Here’s a post for all of you considering living in Turkey. It’s a post fellow expats may relate to as it looks at the things you first notice as a foreigner spending time in the country.
Moving abroad is a big decision.
By choosing to live anywhere abroad, you are automatically accepting a life change. Becoming an expat is a big decision. You suddenly enter a whole new world where things are different, the currency and language are strange, and what’s considered the local ‘norm’ may be a world apart from your previous ‘normality’. Turkey, although very westernised and cosmopolitan in many of the cities and coastal areas, has a traditional heart. Things are different here and the longer you spend in the country, the more differences you spot and learn to live with or accept.
“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder that to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson
THINGS YOU GROW TO ACCEPT LIVING IN TURKEY
Affection. “Eee-ahh…where did that come from?”. Kisses and affection – don’t question motives, just accept it from strangers as it means nothing in Turkey! Turks are affectionate people. They are the touchy-feely, kissy on both cheeks, huggy, hand kiss and head-slapping type of people that can seem overpowering at first, especially when you’re not used to a barrage of pecks and air-kisses from people you hardly know. Turkey is full of affection and these very public displays are something you quickly learn to accept and even embrace. I would never have launched in for a peck on the cheek pre-Turkey, it’s just not the done thing back in Birmingham, but now my British friends stand back thinking I’m mad as I bowl over not thinking twice about launching in for a hug at first sight!
Grazing. Turks take forever to eat a meal. They are Grazers. Turks are pickers and potter over their food. Evening meals are a many course affair; soup, meze (intermission – relax and drink), main, side, (intermission – relax and drink), dessert, cay, (intermission – drink more), all this topped off again with more cake or fruit and cay. Eating in Turkey takes forever! And don’t think breakfast escapes, you’ve never seen soo much food or known a breakfast to take soo long to eat! The Turks have made breakfasts into an art – little plates full of olives, cheeses, eggs, cucumber, tomatoes, preserves, and 5+ types of bread, simit or borek. Living in Turkey you quickly learn that accepting an invitation to a locals house means you are agreeing to a lengthy all-evening affair. And at restaurants, forget flipping tables, Turkish diners take root at their seats all night. Here in Turkey, you learn how to graze, to perfect the art of sharing and passing plates, and how to enjoy a meal and conversation. Food in Turkey is as much about enjoying your company as it is filling your belly, and quite charming it is too!
Materialism (lack of). I used to be a bit of a spoilt brat. I think a lot of kids brought up in the UK are. My parents were very good to me and I took advantage of it. I used to always want the new toys, designer jeans and bags my friends had. In Birmingham, I cared about “stuff”. Here in Turkey no one really gives a poop. Turks are far less materialistic so you quickly become less materialistic too, and thankfully this is now being passed on to my kids. Not needing to keep up with the Jones’ does make you feel happier and by doing so you become a decidedly nicer and better person.
Real Food. Moving to Turkey makes you a far, far better cook. You get to know what ‘real food’ is. Pre-Turkey I thought cooking was splashing a jar of Dolmio sauce over some mince and boiling a little pasta – my culinary skills were ropey, to say the least! But living in Turkey you have to learn how to cook – you have no other option as there simply aren’t the convenience foods to blag it with. Moving to Turkey, you morph into a chef and learn about ingredients. You learn how to Google recipes and rustle up ‘real food’, failing that, starve or forever fatten up in restaurants or with delivery pizzas!
Family Respect. You quickly learn that family is everything in Turkey. Turks respect their elders and their families are all very close-knit. You often see families gather of a Sunday for picnics or simply a stroll along the seafront in groups. Turks are generally a lot closer to their loved ones than most families in Britain, it’s lovely to see.
Turks love kids. Turks adore children, even teenagers will happily play and entertain the little ones. I can’t imagine many sixteen-year-olds in the UK having time for strangers kids as it’s just not ‘cool’, but here in Turkey, there have been many occasions when local kids and teenagers have voluntarily come across to help entertain my boys. And adults and the local women love coming across to play with them wherever we sit; at the beach the locals next to us send over fruit or simply start beckoning them across to get a handful of nuts, at the supermarket I’ve had locals help to try and calm down a tantrum, at the bakery the boys always get a little biscuit or taster of something on display. It doesn’t matter that there’s a language or culture barrier, Turks will happily fuss over the young.
Turkey Time. One of the most frustrating things you notice living in Turkey is ‘Turkey time’. You assume 1 pm means 1 pm (give or take 10 minutes or so). But hell no! In Turkey that could be 1 pm on the day discussed, or any time or day after that. Turks are hardly ever on time. You arrange for a delivery at 3 pm Thursday and wait in for your important package, come 5 pm you are pacing and angry, calling the company who says ‘it’s on its way’, it turns up 8.30am the following day! Having had this happen numerous times you quickly learn to give the delivery company your number and tell them to call when they are actually in the van en-route to your home. Waiting in for any work or delivery simply frustrates you. This also applies to meeting locals, they will invariably be late, get them to call when they are actually on their way.
Bureaucracy. No paperwork in Turkey is ever easy. Turks make what should be a simple procedure exceptionally complicated. If you are trying to do anything official in Turkey be sure to have a Turkish speaker with you and be prepared for the long-haul.
Driving. Do not get behind the wheel of a car in Turkey if you suffer road rage -driving in Turkey is nuts! If you were trained abroad rest assured you are undoubtedly a better driver than the majority on the road here, and you are more than capable of handling it. But, lack of indication, cutting across you, double parking, stopping for no reason, pulling into the right to turn left are all things you will encounter and it will infuriate you, but then you quickly learn to accept it. Driving in the UK is positively boring in comparison!
Hopefully, I haven’t put you off living in Turkey? Are there any other first impressions I’ve missed? Please do comment and let me know.
To sign up and receive updates, please enter your details in the box on the side. Please do stay tuned for suggestions on where to go in Fethiye later in the week. Please don’t forget to Like and Share below. 🙂