Should I move to Turkey? The pros and cons of moving abroad
As anyone who’s moved to Turkey will tell you: the reality of living in your Turkish villa in Antalya, Fethiye or Bodrum bears little resemblance to the week-long, cocktail-fuelled summer holiday that might have planted the seed to move abroad.
That’s why we urge prospective buyers to think hard about a move to Turkey before they rush to buy property in Kalkan or Kas. We’ve come up with a few pros and cons to help you decide whether to pack up and move. Because the land of beaches, sunshine, great food and fascinating history is also home to more than a few challenges.
Pro: the Mediterranean lifestyle
Yes, that sun-filled, laid back holiday destination actually does translate well to a permanent lifestyle, and in fact, it’s the number one reason people decide to move to Turkey to hunt for that special Kalkan property for sale. So while there are a few well-documented cons, as you'll read below, remember the overarching reason that most people move to Turkey. Three hundred days of sunshine, an unhurried pace of life, long lunches and walks along the beach or into the mountains. You can't beat it.
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Con: homesickness will probably rear its head
The strangeness of a culture different from your own can make for a disorienting introduction to your new life. Add into the mix the geographical and mental distance from the family and friends you’ve left behind, and you could find yourself dealing with a hefty dose of homesickness. Even if you’re a veteran of travel or expat life, you might still find yourself suffering for the familiar sights, sounds and friendly faces of home. It’ll take a while before Turkey feels like home.
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Pro: the Mediterranean diet
Not only is Turkish food totally delicious: a sumptuous cuisine bursting with fresh flavours, it’s healthy, too, since the cuisine relies heavily on fresh, locally sourced produce. It’s cheap to eat out - but also satisfying to eat at home, especially if you source the fruit and vegetables yourself, down at the weekly market. You’ll also be able to find dried fruit, nuts, oils, honey and freshly-caught seafood at your local market. Studies have found the “Mediterranean diet” is linked to longevity. What’s not to like?
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Con: get ready for a culture clash
While some differences between your own culture and Turkish way-of-life are easily workable, others might be a little more confronting. Expats to Turkey often find some cultural practices disconcerting, even upsetting. For example, kurban bayram, the sacrificial feast held in June, is often a shock to new residents in Turkey who find it confronting that animals are sacrificed - even if this traditional holiday is all about helping your neighbours out. Other differences include a more conservative society - although this is mostly noticeable in more rural, inland centres of Turkey.
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Pro: the low cost of living
Compared to European cities, the cost of living on the Turkish Mediterranean is staggeringly low. Let’s use the example of Fethiye, a Turkish Mediterranean town popular with Brits: restaurant prices in Fethiye are 70% lower than London, and groceries 47% lower, according to cost of living site numbeo.com. Even compared to other Mediterranean countries, Turkey still comes out on top: it’s 41% cheaper to eat out in Fethiye than it is in the Spanish resort of Malaga, and 23% cheaper to buy groceries.
Despite a rise in Turkish property value in recent years, homes, too, are also cheaper. In Fethiye, it’s 60% cheaper to buy a property than in Malaga, and 87% cheaper than coastal favourite Nice, France.
The low cost of living is a large factor for anyone wishing to retire in Turkey on a strong currency: the Euro, the Pound or the Dollar. Instead of eking out a carefully-budgeted life back home, many are choosing to move to the Mediterranean where they can afford to splash out a little.
Con: it's further from the UK than other European destinations
While it only takes an hour or so to get to France from the UK, a trip to Turkey is slightly more of an endeavour. London to Istanbul will take you just under four hours, while it’s a six-hour flight from the UK capital to Fethiye. It’s a factor that puts many off - especially people who wish to retain close ties with the UK. However, more flights than ever connect Turkey to Europe and beyond which is a consolation for many would-be expats.
Pro: it's a major transport hub with great connections
Istanbul’s location as a bridge between east and west means has propelled the city into an era of geographical connectivity. Istanbul Ataturk Airport saw more than a 300% passenger growth between 2010 and 2015 - and numbers are growing, prompting the Istanbul New Airport which, upon completion, will be the largest in the world. Access to other countries around the region is a huge draw for second home owners who have greater opportunities for travel - as well as visiting home.
Con: It gets (very) hot in the summer
Few northern Europeans are prepared for the sheer heat of a Turkish summer. Temperatures can hit the late thirties in August, a level of heat that sends even hardened sun seekers running for the cover of home. The formidable temperatures can be dangerous to small children and the elderly, so we advise staying in during the hottest hours of the day, and venturing out only when the heat abates.
Pro: It's very friendly
Warning: if you travel to Turkey, prepare to be befriended. You’ll be invited round for lunch when you ask a stranger for directions; your baby will have his cheeks pinched by shopkeepers; your waiter will offer to teach you Turkish. You’ll also have a different perspective than taking a holiday as people in your local area begin to get to know you and accept your presence there. Some find it overwhelming at first, but once you get used to it you wonder how you’ve lived so long without the sense of community you find in Turkey.
Con: it might not be happily ever after
While most of us aren’t naive enough to believe in fairytale endings, it can still come as a shock when you realise that life’s daily frustrations - unexpected bills, tedious bureaucracy and other annoyances - followed you to your happily-ever-after. After the honeymoon period, you might find you come back down to reality with a bump, and that can be jarring. For some, it might even be enough to pack up and move back home.
Pro: travel opportunities
One of the best things about moving to Turkey is the world of travel opportunities that open up to residents. Whether your interests lie with history, sporting activities, food, day trips or simply discovering new beaches and nature spots, there are so many interesting sights crammed into every region you’ll have no trouble filling your time.
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Con: the miles of red tape
Bureaucratic processes in Turkey can seem frustratingly long winded to expats. Whole days can disappear on box-ticking, paper-shuffling missions, phone lines are dreadfully understaffed and websites lacking any helpful information. However, the government - knowing how much potential residents hate all this - is currently making a huge effort to improve their digital infrastructure, making it easier for would-be residents to apply for visas and the like from the comfort of their own homes. It’s still far from perfect though, so in the meantime, be patient and see the annoying red tape as a means to an end.
Pro: the shopping is amazing
From the tasty produce that includes honey, nuts, dried fruit and olive oil, to leatherwork, copper, beading and of course, the famous Turkish carpets, if you depend on retail therapy for your wellbeing you'll be in paradise in Turkey. From huge markets like Istanbul's Grand Bazaar to the smaller (but no less impressive) weekly markets on the south coast, you'll never be short of quality local items to spend your money on.
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Con: facing the language barrier
Turkce biliyor musun? No? Then you might find you struggle a bit - especially in small places where English isn't widely spoken. Turkish isn't one of those languages, like Spanish, that's easily picked up. There are new sounds that can seem strange and unfamiliar to an English ear, and the prospect of diving in can seem pretty daunting. Living in a country is the best way to pick up the lingo, however, and you might surprise yourself with your own ability. But it's another thing to bear in mind if you're thinking about moving to Turkey - communication with locals is obviously a key part of settling into a new place.
Pro: the customer service is amazing
Say goodbye to grumpy, disinterested staff, and hello to a new life of polite, friendly customer service. You might have already experienced this on holiday, but take it from us: when you become a local, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the level of service you receive. Forgot your money? Pay next time. Having issues at the bank? Step this way, we'll see what we can do. It's a small aspect of daily life that makes everything so much easier.
What do you think? Have you weighed up the pros and cons? What's stopping you from buying property in Turkey?