Seven mistakes people make when they move to Turkey
Expecting Turkey to be just like home - but with beaches
As more and more people up stakes and move to Turkey and expat populations grow, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ll find all the comforts of home within a stone's throw of your villas in Bodrum or Antalya. And in some respects you’re right. In Fethiye for example, which is home to around 8000 foreigners, you can find car boot sales, English cafes and imported goods. But if you’re expecting a similar culture, or you simply haven’t thought about what you’ll find, think again. Turkey has its own unique culture encompassing a different set of values and wildly differing traditions. Be prepared for culture shock, and make plans to mitigate its effects. There is some useful information here about what to expect and how to adapt here.
Not learning the language
In the larger centres and tourist resorts you’ll find English widely spoken. For newcomers, people who have just moved into a Kalkan property, this is extremely helpful and makes it much easier to begin your new life. However, learning the language really is essential. Turks are famed for their friendliness, but speaking a few words of Turkish to the people you meet will make a huge difference in the way you’re treated. Learning the language sets you apart from the average tourist. It tells people that you’re interested in their culture and their lives and that you’re willing to engage. It doesn’t matter if you’re not fluent, far from it. Start with learning greetings and a few polite phrases and go from there. You’ll be surprised at the warm reception you’ll receive - and you’ll find people are all too eager to help you with new words and any difficult pronunciations.
Acting like you’re on holiday
Although you might have had many lovely holidays in Turkey and think you know the country well, day-to-day life will be different. While the attractions of living in Turkey certainly include the elements that lure holidaymakers in their droves: better weather, delicious food and fascinating culture, don’t forget you’ll also have to deal with banks, the tax department, the hassle of fixing bits and pieces around the house and the rainy season (which, admittedly is nowhere near as bad as a winter in Northern Europe). You also need to remember that if you treat life like a holiday, you’ll never integrate into the community and that means you’ll never feel like you belong. If you head to Turkey thinking that every day will be pina coladas and sunshine, you might need to adjust your expectations. Because while there will be sunshine and cocktails in abundance, you can’t sustain that lifestyle every day - just think of the sunburn and your liver.
Sticking together like birds of a feather
Anyone who’s moved abroad knows how time consuming it can be to integrate into a new culture and forge meaningful friendships. The path of least resistance for most is to simply make friends from your own country, which is understandable given that culture shock pushes people to seek out the familiar, not to mention you’ll naturally meet other foreigners in your suburb. However, without making local friends you will never feel part of the community and you’ll never have an insight into the culture of your adopted country. Take up a hobby, turn to social media to find likeminded locals or simply talk to everyone you meet. Turks have to be one of the most welcoming groups of people in the world - it’s not uncommon to be invited to an event minutes after meeting someone so making friends might be easier than you think.
Not being on the same page as your spouse
It might be that retiring to Turkey has been your dream for as long as you can remember. Your enthusiasm has driven the whole move, from packing up in your home country to choosing the ideal Turkish villa. However, what about your partner? Is their heart in this venture? The reality is many couples who move to Turkey suffer from a case of a mismatched enthusiasm. One is fixated on the idea of exploring their new country and having new experiences, while the other wonders how they’ll cope away from their family and friends. Or one wants to move to lively Antalya City, while the other has their heart set on beach-centric Side. Couples with the same vision and values can often overcome these differences, but it’s important that you’re on the same page before you relocate as the stress of moving can bring differences into sharp relief and cause problems down the line. Make sure you pick a community where both your interests are catered to, and where travel links back home are good, so that you can easily reconnect with the family and friends you left behind.
Neglecting the finer financial details
Turkey's low cost of living means most currencies will go far in Turkey, and allow for a very favourable quality of life. This is a huge push factor for many retirees hoping to make the best of their pension in a cheaper country. However, you’ll need to do some serious number crunching before you move, factoring in the cost of living in Turkey - for example: food, cable TV, electricity, fuel if you own a car - as well as any financial commitments you have back home, such as a mortgage or school fees. Although it sounds obvious, it’s amazing how many people forget to cancel direct debits back home, or forget to inform the tax office they’re leaving, so focused are they on their new life in their Antalya villas. It’s essential to tie up any loose ends - or you could find yourself being caught up in them if you ever decide to return home.
Not giving yourself enough time
Even seasoned expats will tell you that the early days of living in a new country can be disorienting and lonely. However, many expats don’t anticipate this and take it to mean that they’ll be unhappy in their new home. A number of expats react to this by romanticising the idea of “home” and wishing they’d never left in the first place. It’s helpful to keep the positive aspects of your new country in mind, and remember the reasons you left your home country. And most importantly, allow yourself some time. It might be helpful to give yourself a deadline - for example, a year, and telling yourself you’ll stick it out until then. Most expats will tell you it takes at least a year for somewhere to start feeling even remotely like “home”.