Exploring expat life in Turkey. Part 3: living in Antalya
The city of Antalya, on Turkey’s southern coast, has become a vital hub in the past two decades. Its population has soared as young professionals move to the city, pushing Antalya property prices up and dramatically improving infrastructure.
With an attractive old town, a wealth of cultural and sporting events and great travel links around the region and abroad, Antalya has become increasingly popular with upwardly mobile Turks and expats seeking investment or a new home in a fascinating and dynamic city.
Exploring a new culture
Pharmaceutical engineer Christian Weber moved from his home in Duesseldorf to the city to work in a consultancy capacity for pharmaceutical companies in the area. While Antalya had not been on his radar - in fact, he had never heard of it - after some research and a weekend visit to the city he jumped at the chance to relocate.
“I was looking for a chance to move abroad, for a change of life, to explore a new culture. Leaving winter behind was a bonus. As soon as I arrived in Antalya it felt right,” Christian says.
The 43-year-old rented an apartment near the centre for a year before buying a two-bedroom apartment on Konyaalti Beach for £72,000. “Konyaalti’s a really nice place to live. It’s out of the city centre and is reasonably quiet, but you have all the benefits of city living, like good restaurants, shops and travel links.”
And of course, there’s also the beach. “There’s nothing like finishing work on a hot summer evening and going for a swim to cool down.”
The self-confessed history buff loves the fact he’s surrounded by Turkish history and culture. “There are some fantastic museums in the city, and the Old Town is really worth a visit. But as I’ve discovered in Turkey history is not confined to museums: there are historical sites and ruins everywhere.”
At the weekend Christian explores some of these sites. “I love Patara Beach, I walk along the beach and then take a look at the ruins afterwards. There is also Side, and Perge is a very striking site. In the summer I like to see dance or opera at Aspendos Theatre. Where else can you see performances in a 2000-year-old theatre?”
Although Christian has thoroughly explored Turkey during his three years in Antalya, he says the Mediterranean city is still his favourite. “I like Antalya because it’s big enough to have everything you need, and good travel links, but small enough to get around. Also, unlike a lot of other Mediterranean resort towns Antalya doesn’t close over the winter. The streets can feel a little quieter but overall it doesn’t really pause for breath.”
Forging ties and making friends
Christian was reluctant to embrace the expat life and has worked hard to forge ties with local people. “Although the local people have been very friendly, it can be harder to make friends with Turks,” he says. “It’s simply because their roots are here and they have extensive social networks already. Expats tend to stick together because they have a common ground of being an outsider.”
After three years, however, Christian has his own network of friends. “I was lucky to have an excellent Turkish teacher. She took me under her wing and introduced me to her friends. From there I made some very good friends. I have been very fortunate: my Turkish friends are generous with their time and patient with my cultural awkwardness.”
“I have expat friends, too - there is a big expat community here and lots of events.”
Getting around and about
Antalya Airport is now one of the busiest on the planet, handling more than 25 million passengers each year who travel between Antalya and hundreds of European, Middle Eastern and Turkish destinations.
“I can fly to Dusseldorf directly, which is one of the reasons I chose Antalya,” says Christian. “Travel opportunities are legion, I have some pretty good holidays.”
Closer to home, Christian likes to explore the nearby towns. "There are a few places to visit nearby. Kemer is really beautiful and green, Side is lovely, it has a beautiful sandy beach and is near Manavgat, which is good for outdoor activities like rafting and hiking. Belek is a golfing centre, I don't play golf but I understand it's excellent if you like that sort of thing."
While Christian now has his own car, initially t he used public transport to explore the region. “You can travel by dolmus or an intercity bus, both are good and efficient. I recommend getting a car though if you’re planning to stay here long term.”
Everything within reach
Christian likes the fact all amenities are close at hand - and appreciates the mix of old and new in the city. “I enjoy going to the market, and buying my fruit and vegetables and honey there, but also going to the large supermarkets for my groceries. Although to be honest, I don’t shop very often. I live on my own, so tend to eat out. I have eaten my way through most of the cuisine now and I am a huge fan. Restaurants are cheap and very good here, nothing I make at home is half as good.”
“I haven’t needed any major medical care but the doctor’s visits I have had have been of good standard,” Christian says. “Of course I work in the pharmaceutical industry so I have an insight into the medical industry. The hospitals I visit are easily as good as the best hospitals in Germany, and many of the doctors have had specialist training in Europe or the US.”
“As you know people talk about German efficiency. Although it’s a joke there is a ring of truth to it. When I first came to Turkey I found it hard to acclimatise to the new pace of life, especially people saying 10am and then turning up at 11am. To be honest I still find this aspect of life frustrating but I try to go with the flow.”
He also found driving a new - and often frightening - experience. “Turks are wonderful people but when they get behind the wheel they can be quite formidable. Say goodbye to indicating and orderly intersections. Say hello to a new style of defensive driving.”
A new home in Turkey
Christian is in the process of buying an investment property in the same building as his apartment in Konyaalti. “The local economy is excellent,” he says. “Antalya is attracting skilled professionals, and the city is growing not only in size but in scope. It’s an exciting, creative place to live, and a good investment opportunity.”
“I have no plans to leave. I have a very happy life here. As long as I can work here I will stay, and I hope that one day, not too far in the distant future, I can retire here.”
Christian has definite advice for anyone thinking of following in his footsteps. “Be interested. Make sure you explore your local area, ask about its history and find out about its culture and you will start to feel a connection to where you are living. Try and learn the language and make local friends. Turkish is quite difficult but it’s important to make an effort. You can never really feel part of somewhere if you don’t know the language so at least make a start.”
He also recommends new expats give it some time. “You might feel disoriented and out-of-place. Just try and take it easy and ride it out. A move abroad can be challenging, but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties of settling in.”
See also: 7 reasons to love Antalya