Relocating to Turkey? 5 expat tips for your checklist

5 December 2017

This article was written by Ebru Demirel, Vice-President of the FIDI Board, CEO of Bedel Mobility Solutions and President of Asya International Movers. A multilingual globetrotter, Ebru is based in Turkey.

Expats posted to any country are faced with plenty of novel situations that test even the hardiest of spirits. Before you go, a little research on what to expect goes a long way towards smoothing out those challenges. However, some destinations are more difficult to research than others. Turkey is one of them.

We have put together a list of 5 key considerations to add to your checklist before moving to Turkey for your Eurasian assignment. 

1. Make sure you have a roof over your head

Having a nice place to come home to at the end of the day dramatically increases the success rate of your relocation. When choosing a place to live in Turkey, local knowledge is indispensable. Your relocation partner should be able to at least narrow down the offering.

Take Istanbul: would you prefer to live on the European or on the Asian side of the city? Both have their pros and cons, but as most international schools are located on the European side, many expats with families choose to live in the Etiler and Ulus neighbourhoods. The rent for a two-bedroom apartment in a secure compound in those areas typically starts around USD 3,000 per month.

The housing market in Turkey is a lot more landlord-driven than many expats are used to. The landlord/renter relationship is not as heavily regulated as it is elsewhere, and common things, like who is responsible for replacing a broken water heater, are negotiable, with the landlord often having the winning hand. Your relocation partner can help you with expert advice and guidance, but in Turkey when something breaks, be prepared for lengthy negotiations with the landlord. 

2. Get your health insurance sorted

Health is one of the biggest expat concerns. Fortunately, in most expat destinations medical care is quite good, and in fact attracts many foreigners who come to Turkey for specific medical procedures.

Foreign nationals are required to get a private health insurance to complement the national healthcare system. Your relocation partner should be able to help you pick the most beneficial one from a wide array of options. Most private hospitals also have an English-speaking call centre at your disposal.

3. Start your visa process early

For several decades, Turkey has attracted a great deal of foreign investment, and many international companies have set up their businesses in the country. Even though recent political developments have slowed down investment, the fundamentals of the country’s economy are still strong. The large presence of foreign companies also means that there are a number of international schools to choose from.

The process of getting a work visa starts with filling in the data for the Pre-Application System, followed by the e-Visa System. Your relocation partner should be able to help you obtain all of the necessary permits.

4. Embrace local culture

Learning any new language is difficult, and especially when it is Turkish. Many expats find out they are being posted to Turkey on a fairly short notice, so they have little chance to learn much of the language. Your Turkish colleagues will probably speak English, French and German quite well, but many of your neighbours may not speak anything beyond Turkish. Fortunately, it is amazingly easy to break the ice in Turkey. All you need is some ten odd words to engage in small talk, and then smile and make eye contact with the people you meet. A little effort goes a long way in Turkey.

On the other hand, you might find the traffic chaotic and disorderly, in particular in Istanbul. The distances are long, and at rush-hour crossing the city from the European side to the Asian side can take over 2 hours.

Turks also have a different concept of personal space compared to many Europeans and Americans. For example, when you are standing in line at the grocery store, the person behind you might stand closer to you than you feel comfortable with. Then you step forward to try to create more space, and the other person steps forward too, closing the space you just opened up. When frustrations overwhelm you, just take a deep breath and remind yourself of all the other beautiful cultural differences.

5. Make the most of your time off

Take advantage of the opportunity and invest in leisure time in your new, unique environment. The cost of living in Turkey is fairly low, and Istanbul is placed 142nd in the annual Cost of Living Survey by Mercer. However, expats’ expenses are typically higher than locals’, so make sure your assignment package leaves you enough extra cash to spend on your downtime activities.

Turkey is beautiful and accommodates easy travel all year long. The stunning beaches of Antalya, for example, are only a one-hour flight from Istanbul. Other popular destinations include Cappadocia and the Black Sea coast.

A trusted relocation partner can help you make your global assignment smooth and assist with local advice and required documentation. To find a high-quality moving company in Turkey, visit find a FIDI Affiliate.

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