Even seven or ten years ago, moving to Turkey was a real gamble: those who had decided to relocate had a lot to experience for themselves. Today, tens of thousands of expats live in Turkey, hundreds of them share their experience of moving online. First-hand information helps new expats avoid the same mistakes, handle the housing issue without wasting extra money and efforts, acquire useful contacts, find a job in Turkey and meet new friends.
Thinking about moving to Turkey? We have studied loads of stories and recommendations and offer you the TOP-5 tips from expats who moved to Turkey.
Tip 1: find out the cost of living in Turkey and realistically estimate your possibilities
Many people say that Turkey should not be considered as a popular destination if you are looking for a better job. The incomes of locals and expats are relatively low (when compared, for example, with European countries), and the instability of the national currency leads to a constant rise in prices. The best option for those moving to Turkey is work remotely or have passive income (for example, rent out an apartment in Turkey or at home). Those who cannot work remotely and do not have any property to rent out (and are not a valuable specialist with a job offer from a Turkish company) can learn basic Turkish and start with:
- seasonal work in the spa sector. Working in a hotel for a season (as a guide, animator, fitness trainer, dancer, administrator, hairdresser, etc.), foreigners receive a free accommodation, food and often a work visa. Working in hotels in Turkey allows you to at least partially get to know the country, make acquaintances, practise the language, save up money for the winter (you can rent an apartment for the winter and in the spring you can get back to a hotel).
- working for a family. Wealthy Turkish families and expats always look for nannies, housekeepers, drivers, gardeners, maids, security guards, nurses, etc. Employees (often married couples) are provided with housing and food, visas and insurance, wages can be almost completely saved.
Anastasia Petrova-Cetinkaya, public figure, candidate for mayor of Alanya in 2019:
- I have been living in Turkey since 2010 and came to the country with a job offer. If you were invited as a specialist, with an official job offer, then you will be able to earn enough to be able to live a normal life. If you plan to buy or rent a property in Turkey and live on passive income (pension, rent, company income, etc.), then this should not be a problem either. But if you first decide to move and then look for work, then you may face some difficulties. Find a job first and then move. Therefore, before moving, ask yourself the most important question: "How will I earn money?"
Is it possible to live in Turkey on a pension? Numerous expat pensioners say it is possible: you can easily live on a pension in Turkey, especially if you have a property there and don't have to rent an apartment.
Mila Skripnik, retired officer:
It is not easy for an active person to become retired. Your whole lifestyle, everything that you are used to, changes. You lose contact with your ex-colleagues and employed friends. Sitting at home and feeling sudden freedom may even affect your mental health. That is why I finally decided to buy an apartment in Turkey and move there. There were many fears. I had plenty of doubts like will my pension be enough for living overseas? Will I get used to local food and a different climate? Will there be any problems with healthcare? How will I get a residence permit without speaking Turkish? That was nearly four years ago. Initially it was easier for me than for others, because my children and grandchildren already lived in Turkey, which meant that many issues could be resolved easier and faster. And the first issue was buying an apartment in Turkey. However, that wasn't really an issue. I decided what I wanted in advance. As a result, for the fourth year I have been enjoying a cosy apartment in Kestel: with sunny windows overlooking the sea, at the foot of the Taurus Mountains, ten minutes from the beach. My pension is enough for me to live in Turkey - I can easily travel around this beautiful, interesting country and go to a cafe with my friends every Saturday.
Tip 2: have a test period
Should you buy an apartment in Turkey and then move? Many expats advise first (six months or a year) to live in rented housing . What will it give you? You will get to know the city (or even several), choose the most suitable area for you, you will be able to slowly navigate the prices of real estate and to buy a good apartment in Turkey at the best price.
Ivan Ledovsky, designer:
I have been living in Mahmutlar for four years. I am already renting the second apartment in a row (the first one turned out to be too overpriced, after I carefully studied the prices I found an option much cheaper). I apply for a tourist residence permit once a year and work remotely as it is not legal to work in Turkey with a tourist residence permit. Before settling in Turkey, I travelled for several years, trying on the countries of South and Southeast Asia: Thailand, India, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia. Every country seemed to be interesting and unusual, but I didn't want to stay there even for a few months. I went to Mahmutlar to my freelance friends as a traveller, just to explore the place, with a laptop and a small backpack. Two months later, I decided to stay. That time was enough for me to understand if Turkey suits me. Now, four years later, I am planning to get a mortgage and buy an apartment in Mahmutlar.
Tip 3: choose the city
So that the new life in Turkey does not seem too boring or, on the contrary, too tense and dynamic, it is worth choosing the location in advance, focusing on the size and rhythm of the city or town. For those who are looking for peace and quiet, beautiful landscapes with kilometres of deserted beaches, mountains and picturesque villages, we recommend choosing small resort towns and villages - Alanya, Side, Belek, Kemer, Mahmutlar, etc. For those who prefer the hustle and bustle of big cities, it is better to consider Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir or Antalya. Why is it worth choosing resorts? Because their residents are accustomed to tourists, they are always friendly to foreigners. The share of expats (Europeans, Russians, citizens of the former CIS countries) is quite big in resorts. For example, in Alanya, a relatively small town with a population of more than 330 thousand people, there are expats form almost all countries.
Natalia Savitskaya, tourist guide:
My life in Turkey began in Alanya in 2015 with buying an apartment, moving from St. Petersburg and then looking for a job. I spoke English and studied Turkish and knew a lot about the history of the Anatolian region (I am a historian). This allowed me to get a seasonal job and then a permanent one (when I moved to Antalya) as a tourist guide. Alanya did not suit me at all: it turned out that in the low season (6 months!) there is absolutely nothing to do here, life freezes. And during the high season, I was too busy with work (from morning to night, seven days a week). Having settled down to work in Antalya for a season, I decided to move there: first, I rented a flat there and then sold my flat in Alanya, I am currently renting a house in Antalya and I plan to buy something in the near future. Why did Antalya suit me better than Alanya? Because Antalya is a big vibrant city, the Turkey's tourist centre: with a rich, year-round cultural life, with the opportunity to work twelve, not six months a year, with proper weekends, and not in an endless rush. Housing prices are higher here, but studying the market, you can buy a nice apartment in Antalya just a little more expensive than in small Alanya. Although the distance to the sea will be much greater, but for me it doesn't matter.
Tip 4: take care of paperwork
Before moving make sure that all documents that may be needed abroad (marriage and birth certificates, diplomas, school certificates, etc.), have an apostille, an international stamp confirming the legality and authenticity of the document. Apostille can be affixed both on the document itself (on the original or on a notarized copy), or as an attachment to it - a separate certificate with a seal.
Divorced parents moving to Turkey with children should take care not only of obtaining permission from the second parent (for the child to travel abroad), but also to issue a separate permission for a child to receive a residence permit in Turkey (since 2019 demanded additionally). Permissions must also be apostilled.
Inna Reshetnikova, English teacher:
I have been living in Antalya with my son for six years now: I rent an apartment, work remotely, my son is studying at a Turkish school. Last year, during the planned extension of the residence permit in Turkey, I faced with the fact that they began to demand a separate, apostilled permission from the second parent of a child - to issue a residence permit for her son in another country. Before that, every year or two we issued a residence permit without any problems - it was enough to have a permission to leave from my son's father, which we had upon arrival in Turkey, but now the rules have changed.
Tip 5: be prepared for the hardships of the first year
Almost all expats who have both successfully moved and gone through the adaptation period say that the first year was rather challenging. The main problem that is called is loneliness. You will have to overcome it literally turning into a new person: acquiring new friends, new hobbies and habits and a new lifestyle.
Alex Shevlyakov, remote SMM specialist:
- I have been living in Turkey for two years, the first year was very difficult. The main problem that was loneliness and too much free time, which you had no one to share with. When I lived in Moscow and was thinking about moving, I did not assume that the issue of loneliness and adaptation was among the biggest ones for an expat. It seemed to me that I had planned everything important: from the search and rent of housing, to the balance of expenses and income. But it was also important to resolve the issue of free time and lack of friends. About five months after I moved, I was sitting on the beach, looking at the sea and seriously thinking about returning to Russia: loneliness overwhelmed me so much. I did not speak Turkish and my English wasn't that fluent. I was not fond of anything where I could meet new friends and I worked remotely. Listening to music on your player is quite a lonely activity. If it hadn't been for constant incoming tasks that took me 8-10 hours a day, then I would have naturally gone crazy. The first thought that came to my mind was invite my friends. And I began to invite friends from Russia, Ukraine, and Europe to visit me: over the course of the year, a little more than a dozen of my friends and colleagues visited me.
I have always been used to the fact that in Moscow you are alway surrounded by crowds of people, which sometimes makes you feel exhausted. You try to build an invisible wall to keep distance. In Turkey, it became clear to me that I needed to integrate into society, because I was quite close to becoming a real hermit. Since I work as a freelancer, business chats cannot count as socialization. A solution was found, and a very nice one - dancing. I started taking salsa and bachata classes. There I also found a couple of guys, students, with them I began to go to parties. Now my evenings are full of fun. And at weekends, I go on hiking tours to the surrounding mountains - there is also a great team of people from thirty countries!
And finally - advice from Türk.Estate: be kinder and less demanding to yourself after you move. You should not be upset about the fact that at home, in your familiar surroundings, you did everything more efficiently, that in Turkey you often need the help of strangers. In return for these temporary difficulties, Turkey gives many bonuses: 300 sunny days a year, fresh fruits and vegetables all year round, a high standard of living, warm sea and the beauty of the surroundings, which you will never get tired of.