Out of mistakes people make when moving to Turkey, common themes run between them all, namely a lack of preparation and false expectations. It is easily done and moving abroad is a significant lifestyle change so mistakes will happen. However, we can avoid most with a bit of planning and willingness to embrace the unknown.
These days with the advance of the Internet, we can prepare for setbacks thanks to stories of those who have already moved and settled into their new life. Character skills like flexibility, patience, and curiosity also help to make your move as smooth as possible. We have many customers who have bought apartments or villas in Turkey and we’ve seen the same mistakes crop up time and time again. Let’s look at what they are. After all, they say forewarned is forearmed.
Mistakes People Make When Moving to Turkey
1: Ignoring Cultural Differences
As more and more people move to Turkey and expat populations grow, you could assume all the comforts of home will be within a stone’s throw, and you are right. In Fethiye, for example, home to around 8000 foreigners, car boot sales, English cafes, and imported goods are abundant.
Regardless, Turkey has its own unique culture encompassing a different set of values and differing traditions, and this becomes obvious when navigating day to day living like dealing with neighbours, visiting residency offices, sorting out information at the bank or even the annual Bayram periods. Be prepared for culture shock and accept that not everyone has the same lifestyle. Settling in sometimes mean comprising on your idea of what life should look like.
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2: Neglecting to Learn Turkish
In larger centres and tourist resorts, many locals speak English. This is helpful for people who have just moved here and makes it much easier to begin your new life. However, learning the language is essential. Turks are famed for their friendliness, but speaking a few words of Turkish to locals will make a massive difference in quality of life.
Learning the language sets you apart from the average tourist. It shows an interest in Turkish culture, history, cuisine and lifestyles and that you will do your part to meet new people and make friends. Don’t set out to be fluent within weeks. Start with learning greetings and a few polite phrases and go from there. Turks encourage attempts to learn and are all too eager to help with new words and difficult pronunciations.
3: The Holiday Mode Mistake
Living in Turkey is different from being in holiday mode. While the attractions of living here include elements that lure holidaymakers in their droves: better weather, delicious food and fascinating culture, don’t forget you also must deal with banks, the tax department, the hassle of fixing bits and pieces around the house and the rainy season (which, is nowhere near as bad as a winter in Northern Europe).
Treating life like a holiday and neglecting a sensible day-to-day lifestyle is a recipe for disaster. Because while there will be sunshine and cocktails in abundance, it is impossible to sustain that lifestyle every day without damaging your health and bank balance.
4: Birds of a Feather in Turkey
Anyone who has 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 make friends from your own country, which is understandable given that culture shock pushes people to seek the familiar, not to mention you’ll meet other foreigners in your suburb.
However, without making local friends, you will never feel part of the community and get an insight into the culture of your adopted country. Take up a hobby, turn to social media to find like-minded locals, or talk to everyone you meet. Turks are the most welcoming group of people in the world, so it is not uncommon to be invited to an event minutes after meeting someone so making friends might be easier than you think.
Of Interest: 13 Ways to Make New Friends in Turkey.
5: People Differences: Are You on the Same Page?
Maybe 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? Many couples suffer from a case of a mismatched enthusiasm. One concentrates on exploring their new country and having new experiences, while the other wonders how they will cope away from their family and friends.
One wants to move to Antalya City, while the other has their heart set on beach-centric Side. Couples with the same vision and values often overcome these differences, but it is essential to both be on the same page as the stress of moving can bring discrepancies into sharp relief and cause problems down the line. Pick a community where both your interests are catered to and where travel links back home are frequent so you can reconnect with the family and friends.
6: Financial Mistakes and Management
Turkey’s low cost of living means that most currencies will go far 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, do some serious number crunching before making a move including factoring in the cost of living like food, cable TV, electricity, fuel if you own a car and financial commitments back home, like a mortgage or school fees. Although it sounds obvious, it’s incredible how many people forget to cancel direct debits back home or forget to inform the tax office they are leaving. It is essential to tie up any loose ends, especially if you plan to ever return home.
7: Expecting to Fit in Straight Away
Even seasoned expats will testify that the early days of living in a new country can disorient and be lonely. However, many expats don’t expect this and take it to mean that they will be unhappy in their new home. Several expats react to this by romanticising home and wishing they had never left. It’s helpful to keep the positive aspects of your new country in mind and remember why you left your home country. Also, allow yourself some time. It might be helpful to give yourself a deadline, for example, a year, and stick it out until then. Most expats will verify it takes at least a year for somewhere to feel like home.
Advice and Tips for People Moving to Turkey
Don’t think it is all doom and gloom because many people who have made these mistakes get over them and enjoy their ideal life. However, the worst mistakes are those when you look back and realise we could have avoided them. To do this, it is all about having a certain mindset.
1: Don’t Think in Absolutes
Also known as black and white thinking, people who think in absolutes cannot stay the course because of a biased frame of mind. The perfect example is people who move to Turkey, thinking it is a utopia, and when something goes wrong, it unsettles their subconscious beliefs. They might have had five good days and only one bad, but they focus on the negative because it isn’t in line with their utopia belief. Instead, know that everything is a subtle blend of good and bad. (Read the pros and cons of living in Turkey.)
2: Too Much Time on Your Hands
For many working professionals, moving to another country and doing nothing is idyllic. Two months later, they find they have too much time on their hands, and this becomes a problem. It is a primary culprit of the expat syndrome and a significant reason some expats end up in bars day after day.
Human beings need a purpose. We need to have a reason to get up in the morning, so have a sense of curiosity and adventure and look for activities to fill your days. Whether this is learning the language, taking up a new hobby, or helping charities. (Read about hobbies and activities for expats in Turkey.)
3: Preparation is Key
Flying by the seats of your pants and being impromptu is a fun thing to do but is one of the biggest mistakes people make when moving to Turkey. Preparation is vital to avoid situations that need never happen. Our checklist of things to do before moving will help the transition go more smoothly.
Note: You might also like to read our expat guide to living in Turkey. Listing more advice and resources, it will help you prepare for the move and to know what to expect when living here.
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