Q&A: Whats the difference between living in an non-expat and expat area of Turkey

By | on 18th February 2014 | 7 Comments

Q&A: Whats the difference between living in an non-expat and expat area of Turkey?

This was a question I was asked to answer. I have given this question a fair bit of thought and this is my answer to the the question about living in an non-expat and expat area of Turkey . After you read my answer I would love to hear your answer to the above question, please post your thoughts in the comments below about living in an non-expat and expat area of Turkey.

View from Our Balcony

View from Our Balcony

Since moving to Turkey I have lived in what is classed by us expats as a non-expat area, it means that it is an area where there is no expat community and where you are living in a mainly Turkish community, that’s not to say there are no expat’s in your area, it just means there’s only a few of you!

Expat areas are areas where there are larger expat communities, where there are larger numbers of expat’s living and you tend to live within the expat community rather than the Turkish community. You can research these differences online; visit Destination Scanner as one resource, but some of it you’ll only learn when you’re already in the thick of it.

Expat areas in Turkey tend to be found in areas like, Istanbul, Ankara, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Antalya and most coastal areas.

Every where else is considered non-expat. If you disagree with me, please let me know in the comments below.

What’s it like living in a non-expat area?

This is the easier of the two parts of this question for me, we currently live in what would be classed as a non-expat area, there are expats around, though I haven’t had the chance to meet any yet, there are of course various different nationalities of expats, some here for the University and some have settled here, mainly Bulgarians and Russians.

Where we live is in a Turkish neighbourhood, I am the Yabanci (foreigner) and I still get shocked looks when I start to speak!

Living here in the main is ok, you get into your daily routines of life just as you would living anywhere in Turkey or the world. But at times you can feel isolated and lonely, especially when dealing with the dramas life throws at you, you miss the support of friends and family and being able to speak with people who understand your culture and background.

It’s important living in this sort of area to get involved in the community and meet people in your area and make some friends, one or two is better than none. I found when I firsted moved here all my neighbours wanted to get to know the Yabanci so I was very popular at the start getting asked to the ladies tea and gossip day and though at times, it was hard work dealing with the language barrier and the endless rounds of tea, food and chat, it was a great way to get to know the people in our apartment block. It really helped at the start and to feel settled here. Now I am more choosy when I go for tea and who I go to.

When I was pregnant it proved worthwhile as my neighbours where a great support, especially as we have no family here.

However living here has had it’s pressures, I rely 100% on my husband, it’s been good in parts made us stronger but I feel it has made me lose my independence in many things, not having my friends means I rely on my husband to go out with and if he is out with is friends it would be good to be out with mine.

Going out here isn’t as easy as it might be in an expat zone, for example, going to the bar/pub for a drink is frowned upon here, its what I call a closed area, very religious and though there are some nice restaurants and coffee houses, it would be lovely to go out of an evening and have a glass of wine or two. I feel like at times I have lost a bit of my freedom.

However if you really want to embrace living life in Turkey then living in a non-expat area is the way to go, you learn more about life here, the culture, the people and the language. It also gives you a better perspective of Turkey. I do love living in the community here, restrictive as it can feel some days, its actually not that bad living here, you get used to the ways and enjoy a different way of life.

What is life like living in an Expat Zone?

This is the harder part of the question for me to answer as I have never lived in an area like this, though I have spent time in various parts of Turkey and have some perspective on this.

Blending in is certainly one of the better parts of living in an expat area, you are not the exception, you are just part of the community, no one bats an eye if you speak in English or any other language other than Turkish.

It’s easier to have more independence in an expat area as no one really cares what the crazy Yabanci’s do, its just their way, you can pop down your local for a drink or do things without your husband without people thinking twice about it.

Being in an expat area often means more activities and things going on you can join in with, like kids groups, clubs, events at Christmas, Easter and the various other days.

It’s good to have people around that understand your struggles with life in Turkey and don’t mind you moaning about life here or what that crazy Turk just did!

However living in an expat area does mean it can be very easy not to integrate into the Turkish community as well, you can live here in Turkey in an expat area without really learning the culture, the language and making Turkish friends. And for me I think it’s important when you live in another country to really integrate and learn about your new home.

Overall both expat and non expat areas in Turkey have their plus and minuses but at the end of the day no matter where you live life is what you make of it, if you resist life anywhere you will never be happy. You have to embrace which ever situation and enjoy what you can from it. I often dream of living on the coast, but at the same time, there is so much here where we live I will miss if we do.

Embrace your life here in Turkey and all the little problems and when you feel like crying, laugh! It’s easy to blame Turkey when life isn’t going right, but don’t forget life anywhere always has its bad days and good.

If you ask me where I would live expat or non expat, I would say inbetween, I would love to find a place where we live in the Turkish community but close enough to the expat community so we get the best of both worlds.

What would be your ideal area to live in Turkey expat or non and why?

And don’t forget to give your answer to the question, What’s the difference between living in a non-expat area of Turkey and living in an expat area of Turkey? In the comments below.

© 2014 – 2015, Kerry Arslan. All rights reserved.

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7 Responses to “Q&A: Whats the difference between living in an non-expat and expat area of Turkey”

  1. 18th February 2014

    turkeysforlife Reply

    I guess we have the best of both worlds in that case and have a mixture of friends. Some people are the same as us and have a mixture of friends, others stay just with expat friends, just like some Turkish locals don’t really mix with foreigners. Sometimes, you have to tease the issue…Timely post as we’re pondering this ourselves at the moment. 🙂

  2. 18th February 2014

    Jane Reply

    I definitely am in a non-expat community. I too am the yabanci however am generally accepted and acknowledged. If anything I give rise to having a giggle at my expense. Going into an expat area I notice two things:

    1. The cost of things are considerably higher; and
    2. OMG they have Worcester sauce! And noodles, and, and, Lindt chocolate. *drool*!

  3. 18th February 2014

    Yabanci Gelin Reply

    I lived in Istanbul but in my very conservative mahalle (which was about an hour by public transport from the tourist area of Istanbul) I was the only yabanci.
    I had no life outside of my husband and completely lost my independence. I never got involved in the expat community and didn’t have any English speaking friends. I was invited for cups of tea at first but then it became too much for me because of the language barrier and cultural differences and so I took to keeping the window shut and not answering the door. I found it very difficult to form any real friendships. Even women of the same age in my suburb or my husband’s friends’ wives had such different life experiences that I never felt comfortable with them (eg. they couldn’t believe that my father had ‘let’ me come to Turkey).
    For a short time I also lived with my husband’s parents in a small Black Sea town. The hardest thing about that was not being able to find any foreign foods and constantly having to visit extended family.
    Now looking back I think I must have been suffering from a form of depression and I sincerely regret the way I approached my time living in Turkey and if I were to go back to live one day I would certainly get more involved in the Turkish community as well as the expat community and try and embrace the cultural differences. But for now we are living in my home country and my husband is facing all the challenges I faced, but because I know just how hard it is I am doing everything I can to help him find his way.

  4. 19th February 2014

    Tina Reply

    I live in a Turkish area just outside the main ex-pat community, which for me, works brilliantly. I am a woman on my own who had high ideals of integrating in the Turkish way of life when I moved here 10 years ago. The main problem I encountered was not being able to distinguish between people who were ‘real’ friends and those who wanted to befriend in order to rip me off!! It is easier to form opinions about people of your own culture, you can read the signs and avoid those who are not honest or real friends. This is much more difficult when you do not share the same culture, you are unable to pick up on things that would quickly flash a danger signal if you were dealing with your own people. Now, I have Turkish friends – not many – but the few I have are true friends, but I took it really slowly. I mix with the ex-pats and have good friends within this group too. It is totally necessary to learn the Turkish language, at least enough to get by. I am so happy living in this beautiful country and have no regrets at all.

  5. 19th February 2014

    Deborah Nelson Reply

    Hi Kerry! Great article! I have been to my Beloved Turkey over 12 times. I lived in Antalya teaching native speaking English for almost a year. During times I have been to Turkey, I have always stayed in non-expat areas. Your reasons for each (non & expat) were very true for me as well. I have vacationed in Fethiye and found so much “english” that is was refreshing. But I have to say that I loved living with the not-expats. Even tho’ I don’t speak fluent Turkish, I felt accepted in the community…Mine in Antalya was lots of Kurdish people. THey all accepted me and wanted me to help them with English!
    I am engaged to a Turkish man and our goal is to have a vacation house around Akcay (with is very vacationing Turkish!) Glad to hear your viewpoint! Deborah N

  6. 20th August 2014

    Angel Reply

    Hi Kerry I live in a non expats area of Istanbul. The area is kurdish so language is a real problem. Also many woman here don’t work outside the home, are covered so I tend to watch how I dress. My turk friends say ignore them wear what you want but I don’t. I just want quiet life. Some woman are friendly towards me mainly from the street I live in. The kids are a different thing altogether. Uneducated use swear words from US movies and shout sexual abuse at me. When my husbands at work I rarely go outside because of the youths who find it fun to hurt streetcats n dogs which drives me crazy. They throw stones at my cat too if its on the balcony. Im here because this is where my husband bought an apartment but I would love to live in a better area…Hopefully we will move eventually to a better area of Istanbul

    • 25th September 2014

      Kerry Arslan Reply

      Ah, Angel, it sounds such a hard place to live, yes Kurdish is so different, its all I hear when I am with my husbands family. I don’t think I would be heading out either, in our old home of Sakarya I didn’t venture out much by myself because it was very religous and the men have a little respect for woman and it made me feel uneasy, we had a lovely central park but there was always groups of young boys about and I never felt safe there on my own. I really do hope you get to move, it must really be hard living there. Big hugs xx

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