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Expat Experiences: Turkey - Jack Scott, Bodrum
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
Last year I moved to Bodrum in Turkey with my civil partner, Liam. I was a petty bureaucrat for 30 years gently ascending a career ladder to middle management, middle income and a middling suburban terrace; comfortable, secure and passionately dissatisfying. We thought it high time to take a break from our labours, put our feet up and watch the pansies grow while we were young enough to enjoy it.
What challenges did you face during the move?
I have to admit that the move was relatively painless. We had 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. Saying farewell to family and friends was extremely hard but we keep in regular touch and visit London every few months.
How did you find somewhere to live?
Bodrum was the bookie’s favourite from the start, an urbane, liberal oasis where we could live safely and unmolested. We briefly entertained the notion of living in Kas on the Turkuaz Coast where we had honeymooned. Kas is a sparkling Bohemian jewel, surrounded by a pristine hinterland that has been mercifully spared the worst excesses of mass tourism. But, its glorious isolation, protected by a wilting three hour drive from the nearest international airport, means that the town is effectively closed out of season and lacks those dull but essential full time services we all need to live in the material world: banks, supermarkets, hospitals and the like. We cast our eyes along the map. The coast running south-east of Kas towards Alanya has been colonised by the Germans and Russians and the string of major resorts running north - Fethiye, Marmaris, Altinkum and Kusadasi - attract legions of bargain basement Brits. It was no surprise that the odds on favourite won by a mile.
We decided to rent rather than buy because this provides the freedom to move around as we please. The renting process is straightforward whereas buying is complex and fraught with difficulties. Besides, property investment in Turkey no longer offers the rapid return it once did, nowhere does. We travel the length and breadth of the Bodrum Peninsular past half-built developments of little white boxes marching up hill and down dale. No-one seems to be buying and few are renting outside the height of summer. And yet the developers carry on regardless, promising pie in the sky, depressing the market and killing the goose.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There is a large and thriving expat community living along the Aegean coast of Turkey as it’s a popular choice for people retiring. The support network is well established with online forums, newspapers, groups, expat bars and restaurants. We avoid the temptation to remain within the extraordinary expat bubble and try to explore our new environment and meet the locals
What is your relationship like with the locals?
So far so good. Turks are incredibly obliging and hospitable. Our language skills are rudimentary but slowly improving. 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. Fortunately Bodrum is a tourist town and mercifully English is widely spoken
What do you like about life where you are?
We love living in Bodrum, a sophisticated town with a hypnotic pulse that few places can match. Around us, the vast Anatolian landscape is glorious and the sweep of all recorded history sits casually underfoot. Medieval and modern, Turkey at its best is incomparable.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Turkish red tape is staggering in its pointless Byzantine complexity. Everything must be completed in triplicate, duly stamped and accompanied by multiple copies of official identification. There are enough copies of my British passport in circulation to supply the Israeli Secret Service for years. Also, Turkish drivers are insane, roads can be perilous and driving is best left to the foolhardy or the suicidal.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Moving to a 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, an open mind and lots of patience it can be a hugely rewarding experience. My strongest advice is to try a place on for size first. Rent before buying and then only buy with the right legal advice and through a reputable agent. Too many people have lost their shirts on a dream that turned into a nightmare. Act in haste, repent at leisure.
What are your plans for the future?
I began writing a blog in November 2010 called perkingthepansies. It all started as an email commentary of our packed adventures in paradise to London life friends. My ramblings became very popular and my oldest friend suggested I write a blog. With the luxury of excessive time on my hands I thought, why not? Finding gainful occupation is a real challenge to active expats who don’t work. By occupation I don't mean propping up the bar in a sad, insular dive to Brit-bash and complain ad nauseum of all things local. The blog keeps me on the straight and narrow - though not always off the sauce.
perkingthepansies was recently featured in the Turkish national press as one of the best blogs in southwest Turkey. On the back of the blog I’ve branched out into freelance writing and I’m currently writing a book of our experiences which has received some promising interest. Fingers crossed! Our future lies in Turkey, for the next few years at least. Beyond that, who knows?
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