I moved to Turkey from London in November 2009 with my civil partner, Liam. It’s the best thing we ever did.
What area of Turkey do you live?
We live in Bodrum, on the Aegean coast. For us, the Bodrum Peninsula was the bookmaker’s favourite from the outset. It’s a chic, cosmopolitan and happening kind of place attracting serious Turkish cash and an interesting cohort of Bohemian types.
Why did you decide to live in Turkey?
I’d like to say that we chose Turkey because it’s the land of swarthy men, a place where sexual ambivalence reigns supreme and stolen glances meet you at every corner. The truth is more prosaic. We had to settle somewhere within easy commute of Blighty for trips home to see our folks. The Eurozone was off the agenda because the Pound to Euro exchange rate conspired against us. That meant the usual nations of choice for sun-starved Brits – Spain, Portugal and Greece – were out. At the time, we got more bang for our bucks in Turkey. Also, we’d been dipping our toes in the warm waters of the Aegean for years and knew the stunning country quite well. With the current crisis in the Eurozone, I think we made a wise choice.
What did your family and friends think about you moving to Turkey?
Our parents weren’t exactly thrilled by our decision to step off the treadmill and head for the sun. Part of the deal is to phone home often and return regularly. The compulsory Sunday afternoon call is non-negotiable and we fly back to London every three months or so. We use Skype as much as possible and book flights in advance to limit the impact on the family purse. We also use Facebook and good old fashioned emails to keep in touch with friends and siblings.
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome living in here in Turkey?
We’ve faced remarkably few obstacles. Turkey is a benign host and people are warm and obliging. We’d done a fair amount of research beforehand and concocted a bells and whistles plan to ensure our momentous decision didn’t lead to certain penury. We were lucky enough to meet fellow expats who helped us enormously. Interestingly our discrete but obvious union has never attracted bad publicity from any Turk. I just assume, as non-Moslem foreigners, we are infidels and Hell-bound anyway so it hardly matters what we do. However, I strongly suspect if we moved a few miles inland our situation might be less favourable. As it is, the only disapproving glances we receive are from some of our fellow expats. Ironic, don’t you think?
What are the good things about living in Turkey?
I love the lack of cynicism. Turkey is a country on the up and you can taste the pride and optimism. Turkey may be a relatively new country (less than 100 years as a secular republic) but it’s an ancient land. History sits casually underfoot and around every corner. Ancient, medieval and modern, Turkey at its best is incomparable.
What do you miss the most from home?
We return to London regularly so we avoid any great feeling of loss. If we didn’t go back so much I’m certain we’d miss the big city buzz, riding the Tube outside the rush hour and decent Indian food. As it is we get the best of both worlds. We’re very lucky.
If you have kids, what is it like being a parent in Turkey?
Liam and I have no children
Have you found it easy to integrate into the community?
There is a thriving expat community hereabouts as it’s a popular choice for people retiring or with holiday homes. The support network is well established with online forums, newspapers, groups, expat bars and restaurants. However, we avoid the temptation to socialise exclusively with our fellow expats. We live in a stone house in the heart of old Bodrum Town. All our neighbours are Turkish who, almost without exception, are friendly and helpful. Turks are blessed with an honourable tradition of hospitality long abandoned in the West. In London I hardly knew my neighbours. We were thrilled when our closest neighbours invited us over for dinner. Our grasp of Turkish remains lamentably poor and their English is virtually non-existent but they made us feel right at home and the food was delicious. There was much waving of hands and finger pointing. We used a Turkish/English dictionary to chuck random words into the conversation just for the hell of it.
In your opinion is Turkey a cheap or expensive place to live?
The English language Bodrum Bulletin recently updated its annual grocery price check, comparing Britain with Turkey. This exercise was first started in 2009 using the same basket of goods from Sainsbury’s (in the UK) and Migros (in Turkey). The headline was that the price differential between the two countries has been gradually eroded since the survey started. In 2009 the British basket cost 26% more, whereas today the difference is less that 10%. As with all things, the devil is in the detail. Buying habits vary from person to person and the comparison is affected by the prevailing lira to pound exchange rate. Nevertheless, it does indicate a direction of travel during these recessionary times. We residents all know that booming Turkey is no longer the low cost paradise it used to be.
How do you find living with the difference in culture?
Bodrum is real but it’s not real Turkey. Bodrum has attracted artists and non-conformists for decades. It’s also where political dissidents were often exiled during the coup years. I think we fit right in.
Have you managed to learn Turkish, do you find Turkish easy or hard to learn?
Avustralyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınızcasına is a Turkish term pronounced as a single word and an extreme example of agglutination, the process of adding affixes to the base of a word. This word translated into English means “as if you were one of those whom we could not make resemble the Australian people”. Though rhythmic and poetic on the ear, Turkish is not an easy language for Europeans to assimilate as it is thought to belong to the Altaic language family and is distantly related to Mongolian, Korean and other inscrutable Asiatic tongues. Despite Atatürk’s valiant 1928 adoption of the Latin alphabet and the fact that the language is phonetic and mostly regular, the word order, agglutinations and the absence of familiar sounds all conspire to make learning Turkish a very daunting prospect. That’s my excuse. I’m just hopeless. Liam has fared better. Our terrible language skills matters less in Bodrum where so many people speak good English and those who don’t, want to practise on you.
Would you recommend others to come live here in Turkey?
With the right planning and research, Turkey is a wonderful place to live. However, for those with children where schooling is an issue, I would be more cautious. Also, unless you plan to work (and works permits are difficult to obtain), robust and sustainable financial arrangements are essential.
If you had to do it all over again would you do it all again, and what would you change if you would?
We spent our first year in a small town called Yalıkavak. It’s a pretty little place just 30 kilometres from Bodrum and a summertime treasure. What we didn’t realise was that it is effectively closed out of season. Between November and April night time Yalıkavak is a ghost town save for a few brave bars that made a meagre living from the few overwintering expats and the packs of street dogs sniffing around. Having enjoyed a winter of benign boredom, we upped sticks and moved to Bodrum itself.
For anyone who is planning to make the move to live in Turkey, what would your top 3 pieces of advice be for them?
Moving to any foreign land throws up a host of practical and cultural issues that everyone has to cope with but with the right advice, a guiding hand and lots of patience it can be a hugely rewarding experience.
- Plan, plan and plan some more. Remember, it’s what the guide books and ‘how to’ manuals don’t tell you that will trip you up.
- Try before you buy – rent for a while. Too many people have lost their shirts on a dream that turned into a nightmare. Act in haste and repent at leisure.
- Find a gainful occupation. I don’t mean paid employment which is virtually impossible to obtain legally. I mean filling the day with something meaningful.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We retired ridiculously early. Turkey has broken the umbilical cord between wages and lifestyle and given me the time and space to write. We’ve never been happier.
For more on Jack Scott you can visit his website at www.jackscott.info
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[box type=”info” size=”medium” title=”Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam Move to Turkey ” right_title=”Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam Move to Turkey, ” right_description=”by Jack Scott” url=”http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1904881645/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=polygonpa-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=1904881645″ style=”color blue” ]Want to find out more about Jack and Liam’s life in Turkey then you must read Perking the Pansies, written by Jack about life in Turkey and what life is like for a guy couple living in Turkey.[/box]