Jake Olson | Turkish Life Interview Series

How long have you been living in Turkey?

7.5 years

What area of Turkey do you live?


What did your family and friends think about you moving to Turkey?

They were very comfortable with it. They knew that I had a sense of purpose in coming here, and they were proud of me.

Now that I’m married to a woman from Antakya and have two kids, my parents totally get why we’re here. They’ve been over to visit many times and really love it over here.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome living in here in Turkey?

Finding work that is legal and pays well enough to support a family. I finally ended up working remotely for a US company. You might wonder how this was possible, but with all of the modern-day technology and the tools for real-time communication (resource), it was actually very simple. I now work for the US Military.

What are the good things about living in Turkey?

Being near my in laws, the Turkish foods, being near the beach and the mountains

What do you miss the most from home?

Feeling grounded in a community where I have a history. Adana is not my wife’s home town or mine, and unfortunately we don’t feel rooted here even though we have a lot of history here.

If you have kids, what is it like being a parent in Turkey?

It’s really difficult if you’re not near family. Most professional women leave their kids with their parents or send them to day care and go back to work. We really valued having the kids to grow up at home with mom and not with a nanny or day care centre.

We’ve had the finances to make that a reality (i.e. my wife didn’t HAVE TO go back to work), but unfortunately things were very lonely for my wife and the kids didn’t have many Turkish friends their age in our neighbourhood because all the moms were working and all the kids were with a nanny, a grandma or a day care center.

Now that we live on a military base, things are a lot better in that regard because there are a lot more American families who have the similar lifestyle like us.

Have you found it easy to integrate into the community?

It was a lot easier before we had kids. Our experience after having small children is that people at our stage of life really constrict their social lives to mainly immediate and extended family when they have young kids. Since our family isn’t here, we really don’t feel a part of the community in Adana.

In your opinion is Turkey a cheap or expensive place to live?

It’s about the same as America. Some things are a lot more expensive in Turkey (gasoline), but other things are a lot cheaper (food, produce, etc.) I think it pretty much equals itself out. What I’m saying is that I think that the salary I have buys me a very similar lifestyle to what the same salary would afford back in the US.

How do you find living with the difference in culture?

I think it’s a great skill to learn; namely being comfortable operating in a culture other than your own. I really enjoy it and feel I have a richer life because of it.

Have you managed to learn Turkish, do you find Turkish easy or hard to learn?

Yes, I’m able to get just about anything done in Turkish and can have very comfortable conversations with Turks.

Unfortunately I don’t read and write very well. I think that Turkish is VERY DIFFICULT for native English speakers and vice versa. I see foreigners putting in incredible effort to learn Turkish and seeing very slow progress.

Turkish kids also really struggle to learn English well despite devoting countless hours to it. I think the two languages just don’t go very well together in the same brain.

Would you recommend others to come live here in Turkey?

I would recommend singles and couples without kids to come to Turkey.

If you had to do it all over again would you do it all again, and what would you change if you would?

I really wish that I had moved my family to Antakya four years ago when my first son was a baby. We could have bought a home there and we would have been much closer to my wife’s family. My Turkish would be awesome and most importantly we’d be raising our kids as part of a community where we have roots and will have roots for ever; not a city where we really don’t have a deep connection.

For anyone who is planning to make the move to live in Turkey, what would your top 3 pieces of advice be for them?

  1. 1.Have a very open mind about foods you haven’t yet tried.
  2. Push yourself to get out and do the things that are hard to do (camping, hiking, etc.)
  3. Don’t put Turks all into one category. All Turks are different and don’t make blanket assumptions negative or positive. (“Turks are Lazy” and “Turks are very hospitable” are both wrong because they’re based on the idea that all Turks are alike.)


Learn more about Adana and life there through Jake’s Website Adana Adventures


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3 Responses to “Jake Olson | Turkish Life Interview Series”

  1. 11th April 2012

    EarthLaughsInFlowers Reply

    Here is the next Interview, in my Turkish Life series, this time its the turn of Jake Olson from Adana Adventures… http://t.co/WUmP4cAm

  2. 12th April 2012

    Joy (My Turkish Joys) Reply

    Another great interview! Nice to learn a bit more about Jake and his life here in Turkey.

    Cheers from Istanbul!

  3. 19th April 2012

    Duke Dillard Reply

    Wise words, Jake. I appreciate your honest vulnerability.
    Thanks for doing this, Kerry.

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