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Colin, Istanbul

Who are you?

My name is Colin Guest, a 76 year old retired Englishman.Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I came to work in Turkey in 1989, on a five star hotel construction site down on the Mediterranean Coast, near what is now the resort town of Kemer, Antalya. My wife and I loved the people, the weather and the area so much, that after just a month of her being there, we bought some land and had a house built, and I’ve been living in Turkey ever since. After the death of my wife in 2007, in 2013, at the age of 72, I married a wonderful Turkish lady three years younger than me, we are now living in Istanbul, one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world.

What challenges did you face during the move?

The challenges of living here were of course mainly the language, which I am ashamed to admit I still don’t speak. And having goods shipped from our house in England over to Turkey. Despite a removal company saying our goods would be with us within two weeks, they were held up by the Turkish customs for around six weeks before being released. Even then, this was only thanks to a Turkish friend phoning them every day.

Are there many other expats in your area?

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In the Kemer area where I once lived, there were only a few expats, although in Antalya, there were quite a few more. Where I now live on the Asian side of Istanbul, there are not many expats, most I think, live on the European side.

What do you like about life where you are?

What I like about living in Istanbul, is that here you can buy virtually everything. Whereas I used to have a twenty minute walk to the nearest shop. Here I can phone up and get a variety of things delivered in minutes. Also, there so many fabulous places to visit, like The Grand Bazaar, Aya Soyfa, The Blue Mosque, Suleymaniye Mosque and the Dolmabahci and Topkapi palaces. A boat cruise up the Bosphorus is something not to be missed, with a night cruise, when the bridges are lit up in a range of changing colours, something to behold. Another plus is the weather, which is much better than back in England, with the Asian side normally receiving better weather than the European side.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

What I dislike, is the big problem of driving around Istanbul. The traffic is horrendous, with drivers seeming totally oblivious to normal traffic rules. It seems that the only rules that do apply, are the ones you make yourself.

Another problem is dealing with bureaucracy, which can take weeks if not months to get things finalised. To get married to my Turkish wife, as we were both over 65, we had to pass a sanity test, and aids and tuberculous tests. As a result of all this, whereas we had made flight and hotel reservations for our honeymoon in Paris, we ended up having it before our marriage.

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

As for cultural differences, between England and Turkey, despite this being a Muslim country, I have never encountered in problems related to religion. I have found Turkish people to be very friendly and hospitable, which is why I still live in Turkey.

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

For those thinking of becoming an expat, I personally found it a great life. I earned more money than I could have done back home, I traveled to fifteen countries at no expense to myself and enjoyed a life most only dream.

However, this kind of life is not for all, as it can mean months away from one’s wife / husband, and not seeing your children growing up. Before thinking of moving to live in another country, first check out things like residence permits, work, which for a foreigner in Turkey is far from easy, housing, living costs, healthcare, environment, and if you have young children, education.

The most important thing is not to expect things to be like they are in your own country. If you do, I suggest you stay at home. I hear of many expats complaining that they can’t buy food items like they can back home, well if you live abroad, you have to expect these things.

Also, why are you going to live in another country? Work or pleasure. You have to realise that there are always pluses and minuses in moving to another country, and one should always weigh these up before uprooting oneself.

Remember, prevention is better than cure, and can work out to be far less expensive. In view of this, I recommend that you rent before buying property in another country, as you may find out that things are not what you expected, and you don’t like where you are living.

What are your plans for the future?

As for the future, despite various terrorist attacks, the political situation, and the rising cost of living in Turkey, I have no plans of leaving here.

You can keep up to date with Colin's adventures and find out about his latest book on his website, Colin Guest AKA Tigerman.

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