Exploring expat life in Turkey. Part 1: living in Bodrum
The compact peninsula of Bodrum is full of delights at every turn: quiet fishing villages, a vibrant centre, an ancient castle and an upmarket marina town. Turkey’s original tourist destination has grown from a sleepy collection of villages to a huge attraction - while still retaining its original charm.
A new start for a young family
Attracted by the chance to start a new life in a laid-back location with a lower cost of living, Jason and Tracey Bowles from Manchester moved to the peninsula two years ago with his young family.
“We found cost of living was becoming more and more prohibitive in the UK,” Jason, a self-employed architect explained. “My wife had to give up work as we couldn’t afford the childcare, and we were struggling on my salary.”
After “lots and lots of brainstorming” the couple decided to uproot their family and move to Turkey, where Jason’s salary could go further. “We’d spent some great holidays in Bodrum before the kids came along and we know and love the area so it was an easy decision in the end.”
… and a new home
The Bowles bought a three-bedroom villa in a small family complex in Yalikavak for £170,000. “It’s got plenty of space, and a garden for the kids to run around in. And best of all - as far as the kids are concerned - a swimming pool, which is used every day.”
For now, they’ve kept their Manchester home, but are thinking of selling it and upgrading their home in Turkey and buying a holiday duplex to rent out to other British families.
A big adjustment
While the Bowles family were excited to start a new adventure, it wasn’t a smooth transition. “It took us a while to adjust. The stress of moving as a small family took us by surprise and we were all unsettled at first and wondering if we’d made a mistake. The unfamiliar paperwork and not knowing where the best place to buy furniture or bed sheets took a lot of mental energy, which we hadn’t expected.”
Jason’s wife found it particularly difficult, he said. “While I worked each day, Tracey was left with the kids. She found it lonely at first, especially when I had to go back to the UK for work.”
Life began to turn around after they made an effort to get to know people in the local area. “We made a few friends who gave us some great tips on living in Yalikavak - things to do with the kids and activities for parents,” Jason said. Tracey found meeting fellow expats particularly helpful as a newfound social life began to fill the empty hours in the day. “There’s a lot to do here, but you have to know where to look.”
A long commute
The self-employed architect works three weeks out of every month from his home in the hills overlooking Yalikavak Harbour and spends one week back in the UK working on projects. “One of the bonuses about living here is that the airport is close, around 35 minutes from Yalikavak, and flights back to the UK are very frequent,” Jason says. “This means I can comfortably fly back and forth each month, and it obviously means it’s easy for family to visit.”
Flights tail off slightly during winter months which means Jason has a longer commute via Istanbul, but the last two years have seen an increasing number of off-peak flights out of Bodrum-Milas Airport, he says.
Everything you need within reach
Being compact, it’s easy and fast to find everything you need on the peninsula, from supermarkets to schools, Jason says.
The medical care at the local hospitals and medical centres and top schools as a huge draw for the family, he adds. “There’s an international school here and our eldest attends a local school which is excellent. When he gets older he might go to the international school but for now he’s happy and learning Turkish very quickly.”
“In the supermarkets you can find just about everything you need from back home, and the quality of other goods like clothing is good, too.”
A wealth of leisure activities
At the weekends the family explore the region. “There is so much to do here. We’re an outdoorsy family so living in Bodrum is just perfect for us,” Jason explains. “We’ve just bought a small boat and we're learning to sail, so we’re seeing a new perspective of what the peninsula has to offer from the water.”
“Our children are taking swimming lessons and also play football, which is really popular here.”
The self-described “foodies” also love the variety of restaurants found in Yalikavak and beyond. “We’ve started a family tradition of a slap-up fish dinner on a Sunday after a walk along the waterfront. The food here is simply amazing and we eat like kings.”
The family shops for local produce at the weekly Yalikavak market, which Jason says is an outing the whole family loves. “The colour, the local products, the friendly vendors: it’s a great way to spend a morning.”
“We do miss out on family,” Jason admits. “But we have no shortage of visitors each year - we’re even hoping to upgrade our home soon to accommodate all the people who want to visit.”
Over the winter months the peninsula is much quieter, which Jason says has its upsides as well as downsides. “There’s more room to move but some quieter places can feel like a ghost town.”
“Overall we’re very happy and settled here and have no plans to move back home permanently. We do miss some things about the UK and Manchester but our new lifestyle here is so much more relaxed and easy.”
Advice for others moving to Bodrum
“Just two words: get involved,” says Jason. “Adopt a positive attitude, and dive in. Meeting people is the key to settling in, it’s crucial to forging a future here. There are lots of expat groups you can join and always something going on so it’s easy to make a new life in a new community.”