Bodrum for kids: raising a family on the peninsula
As Turkey’s original tourist destination, Bodrum is well known for its natural and cultural attractions. Lately, the peninsula has become the destination of choice for families attracted by the peninsula’s sunshine, culture and good food.
But what’s it like living in Bodrum with kids? What are the benefits - and the disadvantages? We ask a family who moved to Bodrum about their experiences.
The Moores moved from Cardiff to Bodrum in 2013, buying a lovely family villa in the Bodrum peninsula. With two children under the age of eight, they were apprehensive about what they’d find. Derryn Moore gives us a rundown of what she’s learned since those confusing new days in a new country.
“Education was one of the things that attracted us to Turkey,” Derryn says. “We wanted something a bit more holistic for our kids and the schools here are really good and much more child-centred, as opposed to fixated on goals like in the UK.”
Both Derryn’s children go to Marmara School, just outside Ortakent. Marmara offers education from kindergarten to university, with a wide range of subjects and extracurricular activities. “The kids are learning to ride horses and ice skate, there’s a planetarium and a botanic garden - the opportunities are so varied.”
Another option is the TED School in Ortakent. The Turkish Education Association (TED) school opened in 2012 and has attracted much interest among families in the area. TED is a group of private schools that begun in 1928 under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Now, TED schools are the most prestigious schools in the country.
Derryn says that because Turkish children don’t start primary school until seven, both her kids were more “school ready” than the locals, allowing them to adapt quickly to the new system.
Going to school in Turkey allows her children to experience different cultures first hand, she says. “In their classes there are children from Sweden, Argentina, Singapore, China, Russia and all over Europe. The school embraces all these different cultures and it’s so enriching for the students.”
Raising bilingual children
A number of studies have shown that bilingual has far-reaching benefits for children, including better academic results, due to better levels of concentration and multi tasking; heightened communication skills; increased sense of self worth and confidence, and greater career opportunities later in life.
“It’s true what they say about small children and learning another language,” says Derryn. “They really are like little sponges, they pick up everything so quickly.” At first Derryn was worried that the language barrier would prevent her children from making friends, but this fear was unfounded. “They have lots of friends and they play really well together, all chattering away in a mixture of English and Turkish.”
Derryn has worked hard to foster bilingualism in the home, organising playdates with Turkish speakers, reading Turkish story books and listening to Turkish children’s songs. “We have worked hard but the children took to it so well, they can now translate for me when we’re out and about, which is a bit embarrassing for me, but it’s a good incentive for me to study Turkish, too.”
Back home playing outdoors was “something kids did in the 70s,” Derryn says. “We’re from quite a built up area so it was impossible to let children play with their friends on the street and in the local park.”
Life is different in Bodrum. “All aspects of life are a little slower here, and it reminds me a little of when I was a child. We live on a small estate and all the kids play outside together after school. The neighbours all keep an eye out, it’s very friendly.” The sunshine also helps. “There’s only around two months of rain each year so the kids play outside just about every day. Sometimes it seems like they’re only inside when they sleep.”
There are also opportunities to try new outdoor hobbies. “My eldest boy has joined the school sailing club as soon as we arrived, when he was six. He sails twice a week in a little Optimist sailing boat. There’s a big sailing scene here for kids, with lots of competitions and events. He absolutely loves all things water-based and he’d like to get into kiteboarding next year. We’re also planning on buying a yacht for family holidays - we’re not from a sailing background at all but it’s a skill we can all learn together.”
More time for family and friends
Derryn works from home, while her husband is currently having some time off work, keeping the house running and taking charge of school runs. “We can easily afford to live on my salary here,” Derryn says. “We have more time for each other, and more time to do what we like. Everything is close by, the school run takes ten minutes, there are no traffic jams, no stress.”
The family usually walks to the beach together when the children come home from school for a swim and afternoon tea, Derryn says. “It’s like someone has just said ‘stop!’ and put the brakes on our lives, and forced us to relax a bit and enjoy each other’s company.”
Good food, good health
Derryn says on visits home she is “shocked” at the news stories about the obesity epidemic, particularly the rising levels of obesity in children. “In Turkey [obesity] is unknown. I’m not a scientist, but I am sure it’s due to the lack of processed food here, and the abundance of cheap, fresh vegetables. Vegetables taste amazing here, we’ll often just make a simple salad of tomatoes and olive oil and the kids love it.”
Imported goods are expensive so Derryn and her family have learned to eat seasonally. “It’s what the locals do and it makes sense. It’s cheaper, the food is fresher and tastier, and it’s better for the environment.”
The local weekly market is a good place to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and bread. “My husband usually goes, he’s a regular there now and he comes back with the local gossip,” Derryn says. “It’s a much more community-based lifestyle, and that’s good for the soul, I think.”
“It can be hard living far from our extended families,” Derryn admits. “They do come to visit but it’s not the same. Fortunately airfares are cheap so we do try to get back to Cardiff whenever possible. Our parents have both been out to stay and they love it here. After seeing our lifestyle here my parents are actually thinking of retiring to Turkey soon which would be wonderful.”
Derryn has also found it has taken longer than she expected to make friends with the locals. “There are lots of great expat families about and they have been brilliant, but cracking the Turks has been a little harder. It took us a year or so to really make inroads with friendships. But we made an effort to integrate into the community and we now have some wonderful, generous and warm Turkish friends.” Derryn recommends learning some Turkish before you move to Bodrum to help with assimilation.
Looking to visit Bodrum for a holiday with children? Read our guide to holidaying in Bodrum with kids.