Important things to know before moving to Turkey

No country is perfect – there are advantages and disadvantages in relocating to anywhere and Turkey isn’t an exception. It’s important to be at least aware of some of these points of concern before you move so that you know what to expect.  So, what are the important things to know before moving to Turkey?


You must realise that you are moving to or visiting a prominently Muslim country, so you should feel comfortable with and be respectful of this fact. You will have to get used to hearing the adhan (call for prayer) in Arabic 5 times a day which at times can be very loud especially in the morning.

Important things to know before moving to Turkey

Modest dress code is not compulsory but advisable in the more conservative places of Turkey such as Konya, Uskudar (Istanbul) and Fatih (Istanbul) to name a few. During Ramadan for instance, Muslims fast for a whole month, so if you eat, drink or smoke in public during this time in these areas, there is a high chance of being stared at or judged.


Important things to know before moving to Turkey

There are certain traditions in the Turkish culture that you may need to know about before living or going to Turkey:

  • When you are invited to a Turkish home for dinner, and everyone will encounter at least one invite at some point in Turkey, make sure to go with an empty stomach. There will be a huge spread of food and it is offensive to not taste a little of everything unless you are allergic or something. It is common for the host to continually offer you more food. Don’t be offended by this, it is just their hospitality and they just assume you are too shy to eat.
  • Always take your shoes off at the door of a Turkish home, there will always be spare or guest slippers at the door that the host will offer you on your arrival.
  • There is a strange custom that traditional Turks or older generation do when a friend, guest or member of the family are leaving the home or travelling or something. They sprinkle or throw splashes of water after them as they leave. This is seen as a safe trip gesture and can often surprise or shock the guest or traveller 😉
  • You are bound to see so many tea shops that the Turks use in a similar fashion to a pub you would get in the UK. It’s a place for people to casually meet and chat with friends, colleagues and family. They can sit there for hours and hours sipping on chai and chatting so if you are invited there don’t be expecting to be leaving anytime soon.
  • The expats have cutely nicknamed the Turkish lack of timing “Turkish time.” You see, in UK if you say I’ll meet you there at 4pm it usually means 4pm but if your Turkish friend says ‘4pm’ this is usually 4pm Turkish timing which can mean anything around 4pm or up to an hour later 😉
  • Mustafa Kemal Ataturk AKA Ataturk was the former Turkish president & is a very prominent figure in Turkey. Until now, his statues & pictures are found everywhere. He was responsible for starting the new modern & secular Turkey that we know today after the end of the Ottoman Empire. There is a specific day of the year that the Turks will suddenly stop for a moment of silence to honour him on. Every 10th November at about 11:00am, the whole world around you will literally just pause. This can be so confusing and quite striking if you have no idea what’s going on.
  • Turkish prices are already very cheap as compared to other European countries. But they are almost always set ready to haggle, especially in the marketplaces. So, don’t be shy to slice the price in half in an offer before coming to an agreement. If you are buying more than 1 item, gifts and so on, use this as an excuse for more discount, suggest that you will recommend the shop/trader to your friends & family etc and bring him more clientele. This also gives reason to bring the price down even further. And of course, this is all done with smiles and joking gestures, don’t be surprised to even be offered tea during the bargaining 😉

Communication Issues

As mentioned before, not many locals speak English. If you are planning to move to a non-tourist destination in Turkey, you won’t meet many people speaking English, so day-to-day communication may be challenging especially in local authority buildings.

Undisciplined approach & bad driving

Some people in Turkey have a distinct tendency to disregard rules and procedures when it suits them, so if you’re thinking of living in Turkey, beware that not everything will work as promised all the time. This in return, is reflected in the driving. As in some other Middle Eastern countries, the driving can be ferocious, and pedestrians are not always respected. It can be said that Turkey is more or less the same, so watch out when crossing a road.

Be mindful talking in public

It’s always best to never criticize the country, the food, the culture, etc. Even if your Turkish work colleagues or friends do it in front of you, don’t join in and add your own 10sence. It can be taken to heart and be very offensive. Only speak freely with people you really know & trust.

Turkish tea wins over coffee

Turkish Tea

You might be surprised to see Turkish tea being drunk, offered & served literally everywhere in Turkey. Turkish coffee is popular but not as popular as one might think. This isn’t to say that they don’t drink it, but Turkish chai is the absolute winner. 

Turkish bureaucracy

When you want to register your residency in Turkey, get a work permit or import your car and household belongings, expect to encounter a lot of paperwork. 

You will have to visit different kinds of government offices that have very specific opening hours and you have to bear in mind most of these official buildings do not speak English. So, if you can find a willing & friendly local or friend who can help you translate things in Turkish, this will make the whole process much easier & quicker.

Unqualified Tradesmen

Whether you are looking for a plumber, electrician, builder or plasterer, make sure you ask for referrals or recommendations from fellow expats first.

In Turkey there are not usually any universal standards for qualifications of tradesmen. So, in most cases when you approach a tradesman of any sort, they maybe in that profession only from experience and who they know really. This can get dangerous sometimes if they are relying on guess work.

So, because there is no training or qualifications to be gained in any aspect of the building trade, chances are, you will have a better idea of how things are done yourself. Unless you don’t mind doing the research to find those who you can trust, we would advise you to do whatever you can yourself before looking to outsource it to a professional.

Stray animals

stray animals in Turkey

There are many cats & dogs that roam the streets freely in Turkey, which can be shocking for expats at first. However, you will also notice that they may have ear tags and seem well cared for by the community. They are also officially looked after by an animal welfare organisation, sterilised and immunised, and are regularly checked according to their tag colour and number. 

You also have the opportunity to help the organisations looking after the stray animals by donating and volunteering, in addition to adopting a few animals as pets as plenty of expats do.

Smoking is very common

Unfortunately, smoking is extremely common in Turkey especially in the cities where the streets can get very crowded. If you are not a smoker this can get extremely annoying when you can’t distance yourself from it, not to mention the side-effects of passive smoking.

Final thoughts

Our final thoughts on important things to know before moving to Turkey

All in all, most expats that have moved to live in Turkey (whether through property investment, retirement, work, citizenship scheme or any other reasons) are very happy and have no regrets at all. However, everybody’s preferences & priorities are different.

There may be much more than these above points, so if you see that we have missed any out please do let us know in the comments section below and we will update this post. Or maybe you don’t agree with one or any of the above points, let us know your views and opinions, they are important for a wider perspective & understanding and they can help others paint a picture of what they might expect while visiting or living in Turkey.

If you have any further questions in relation to this article please do post them too in the comments section below, we always try to reply as soon as possible.

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