Zeliha Kirilmis, Danilovgrad

Who are you?

My name is Zeliha Kirilmis; I am a Turkish citizen and from Adana, one of the south eastern citits of Turkey, well known for its kebaps.I am 43 years old, and I have visited several countries and cities over the years, all around the world. I was working in the mega yacht manufacturing sector as an administrator for more than ten years. Then I gave up on professional corporate business life and decided to follow my dreams, and now I am here.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I dreamed a dream – to create a heaven on earth with all colors of the world – and I named my dream “Zelcestan” (means ‘the world of Zel’).

I did my best to do this in my home country, but faced several problems, and then as the saying goes, thought: I am not a tree; move forward and find a suitable place to make your dream come true.

When I saw the nature of Montenegro I fell in love and decided to move here. And when I saw the ad for this house, I fel; in love and said yes; this is exactly what I am looking for.

What challenges did you face during the move?

At the beginning it was more difficult. I bought the house in May 2017, and in October 2017 I flew to receive the papers from the lawyer and also brought some personal belongings.

I do not remember how I found the gate, my seat in the plane. I started to cry (could not stop myself) at the airport in Istanbul. On the flight from Istanbul to Podgorica I was even worse, shaking like a dry leaf on a tree, and wished to go back with the same flight. The biggest challenge during my life is my fears and myself.

Transportation companies asked for a fortune to move the house furniture, such as 8,000 Euros plus expenses. I made a search on web pages of the local suppliers and saw that it is possible to buy them all for 3,000 Euros.

The biggest difficulties of my expat life are the weather of Balkans (I am a Mediterranean person, minus is only math for us), and the language. I speak Turkish, English, German and a bit of Arabic, but they are all useless here. The young generation speaks English very well, but I have to learn Montenegrin to be able to communicate with everybody and to live as a local.

How did you find somewhere to live?

I sold my house in Antalya in March 2017 and said to myself: time to go. I did not have that much money, therefore I searched for countries that had the life standards and conditions that would allow me to buy a house.

I was thinking Macedonia, but by chance one of my friends from Macedonia visited me around April, and he said “You are gonna die due to weather; after you spent all your life in Mediterranean regions,” and he advised me to check out Montenegro and Albania.

I started to research these two countries on all topics such as traffic, crime against women, laws, culture, people, etc. I also wrote to Turkish embassies as to what do I have to do, and how can I do it.

One day when I was searching house advertisements I saw this house, and said yes to the house. I communicated with the owner, real estate agent, lawyer, and finalised the process.

Are there many other expats in your area?

I am living on the rural side of the country. There are approximately 30 houses in total here (Danilovgrad, Zagorak), and I am the only expat here.

Most of the expats are on the sea side. My home city, Adana, is also well known for farming and farmers. Also it was my dream to have a house with a garden, hence I preferred the nature / mountain side.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Quite good. We are not able to speak properly, but the energy and attitude does not need language. There is a good tradition in Montenegro: when you see someone or have eye contact you say hi and they say hi (Zdravo, Dobar dan).

Also several times cars or people stop and say they they love what I do with the garden and recycling projects. It is so nice to be a good example to the people.

What do you like about life where you are?

First of all, the nature is gorgeous. Also they are so respectful to others. 95% of the people follow the rules and regulations on the street, at the bank, shopping, etc. Today, a big part of the world has lost the meaning of the word “respect” but here, in Montenegro, I see that very much: therefore I love it here.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

There are so many procedures, and it works quite slowly at government offices. For example, you are not allowed to buy a car before you have your residence permit, and the duration of the car permit is the same as your residence permit. And if you do not apply prior then you cannot use your car until the procedures are completed. To get a residence permit took 40 days after application, and to have number plates took approximately 20 days after I bought the car.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Turkey and Montenegro have so many similar points, therefore it was OK for me. I did not face big problems on the cultural side.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country?

My only problem is I am not able to find cooking materials here such as wheat, pepper sauce, etc. I love to cook, I love to eat.

Also yogurt is quite liquid here. I have started to make yogurt at home after this corona pandemic.

I love to eat so much and Balkan cuisine is quite delicious for me. I do not know why but they do not use green salads so much such as parsley, green mint, etc. Now I am growing them in my garden.

What are your particular likes or dislikes?

They are so respectful in traffic, both as drivers and as pedestrians, this is so good for me.

Technical services are not well organized. I am having a problem with that; hopefully it will be working better soon.

Thank God I did not need it yet, and hopefully will not need it, but I have heard from other expats several times complaints about the health system.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Many foreigners are coming with very high expectations for business or for life. If you are planning to run a business, please come and stay and live as locals at least for two weeks. Montenegro is the best place to rest your mind and your soul. But if you are looking for 24/7 night life or just fun, it is not a good decision. For me; I am feeling like a child at a playground.

Another point for expats: please learn a language, at least English (Montenegrin will be a huge plus and make everything much easier for you).

What are your plans for the future?

My only expectation is serenity. I had it here, in Montenegro, and hope to have a life here with health, serenity, peace and my two cat kids. My personality is a bit attractive, therefore I have started to share seeds, recyling ideas, tourism ideas etc. with those around me. Coronavirus has affected a lot things all around the world, even here. But this also will give the opportunity to be ready for more changes.

I do almost everything by myself. Start the day around 7am and start to work on the garden approximately 9am, until sunset. The evolution of the garden is amazing for me. I have already lost seven kilos and most probably will lose more.

I have started a video blog to share my experiences of what I do, how I do it, how much it costs, etc. The address of the vlog is the same as my dream: Zelcestan. I even have a blog with the same name but for three months due to limited internet I could not write so often, will do my best.

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