The Truth About Life in Turkey as an Expat
In our series about expat life in Turkey, we talk to real people in the country to get a realistic outlook and viewpoint on what living in Turkey is like. In a recent article, we interviewed 52-year-old Andrew Edmonds about what he wished he had known before moving to Bodrum. His candid responses gave great insight into what to expect during the first year of living here.
In this article, we talk with Natalie Sayin. She has lived in Turkey for 15 years, been married and divorced here, worked as a rep, Turkish real estate agent and is now a location independent freelancer. We asked her to tell us more about her life in Turkey as an expat.
My Life is Not What You Read in the Newspapers
Before 2013, a lot of family and friends back in the UK enjoyed hearing a lot about my life here. They used to say; they wished they could move to Turkey permanently. They gushed about the country and loved seeing my travel photographs of new destinations I visited. However, In the last four years, Turkey has been through turmoil and upheaval.
As a country, it has been tested and pivotal events reported in foreign newspapers just portray a negative image, because let’s face it, one-one wants to read about my mundane life where everything is ticking along just nicely. That kind of news just doesn’t sell newspapers. However, the blanket reporting of negative news does not portray a realistic viewpoint of daily life in Turkey either.
These days, people who have not been to Turkey often ask if it is safe? A lot of them do not understand that Turkey is the 37th largest country in the world, so when they see newspaper reports about trouble on the border with Syria, they do not know they I am in fact three days drive away and enjoying a relatively peaceful afternoon beachside.
When the coup occurred in 2016, large cities suffered the most, but in my home town of Didim, some people went to bed and woke up the next morning having slept through a coup. They did not know anything had happened until they watched the news. It was quite a surreal event because in no way was my life impacted.
I am not leading a privileged life in Turkey, but neither is it doom and gloom as reported in some newspapers. Don’t believe everything you read because, on quite a few occasions, I have also spotted factual inaccurate headlines and content in many foreign newspapers.
I have Lost My Cultural Identity
When I first arrived in Turkey in 2002, my British identity was steadfast. I hated Turkish food, and wasn’t bothered about cultural awareness. I was here for copious amounts of fun and sun and could often be found in a British restaurant tucking into an English breakfast or Sunday roast dinner.
Slowly, over the years I have changed. I now have my favourite Turkish foods, speak the language and have subconsciously adopted the mannerisms and some cultural beliefs of Turks. My Turkish friends joke that I am their half Turkish sister, and together with my English friends, we chuckle about our habit of speaking “Turklish” that is slang for a sentence combining Turkish and English words.
I still eat English food but find it to be a bland, simplistic cuisine, and when I go back to the UK, the reserved nature of British society frustrates me. Some people call it intrusive, but I am used to random conversations with strangers in Turkey because society is more open.
My experience of living in Turkey has changed me, because now I can’t identify with British culture. At one point, I did not even know who the prime minister was and hadn’t heard about shows like Britain's Got Talent, until about two years after it had started. However, I am not Turkish either.
Being unable to identify myself as part of a cultural group made me feel lost at first, but in the end, I figured out that I have the best of both worlds. Instead, I now see much potential in the Global Citizenship Movement, which focuses on people all around the globe coming together for the greater benefit.
It is Easy to Get into Holiday Mode and Stay There
I live in the holiday town of Didim on the Aegean coast. Tourism is the most significant income for locals, and the atmosphere and vibes revolve around that. The days are spent beachside and nights in bars and restaurants.
At the moment, the exchange rate between the British pound and Turkish lira is especially good as well, so expats have never had it so good regarding financial gains. It sounds idyllic because you could live the high life for next to nothing. Read about cost of living in Turkey in 2017 here.
However, for long term living, that lifestyle is unrealistic, unhealthy and damaging to your quality of life. By the end of the summer, you have gained a hell of a lot of weight, which causes health problems, especially if you are not young.
Waking up with a groggy head every morning means you become lazy during the day. You just end up losing any zest for life, and once you have done the holiday theme for a while, the excitement also wears off. You end up doing it purely as routine, and there is no value to your day.
Living in a holiday town as an expat means you should practise a certain amount of self-control and responsibility if you do not want to fall into the circle of spending all the afternoons in the pub. Instead, it is better to pursue hobbies, or start travelling, both of which are relaxed habits that will add value to your life in Turkey as an expat.