Living In Turkey – What You Need To Know

Living in Turkey

If you’re looking into living in Turkey for work, study, as a potential retirement destination, or for better family life, this is the perfect guide for you. Today we wanted to share some important tips & info that is worth knowing before you take that plunge.

We think it’s fair to say that Turkey is a place that anyone could feel at home no matter what stage of their life they are at. In today’s post, we will explore what it’s like to live in Turkey as an expat, where in Turkey expats choose to live, what you will need to do to move there & settle down as easily as possible. 

How would you describe Turkey?

Turkey is a delightful blend of Eastern and Western cultures and one of the only countries that two continents meet offering the best of both worlds. It is an immense and versatile land with countless picturesque landscapes & diverse history. In general, you will still find Turkey striking and sort of mildly exotic, relaxed & not too overwhelming. You will discover that life in Turkey is more laid back and less stressful as compared to other major European countries.

Living in Turkey

It boasts breath-taking panoramic views from high mountains & the Bosphorus to the sunny, blue Mediterranean Sea, salt flats & green forests. In all honesty, Turkey can be contentious at times but it’s simply gorgeous.

Is Turkey a Muslim country or secular?

Considering it’s a Muslim-majority country, Turkey overall provides a surprisingly secular feel. Obviously, there are some conservative areas where certain approaches within the society hold more traditional values & are preferred, however, the general impression when you are in Turkey is that it’s very liberal & similar to Europe. This is usually more apparent in main cities such as Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, and Ankara and that’s just naming a few.

Living in Turkey

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

As mentioned before, the Turkish people are very hospitable & welcoming, you will undoubtedly be warmly greeted and accepted. Turks always try to make you feel welcome. But if these minor details are likely to bother you, you simply won’t be able to truly and fully fit in, it’s not always possible!

What’s the shopping like?

All the main cities in Turkey acquire enormous shopping facilities inhabiting global brands such as Zara, The Body Shop, H&M Sketchers, Lacoste, Mango, Pull & Bear, Mothercare, Miniso, M&S and much more. Among Turkey’s own popular clothing brands these shops offer all the latest fashion and all the amenities one would imagine for really agreeable prices. Turkey is also known for their great local Supermarkets such as, BİM A.Ş, Migros Ticaret A.Ş, A101 and CarrefourSA.

Although Carrefour is Originally wholly owned by French hypermarket leaders, CarrefourSA is a joint venture between the French company and Turkish firm Sabanci. The same can be said for Tesco-Kipa, a joint British-Turkish venture and Metro Group which is a German wholesaler. They all offer the best of both worlds.

 Do you need to know the Turkish language to live in Turkey?

In short, we would say yes, it will help a great deal if you knew the language, especially when it comes to legal documents and official paperwork. Having said that though, the Turkish language, is known to be one of the easiest languages to learn and most expats have picked it up within months of living there, especially if you are working are more social with the people.

You may find that you might struggle slightly at first if you don’t know the local language. And even more so in some conservative and more rural areas of Turkey where they don’t speak much English at all. However, these conservative parts of Turkey are very rarely expat hotspots.

On a positive note, we can assure you that amid touristy locations & main cities, you will find friendly & hospitable local shops, restaurants and cafes that can often speak English, German, French & Russian.

In conclusion, if you should know or learn some basic conversational Turkish, this will be very helpful, admired & appreciated, you will also be respected much more for it.

Is living in Turkey a good idea?

To make sure your idea of moving to Turkey works out well for you, learn the ropes beforehand. Research your locations, rent first before buying a property in Turkey, plan with your income and residence status, and, most importantly, make sure your health needs are covered.

Learning the language will help greatly. As mentioned before, all official agencies in Turkey only speak Turkish and everything becomes 100 times more difficult if you do not speak the language.

Turkey can offer its residents a good climate, an active and healthy lifestyle, however, a good job or a steady income in a foreign currency is really important to fully appreciate Turkey as a great value-for-money destination.

If you get it right, you will enjoy your life in Turkey greatly.

Important things to know before moving to Turkey

No country is perfect, there are advantages and disadvantages in relocating to anywhere and sadly to say Turkey isn’t any different. 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, please read our other blog post titled: Important things to know before moving to Turkey.

What’s the weather like in Turkey?

You can still enjoy all 4 seasons in Turkey so when you’re packing consider having something warm & cosy along with your summer clothing. Most of the year the weather is so ideal that you can really make the most of the outside & nature. Meals & evening tea can be taken on the balcony or garden terrace & walks can be enjoyed all throughout the year.

When its cold people use an outside heater and shelter from the wind so that they can still enjoy the winter sun. This outdoor lifestyle is so healthy, it boosts your vitamin D and also results in far more social interaction, which is good for the soul. 

What are the costs of living in Turkey?

Turkey is a brilliant value-for-money destination and cost of living there is lower than in most Western countries. Locally grown produce is incredibly affordable, as is eating healthy & eating out. So, Turkish prices come as a pleasant surprise to expats and they find that their income lasts much longer in Turkey than in their home country.

Of course, this will vary slightly depending on your location. Living in a city like Istanbul, for example, will be slightly more expensive than living by the coastal expat locations like Fethiye that tend to be about 20% cheaper than Istanbul where you’re basically paying more for the modern urban way of living.

Living in Turkey

It’s important to note though, that this is still very much cheaper in Turkey as compared to other countries. So, in general it is possible to live in Turkey on a fraction of the money that you need in the UK.

Furthermore, if you should have money coming in from outside of Turkey, such as in pensions, investments & so on, you will usually find that your money can take you even further in Turkey than back home. You can even drop this even further by learning to shop in the local markets where there’s an abundance of tasty locally grown fresh produce.  If you’re able to live on fruit, veg, meat, cheese and bread rather than going to the supermarket and looking for vacuum-packed ready meals you would further reduce your expenditure.  

How easy is it to get a job in Turkey?

Most local companies require a very good command of the Turkish language for you to even be considered. Additionally, employers are required to apply for a work permit on your behalf in order for you to work with them in Turkey. So, in general, because of this extra commitment for an employer to hire a foreigner, and the lack of foreigners that know fluent Turkish language, the employer will most likely choose a Turkish national over you.

However, the case is different if you were to be employed by an international company that needed your expertise or if you already work for a company that happens to have a branch in Turkey and relocated you there.

British expats that have teaching experience are in a better position. If you are able to teach English and you happen to be a native speaker of the language, the ball is in your favour, as it’s much easier to get a teaching job in Turkey than in any other profession.  Some major private schools are struggling so much to find English language teachers to the point that they are even willing to hire people with little experience. And these are decently paying jobs.

Living in Turkey

You are more likely to find a well-paid job in larger cities like Istanbul and Izmir than in the coastal locations preferred by expats. 

If you should find yourself living on the coast and needing a job, the only easy way to find employment really is to ask any local expat businesses about any recruitment opportunities. These kinds of vacancies don’t usually pay well though.

There are many digital nomads, however, who are working from home either teaching or working remotely for overseas companies. This may be worth looking into if you see yourself benefiting from it. (Note: Foreign currency has more value in Turkey at present than the Turkish Lira)

All in all, we would say setting up your own business is a better option than trying to get employed locally.

How can I get a visa to visit Turkey?

You can simply apply for an E-Visa Turkey. This application is for those who want to enter Turkey for tourism or buying & selling purposes and the perfect option if you only want to visit Turkey temporarily. This tourism visa will cover your stay for up to 3 months. 

There are citizens of certain countries that don’t even need to apply for an e-visa if they are only planning a short stay as a tourist. So, it’s well worth checking to see which ruling your country falls in with your local Turkish embassy.

On the other hand, if you are planning on moving to Turkey permanently, it’s best to apply for a permanent resident’s visa. 

Can I live permanently in Turkey?

To stay in Turkey for longer than the 3 months given to you as a tourist, you will need to apply for a residence permit, these used to have to be done in advance, however recent changes have made it so that you can apply for this even after entering the country but within the 3 month time frame.

The Turkish residence permit allows you to stay in Turkey for longer than three months but will be renewable every 6 months (please note this can be subject to change). In short, you will need this type of residence permit in order to either work, study or live permanently in Turkey. 

In addition to this, the permit will allow you to marry, apply for a Turkish drivers’ license, receive a tax number, open a bank account, purchase property, make investments, and much more.

Bear in mind that if you have been employed by a Turkish based business and moving to Turkey for work purposes, you will only need a work permit, in which also serves as a residence permit.

On the other hand, it’s also useful to know that when you have lived in Turkey legally for at least five years uninterrupted with a residence permit, this enables you the right to apply for a more long-term Turkish permit, in which acts as an indefinite leave to remain.

How do I apply for the Turkish Residence Permit?

You need to apply for the Turkish Residence Permit within a month of your arrival in Turkey.

Apply online on the website of the Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs.

When your application is submitted, you will be redirected to the “Central Appointment System” website. There you need to book an appointment at the nearest office of the Directorate General of Migration Management.

Living in Turkey

You will be given the address of the nearest DGMM office and a list of required documents. You will be able to choose from the available dates and times for the appointment. You will also need to pay the application and residence card fees.

Anyone under 65 must have full health insurance – state or private – if they are applying for a Turkish residency permit.

Can I start a business in Turkey?

Yes, foreign nationals can set up a business in Turkey. It’s highly advisable to get a professional body to help you to do this though. There are multiple companies that offer this service & help register & establish limited companies or other business formations.

It might take up to 3 days to register and establish a company in Turkey. There are no requirements of Turkish participation in the capital or management of a company established by foreign nationals.

The requirements for establishing a limited company in Turkey are as follows:

  • Minimum 2 shareholders
  • Capital requirement is TL 5,000

The Benefits are:

  • Relatively fast incorporation process (3 days)
  • 100 percent of foreign shareholders allowed
  • 100 percent of foreign directors allowed
  • Automatic membership in the Chamber of Commerce
  • No Turkish participation required in the management of the company
  • Equal treatment for domestic and foreign shareholders

Is there free healthcare in Turkey?

Once you have been a legal resident for a year, you are eligible for state healthcare in Turkey. Also known as SGK that stands for the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu AKA the SGK scheme.

When you are enrolled you will receive an SGK health insurance ID card that you can use to access several services in state hospitals. The scheme is funded by monthly fees paid by all participants.

To enrol in the scheme, you have to submit an initial application at your local SGK office. You will need your residence permit, passport, and proof of address. You will be provisionally enrolled and provided with a Provizyon Sorgulama Cevap (Provisional Enquiry Reply).

Would I need private health insurance?

You cannot obtain a residence permit in Turkey without having full health cover of some sort. You also cannot use a state healthcare scheme until you have lived in Turkey legally for at least one year. So, in short, the answer is yes, you need health insurance at least for one year.

Also, private hospitals and clinics tend to have better facilities, well-trained & experienced staff who are more likely to speak English.

Where’s the best place to live in Turkey?

When it comes to foreign citizens relocating to popular destinations abroad, it’s common to find quite a few expat communities forming in certain districts. This is also the case in Turkey and even more particularly so along the Turkish southern coastline. 

If this is what you are looking for, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a suitable abode to settle in and call home. In these types of communities’ expats usually feel comfortable in no time without experiencing a long adjustment period. 

In Altinkum, for instance, there isn’t a chance that you would miss your traditional English breakfast or Sunday roast. It has one of the largest British expat communities in Turkey that it is also called “Little Britain.” You will find all the home comforts you are used to in UK including British pubs, cafes and restaurants.

Living in Turkey

If you are seeking a more European feel though, you can look into Istanbul. Istanbul offers a multi-cultural vibrant, busy and exciting atmosphere full of entertainment & more shopping options common in any busy city life.

With modern high-end shops in addition to attractive, budget-friendly street vendors & markets set up along cute historic streets and buildings, there’s always something for everyone. Many are under the illusion that living here will be too expensive however, although the cost of living is generally more expensive in a city, as they are in all parts of the world, in Istanbul there are many wonderful options for people on all budgets. Contact us to find out more!

Then there is the Antalya region which is the second most popular location for foreigners wishing to buy a property in Turkey. This area also feels more international than other parts of Turkey. There are more & more global expats living in Antalya as well as in Izmir, Alanya & Fethiye than in other parts of Turkey.

Final thoughts

Many expats have fallen in love with Turkey and would never consider living anywhere else. They have managed to create their perfect home abroad and have become content and happy with the beautiful, relaxed atmosphere. They are enjoying their more comfortable living in Turkey at lower prices.

Nevertheless, it can still be difficult to settle & fit in when moving to a different country. Everyone is different & has their own personal experience. What maybe beautiful or perfect for some, might be really unpleasant & horrible for others.

Which is why researching is so important. Before you move, it is vital to do your own research, this will at least give you an idea and help you paint some sort of picture of what it might be like. However, you will still have to leave room for some surprises. There’s no real way of completely knowing for sure whether Turkey is the right country for you, until you experience it yourself first-hand. 

We would definitely recommend spending some time in the country on a temporary basis and seek the knowledge of other local expats before you embark on a permanent move.

Have you got any additional information to share that you think might be useful? Did we leave anything out that you hoped to find? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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