-Feb? Or do you have breaks of sun? Just asking because I sometimes get a little bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter and want to know what I'm going to be up against ;-)

Yes, if you could find out that information on the tax/SSI that would be great! I've been researching these things, but still don't have concrete answers, so anything you find out would be helpful. I"m not sure who I would contact - I tried looking up expat tax attorneys but can't find any that offer free advice (of course lol). 

I did have a few other questions, not sure if they should all be posted here or not, but here goes :)

1. Regarding cell phones - you can only register 1 every 2 years. What happens if you lose/break said phone and it's not at the 2 year mark yet? Is this still the law? It's never possible to have two cell phones registered to yourself at the same time?

2. While waiting for the residence permit, I can only be out of Turkey for 15 days, is that correct? After I get the permit, is there a certain amount of time you are allowed to be out of the country before you void your permit by not being there? I read there was a time limit but then say it was abolished, so I"m not sure what the current facts are.

3. If I wanted to work in Turkey, can I get a general work permit or do I need to have an actual job first? (Not sure if you can just get a work permit then look for work?)

I'm happy to post my questions here (as long as you don't mind answering lol) and helping others that may have the same ones. Moving to another country can be a daunting task, but forums like this and answers like yours make it much more manageable for an inquisitive (and sometimes over-analytical) mind like mine :)

So, thanks again and I look forward to your reply! Also - no worries about the not-so-timely reply - look at mine - it takes me a few days as well! haha

 

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I checked with a friend about the insulation in Lara. Apparently a new law requires that new builds have insulation. On the old builds, they are applying "insulating paint," which he, and I, doubt does very much. So it isn't common, but with the newer properties, well, they are supposed to be insulated.

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Are winters really that bad?

It isn't the weather, per se, it's the dreariness of the cloudy skies and regular drizzle. From around 1 December, getting its worst in February. For me, I get into a mood where I just want to hibernate, and not do anything. It happens every winter, but I get over it. Some years ago I went back to the states in the middle of winter. It was cold in Maryland, too, but just breaking up that Turkish winter helped a lot, to take it in two smaller chunks instead of all the way through.

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Like, does it rain constantly from Dec-Feb? Or do you have breaks of sun?

There are breaks of sun. There are days from time to time when it's sunny, and you might have a stretch of a week of sunny weather. Unfortunately I can't give you numbers, but I could say "every now and then."

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I sometimes get a little bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter and want to know what I'm going to be up against.

I'd like to give you some good news on this, but I think it would be an issue. One thing that helps is to get out and go to the expat gatherings. You can find the Antalya expat groups by searching Facebook. As for me, I just accept it, and feel good knowing that it will pass. Now, a lot of people who go through these winters might call me a cry baby! And they might be right! I live alone, and that might be a part of it also. Maybe I just need to be more creative and find ways to enjoy myself during the winter. As Tony Robbins says, "you don't lack resources, you lack resourcefulness."

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Regarding cell phones - you can only register 1 every 2 years. What happens if you lose/break said phone and it's not at the 2 year mark yet? Is this still the law? It's never possible to have two cell phones registered to yourself at the same time?

That only refers to cell phones brought to Turkey from other countries. The fee is kind of a way to charge you money you would have been charged for importing it the normal way. It is triggered when you put a Turkish SIM card into a foreign-bought cell phone. If you buy a Turkish cell phone(s), you can own as many as you want. If you have a foreign phone with a Turkish SIM card, you have to register it, and you can only register one at a time. What you would probably do is bring your foreign phone, get a Turkish SIM card, register it and pay the tax, then use it. When you want to get a new one, just buy a Turkish one, and you can start using it, without limitation, as soon as you walk out of the door of the cell phone shop.

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While waiting for the residence permit, I can only be out of Turkey for 15 days, is that correct?

If your visa is still valid, you can come and go as you like as much as you want, even though you have an application for a residence permit pending approval. But if your visa runs out, and you don't yet have a residence permit, you can get a letter from the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) so you can leave the country and return without getting another visa. It is best to apply as early as possible for your residence permit, so you always have time left on your visa.

Citizens of the USA can get a visa with a validity period of 180 days. At any time during that 180 days, you can come and go from Turkey for a total of 90 days. You can apply for a residence permit at any time within 60 days of reaching that 90-day limit. So to make it simple, you come to Turkey, stay 30 days on the visa, then apply for your residence permit on day 31. That way you still have 60 days allowed to come and go on your visa, and that is typically enough time to apply, go to your appointment, and get your residence permit delivered to you. That way, if you need to leave at any time during the application period, you can do it with your still-valid visa.

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After I get the permit, is there a certain amount of time you are allowed to be out of the country before you void your permit by not being there?

That limit was abolished. Your residence permit will simply expire on its expiration date.

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If I wanted to work in Turkey, can I get a general work permit or do I need to have an actual job first?

Typically people coming to Turkey for work already have a job lined up, then they get a work visa, then come to Turkey, then get a work permit. However, you can also find a job in Turkey, and work with your employer to get a work permit. However, you must have been living in Turkey for at least six months with a residence permit to get a job while already in Turkey. It is difficult for just about anyone except native-speaking English teachers or someone with a special skill. You would have to be filling a position that a Turkish person can't fill, or, the employer must already have hired five Turkish citizens. That is, five Turkish citizens for every foreigner hired.

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17 hours ago, Ken Grubb said:

I checked with a friend about the insulation in Lara. Apparently a new law requires that new builds have insulation. On the old builds, they are applying "insulating paint," which he, and I, doubt does very much. So it isn't common, but with the newer properties, well, they are supposed to be insulated.

"Insulating paint"? Hahah that's cute (lol) but I must agree, sounds doubtful. However, at least they are trying to do something, which is good. I'm guessing people have complained about the lack thereof or it's just gotten colder over there because of the weather changing all over the world? 

I'm keeping my fingers crossed in this department, hoping I'll be lucky in finding something that can hold in the heat :)

17 hours ago, Ken Grubb said:

I'd like to give you some good news on this, but I think it would be an issue. One thing that helps is to get out and go to the expat gatherings. You can find the Antalya expat groups by searching Facebook. As for me, I just accept it, and feel good knowing that it will pass. Now, a lot of people who go through these winters might call me a cry baby! And they might be right! I live alone, and that might be a part of it also. Maybe I just need to be more creative and find ways to enjoy myself during the winter. As Tony Robbins says, "you don't lack resources, you lack resourcefulness."

Yeah, see I am also a fellow hibernator in the wintertime, so this is probably part of my issue too. You're right though, getting out more and keeping occupied should help. It rained for two weeks straight over here this year and I was hurting, just wanting to get outside and see some sun. So that's what I was concerned about.

17 hours ago, Ken Grubb said:

If your visa is still valid, you can come and go as you like as much as you want, even though you have an application for a residence permit pending approval. But if your visa runs out, and you don't yet have a residence permit, you can get a letter from the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) so you can leave the country and return without getting another visa. It is best to apply as early as possible for your residence permit, so you always have time left on your visa.

Knowing this helps, in case I need to plan a winter escape for a little while! Haha

Do you know if it actually takes up to 90 days (after submittal) to get the approval on the residence permit? That's what I've seen, but not sure if that's fully accurate.

17 hours ago, Ken Grubb said:

Typically people coming to Turkey for work already have a job lined up, then they get a work visa, then come to Turkey, then get a work permit. However, you can also find a job in Turkey, and work with your employer to get a work permit. However, you must have been living in Turkey for at least six months with a residence permit to get a job while already in Turkey. It is difficult for just about anyone except native-speaking English teachers or someone with a special skill. You would have to be filling a position that a Turkish person can't fill, or, the employer must already have hired five Turkish citizens. That is, five Turkish citizens for every foreigner hired.

About the work permit - it's similar to how it is in most countries. I was curious if just having a residence permit granted you the right to work like in a cafe or something, but apparently not. 

And a few other questions, and I think that may be all (lol)

- What are your thoughts on getting a VPN? Would you recommend it or no? I know in the past some sites (i.e. Youtube) have been blocked in Turkey at certain times and was wondering if this would be a way around that. (I need my Youtube for various things, work-wise and recreational lol)

- Driver's license - I read that with a residence permit, you can get a TK driver's license but since the US is not a part of some agreement (I can't recall the name offhand) that US folks have to retake a driving test in Turkey in order to obtain one. Any experience with this? 

-Any apartment rental scams you have run into over the years that I or others could benefit from knowing about?

This may sound like a weird question but I'm curious :) When you move, are you taking your klima splits with you to your next place? Just wondering since you said everything basically gets stripped. I'm wondering if I'd have to do the same if I am ever in your position. Do you plan on leaving Turkey or just moving location?

Again, many thanks for your advice and input, Ken!

-L

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