Hobbies and activities for Expats in Turkey
The property laws that changed in Turkey at the beginning of the century, were significant, because for the first time, foreigners could purchase villas and apartments. They paid cash because prices were ridiculously cheap and thousands emigrated from their home countries, to live an idyllic life abroad.
According to Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, 14 out of every 1000 people in Turkey are foreigners and HSBC bank declared the country to be number 11 on the most popular list of expat countries for economic satisfaction.
The Expat Syndrome
A majority of foreigners are either retired or cannot work legally, so what do they do with their time? At some point, dreams of sitting by the pool, basking in the sun while sipping on a gin and tonic soon become monotonous and repetitive.
Indeed, in some coastal resorts, expats are notorious for turning to alcohol on a daily basis, purely out of boredom. The official term for this social problem, is called the “Expat Syndrome”. It typically occurs after three years because the brain is no longer as active as it once was.
Expats find themselves in a never-ending cycle of boredom and despair because after the cleaning and shopping chores have been completed, time is still plentiful. So what can expats do to ensure their dream life in the sun does not turn sour?
Benefits of a Hobby
Hobbies and leisurely pursuits are often dominant in our lives at an early age. When the workforce beckons and daily life demands more attention from us, many people drop their hobbies, which are often replaced with stress and anxiety.
Taking up a hobby that you are passionate about, is the first step to surviving life as an expat. Indeed, physiologists state the benefits are plentiful and will increase quality of life. Benefits include…
- Creative inspiration, which fills us with a sense of achievement
- Patience, which when mastered can be applied to other areas of life
- Eustress, which professionals call positive stress, is helpful for people who have just left the rat race
- Social interaction, that is important for our well-being. Even if someone takes up a solo hobby, there are possibilities to connect with others who enjoy the same pastime.
- Encouragement to “live in the here and now” or appreciate the present. A major cause of depression and stress is too much focus on the future, which can generate unnecessary worries.
Tips on How to Choose a Hobby
Going through the motions and trying every hobby on the market will never work. Your hobby should inspire passion in yourself, bring enjoyment, and more important, should not feel like a chore. So ask yourself the following questions.
*What makes you happy? It does not have to be an elaborate pursuit. Something simple like reading books is cost effective and a well-written fact or fiction story is intriguing and of benefit to our thought processes. Alternatively, other people enjoy new hobbies such as a sport that they were always previously a sideliner participant.
*How accessible and practical is your new hobby? Research ways and means. If you want to learn to play the saxophone but your apartment walls are so thin, and neighbours are complaining, it defeats the object of enjoyment.
Ideas of Hobbies and Leisurely Pursuit for Expats in Turkey
Donate your time to local charities
A search of the local expat newspaper or Facebook groups will produce local charities that rely on volunteers to keep running. In the small resort of Altinkum on the Aegean coast of Turkey, the dog shelter regularly appeals for dog walkers.
Also although it is strictly vetted, the University of Pamukkale runs the Caretta turtle preservation project, and yearly asks for volunteers at their centre in Dalyan and Dalaman.
In the coastal resort of Calis, Fethiye expats and Turks volunteer side by side to help children in need by arranging fundraising events and staffing the charity shop.
Learn the Turkish Language
Some expats complain of boredom, yet they never attempt to learn the Turkish language past normal, everyday greetings. This hobby is cheap, because you only need Internet access or a book. Turkish neighbours, bar owners and shops can be used for practise, and there is no need to sit at a desk for ten hours a day.
Choose a number of words to learn each day, whether it is three or six. Over time, as you learn more words, tenses and grammar will come naturally.
Due to the simplicity, this hobby is also easily combined with others.
Exercise and Sports
Often said by experts to be the best way to tackle boredom, stress, desperation and anxiety, walk around the area you live in to find exercise and sport opportunities. Fully equipped gyms exist in most Western towns of Turkey and often, parks also have exercise equipment installed by the local council.
Coastal resorts are also ideal for fishing. Sit on the shoreline or rent a boat with friends. If football is your passion, get together with other expats and hire a football pitch, often rented out on an hourly basis.
Simply taking daily walks, is also a great way to familiarise yourself with the local town or village and an ideal opportunity to meet other people as well. If you do not want to walk, bike it. Remember though, in the heat of summer, this hobby is best done before the mid-day sun. If money is no object, and you want adrenaline running through your veins, head to the Turkish skiing resorts dotted around the country.
Food, Cooking and Baking
Most people develop a passion for food, in which case, cooking and baking are great hobbies. Culturally wise, learning how to cook Turkish cuisine is an ideal way to settle into your adopted country and in other places like Ankara, western style themed cakes, baked by expats have become popular within communities and with local Turks. Other places like Altinkum, also regularly feature bake off competitions, to see who bakes the tastiest cake!
Green Finger Gardening
If you purchase an apartment in Turkey, rather than a villa and thought gardening was impossible, then think again. Balcony gardening is popular with Turks and easily done. Large terracotta pots and hanging baskets are often filled with flowers or shrubs that bring colour to the exterior of your building. Turks are also enthusiastic about garden centres, where prices of equipment, shrubs, and flowers are relatively cheap.
Travel from West to East
Learn about your adopted country by travelling and exploring the regions. From the east to the west, there is a vast difference in culture and traditions. Explore the Mediterranean coast of Turkey if history is your passion, in specific the 516-kilometre trek of the Lycian way. The Aegean coast has many sites related to history of the Christian religion; Istanbul holds many iconic buildings from the Ottoman, and Byzantine era, while the Laz and Hemsin communities of the Northeast live a completely different lifestyle, compared to locals of the East or West.
Photography, art, writing, pottery, sewing, and drawing are all examples of hobbies that allow freedom of expression. Write a novel, portray your thoughts through watercolours, or fill your home with pottery equipment and ornaments. In major cities and towns, there are art shops and sometimes even classes but if equipment is hard to find, simply ask friends and family to bring it when they visit you on holiday.
Get creative, be inspired, feel your passion, and avoid the Expat Syndrome!