6 Questions We're Asked About Moving To Turkey With Children
Attacted by the low cost of living, we're seeing an increasing number of families buying homes in Turkey with a view to moving to Turkey with their school-age children. Naturally we get asked a lot of questions, which we have summed up as follows:
Is Turkey safe?
Turkey, like anywhere else in the world, has its problems. There's petty crime and burglary, just like everywhere. But it helps to look at statistics. Let's compare Turkey to the US and the UK, where last year there were 5 and 4.1 reports of crime (ranging from petty to serious) per 100,000 people respectively. Turkey came in at 3.3 per 100,000. The southern regions (where most foreigners like to buy properties) are of course safer than Turkey’s bigger cities.
Recent unrest near the Syrian border has concerned would-be residents and tourists but the border is far from popular expat areas.
What are the schools like?
Schools in Turkey's larger areas (such as Bodrum, Antalya and Fethiye) are modern and progressive. You can choose to send your child to a private school, or use a local school. Parents who have put their children into local schools have only had good things to say about the Turkish educational system. The only stumbling block parents have with local schools is that they find it difficult to help their children with homework if it's a Turkish language school, and to understand the curriculum. In larger centres expat parents are creating homework clubs to help address this. Bonuses are plenty, recreational and sporting activities are excellent. In places like Bodrum and Fethiye, children start learning how to sail small child-size boats from as early as age 8. They spend a lot of time outdoors with their teachers learning about nature, history and many other aspects of life that in the west we only get to read about.
Will we become part of the community?
This is a common concern amongst prospective expats. Uprooting your children (and the rest of the family) from your familiar lives with their support networks is a daunting prospect. However, you'll find that the Turkish emphasis on family and community means that you could end up forging stronger links than you ever did at home. The Turkish people are friendly and helpful to outsiders, and as long as you make a little effort to join in you'll be welcomed with open arms. Learning Turkish helps, but you'll find most people in larger centres will have good English. There are also expat groups in the larger centres so you'll be able to relate to people from home quite easily.
What about the language?
It's commonly known (and documented by linguistic scientists) that children who are immersed into a culture with a language other than their own pick up the lingo pretty quickly. If they're going to school and making local friends, you'll be surprised at how much they pick up. They'll certainly be faster than the average adult. Children over 10 (more or less) will still find it easy to pick up Turkish but may need a little extra tuition.
Is Turkey clean? Can we drink the water?
Turkey's larger towns (such as Fethiye, Bodrum and Antalya) are spick and span. Efficient local government programs keep everything running smoothly, from rubbish collection to the grooming of public gardens. The water is safe and clean to drink - unless you go to a smaller Turkish town, in which case you'll need to ask around. Turkish medical facilities are excellent and cheap, so if there are any problems you and your children will be in good hands.
What about healthcare?
It's vital you take care of your family's health in Turkey. All foreign residents are required to join the state SGK (public health) program. This is a low-cost health insurance that allows access to excellent medical care. However, it is a public health service and there are often waiting lists, you might want to look into private health insurance to supplement your public health plan, just in case you run into any problems and wish to avoid waiting times.