Ever since I was a child, I have always dreamed about leaving my home country to explore and experience the wild world outside. I have to confess, this dream has been a little bit tainted in the last few years due to the political and social issues in my home country (more on that later). Nevertheless, I have always wanted to become an adventurer and this is my journey. So here we go, baby!
In this blog, I would like to tell my story about relocation to Istanbul, Turkey. A beautiful city with a lot of sightseeing and good nature and many wonders that could easily satisfy an explorer like me, people who love nature (again like me) and most probably many more.
This blog will most probably not cover everything you need to know to relocate/travel to Turkey, but it's my perspective and it might suit you as well if you stick around long enough. So buckle up as we're going to tackle the important stuff in the order of importance.
1. The Turkish language is necessary
I know you don't like the title of this chapter if you're not fluent in Turkish. You might even think that learning another language might be daunting especially because there is countless stuff to learn and the world is so fast-paced.
But, trust me, you really need to learn Turkish if you are to stay here for a while. This includes your daily communications to fulfill your needs, contacting offices and companies for needed paperwork, calling someone to buy/sell some stuff, deal with the landlord/landlady once in a while, ask/answer a direction in the middle of the street, etc. The list goes on and on and everyone has his/her own list based on the lifestyle of their choosing.
There aren't a lot of people in Turkey who can speak English and if you're in luck, you might find someone who could but that doesn't happen frequently. You might have better luck talking to younger people because learning English is mandatory in Turkish universities. Although even that is not always the case and I could relate because I remember my classmates ditching English courses gladly without any remorse 🤷♂️.
You can obviously survive without the Turkish language because that is what we are: we're human beings and we always survive. Google Translate will be your best friend on many occasions. You can also spend a few bucks to hire a translator from online websites.
But, this is a fact and you can't run away from it: You need to learn Turkish if you want to stay in Turkey. There are numerous resources out there and I'll be providing a few of my choosing at the end of this blog.
If you're like me, looking for a place to rent, you need Turkish more than you think. Only a small percentage of real state agents or house owners speak English and you might just be out of luck. In my case, I had a friend who understands Turkish just enough to keep his business in order. So with his help, I managed to find a place to rent in a decent neighborhood and a clean house at a reasonable price. Luckily for me, the landlord knows English, therefore I am having little to no trouble concerning my needs.
2. Turkish is hard but fun
The reasons to learn the Turkish language if you plan to stay in Turkey are plain obvious; the most important being that there aren't many English speakers in Turkey. But learning Turkish can be very tiresome sometimes because they tend to add suffixes to words like there's no tomorrow 🤦♂️. You have to improve your decoding skills to understand what they are talking about and it's not hard to imagine that it could easily turn into chaos; one which they are not uncomfortable with apparently.
Take a look at this for example:
I know, right? This is just one word. Sometimes in the middle of learning Turkish, I feel frustrated and I would punch my head to the wall if I could. Though this is not necessary as it may seem.
It gets easier as you progress. I know the pain and the disappointment one would experience from time to time. Surprisingly you get more fluent as you keep moving forward. Just keep up keeping up and it will get more natural. I promise!
3. Energy usage? the least the better
I don't know why it could be such a big deal here because back in my country there was no need to be so environmentalist or anything. You could turn on the light in the living room and all the bedrooms and kitchen, have the washing machine working, having 2-3 computers on while playing games, having a TV on and in the end, it was not such a big deal.
But that's not how it works in Turkey. They have either none or the least number of coolers/air-conditioners possible in their houses & they don't have many lights on at night except for the one room that they are in. This gets really difficult sometimes when you are in Istanbul in the middle of summer and you're trying to sleep but the temperature of the room wakes you up every quarter of an hour. You don't know the pain unless you've been there 😓!
4. Taxis are expensive, use public transports
You heard the stories before. The taxi driver takes another unnecessary turn just to charge you more at the end of the ride. I know I have had the experience. Luckily for everyone, there is something called Istanbul Card which you can buy with as few as 10 Lira, charging it with 50 and you're good to go for about a week or two of public transports using the subway and other public transportations across all of Istanbul .
If you don't know how to get to a place, there are good apps for that as well. Google Maps might be a default choice but I find it quite inaccurate. So I use Trafi all the time to find my navigation. It lets you select routes and transportations based on a list of available ones.
5. Istanbul is very hot
I don't know about other cities in Turkey but Istanbul is very hot in summer and you better find a house with lots of winds near the sea or buy yourself a cooler because their houses don't have that by default.
You would, as I mentioned earlier, wake up in the middle of the night with a lot of sweat all over your body. If you can't have that, you should reconsider your stay in Turkey. Or even look for other options at your disposal.
I was sort of lucky to rent a place with a high enough floor and a good wind that makes it unnecessary to spend some extra cash on a cooler. But that luck might not always be there when you need it.
6. Asian vs. Europe side of Istanbul
I haven't been to the European side a lot because I came directly to the Asian side and I have never regretted my decision so far. This side of Istanbul is very clean with fantastic nature and the people are super nice and welcoming. On the Asian side, you would definitely need the Turkish language more but that is totally worth it. You could see the face of the city as it is, as you would expect it to be; a historic city with a great background and an enormously gorgeous nature. Without the artificial interference of diverse people from around the globe.
7. Good nature but few facilities
You won't see a lot of recycling bins inside the streets of Istanbul. I don't know the reason behind that but you have to look really hard to find one.
Also, you won't see pedestrian bridges at all across all of the Istanbul roads. This generally comes from the fact that they have red lights for every sidewalk and it is expected from every responsible citizen to press the button and wait for the light to turn green. But seriously, why don't they have pedestrian bridges? Does it originate from the fact that they are very environmental-friendly and don't want to spend a lot of money and materials on building something that could be easily replaced by something less costly and a good culture? 🤔
Nonetheless, the city is very beautiful. Güzel, as they would put it. You can see the people and their houses and how the people coexist alongside cats and dogs everywhere in the streets of Istanbul is both adorable and admirable. They really love their cats and dogs .
There's also lots of parks with public bikes, a lot of trees and many sea views around the entire city. It's incredible!
8. Enough café for the entire globe
Back in my hometown, I thought that my people, especially the younger generation, are probably spending more than enough time in the café. But boy oh boy I hadn't seen enough. There is a café in every corner of Istanbul city and they are crowded to the teeth during the night. Surprisingly, it's not just the young generation, but also every man and woman of any age would be more than happy to spend a few hours hanging out with a friend or two and talking over different topics.
The "night" part is understandable because Istanbul is very hot during the day and you should only wish for sunburn if you go out. But the part where every single café is crowded even during the COVID-19 is very shocking to me. Obviously, this part can have a good explanation as well because Turkey is in the top 10 countries with the most amount of injected vaccines , but still, you have no idea how much they love being in the café.
I don't know if it's just the Turkish people or there are tourists as well but the nightclubs are also very crowded. You could hear people coming back from bars and disco clubs late at night talking loudly in the streets. One weird thing for me was to witness that they placed a police car on both ends of the streets where a bar or disco was located.
Generally, they live during the night more actively and with much more noise. So, if you are looking for a place to chill and relax, you should look for places far from the center.
9. Turkish people are happy
The recession and the impact of COVID-19 on the decrease in tourists are well obvious in the face of the city and the people. But one thing is clear to me; they are very happy people. They are indeed content about the world they are living in and it is so adorable that I enjoy taking an extra walk while shopping or going to the gym just to take another look at the spirit and energy the people are radiating.
Everyone of any age has a satisfaction deep within that you could only understand by the look in the eyes. They are blessed I would say.
10. There are sidewalks everywhere
On every road and every street, you can find a sidewalk on both sides. This is perfect for tourists and foreign people with no vehicle or motorcycle. We can just walk around anywhere without any limitations.
The good part is that they clean their streets and sidewalks almost every morning. I still remember the first morning when I woke up to the sound of people cleaning and sweeping the streets. Every day, you get clean ground to dirt on 😅. But don't do it; it makes the job of cleaning guys harder.
Also, there are Marti and Hop! everywhere so you might never need an extra vehicle other than the public transportation and the scooters on the streets. There are also bikes in every park so you can pedal on the coastline and enjoy the fantastic wind on your skin.
11. They are very lawful citizens
Although they have very high civil rights, they obey their laws as much as possible. By law, I mean traffic laws. They don't cross the streets unless the green light is on and that is very weird for someone coming from my background; people in my hometown couldn't care less about the traffic laws and they would gladly cross them whenever possible. I think this stems from the fact that my people do not trust the government after all these years of cheating and lying and so a traffic law which is applied and enforced by the government, "can not be that big of a deal" apparently.
12. You won't find a thief
Surprisingly, with a lot of tourists in the city, you don't have to worry about pickpocketing or robbing. Maybe it's because I'm mostly on the Asian side of the city but you needn't concert yourself when you come to Istanbul because you won't see thieves lurking around and waiting for bait. At least I have never witnessed any.
This doesn't mean that you should let your guards down or anything but it's just one less thing to worry about.
13. Price of the house is a little bit high
Either you're looking to rent a place or finding a place to buy, the prices might not be very affordable in the sense that "you should only be able to buy a house if you have a really good amount of money". Otherwise, you should just stick with renting, which might not be a bad thing because the yearly increases in rents are not high and you might not even need to buy a place for yourself; Even though the increase in the last few years has been a little bit steep (this article was published in 2021) .
Even renting is not well within grasp if you're a citizen of Turkey and not being paid in dollars/euros/pounds. A senior software engineer in Turkey receives an average of 13k of Turkish Lira . Based on my observations on real estate websites, if you want to live in a gorgeous house, you need to spend 6k a month; the other 6k would normally be spent on your daily expenses which vary depending on your lifestyle.
14. Turkish girls are overprotective
I haven't had the experience [yet] to date a Turkish girl but I have heard more than a couple of times from people who've had the experience that Turkish girls give a huge amount of care and as a result, are overprotective to their boyfriend. In my first month in Airbnb, I've seen a girl in the house who was with his boyfriend 24/7 going everywhere together and never leaving her man's side for one bit.
I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not but I would surely appreciate some space for myself from time to time; to be alone, contemplate, and to take the time to invest in myself and strengthen the inner peace with some silence.
I'll probably post more about this in the future; hopefully, it won't be long 😉.
The beauty of Istanbul is beyond imagination and words fail to describe the full thrill that you'd be facing when you decide to take a visit; but overall, it is definitely worth taking a look and decide for yourself if you want to stay in this city or you would prefer somewhere else.
The prices in Istanbul, as I didn't mention much above, are not higher than a normal living. There are people in Istanbul who live with just 4-5k Lira a month. The cost of living is not something absolute but is specific to each person's lifestyle. As a rule of thumb, you could set aside a base of 2k to 4k per month for rent and 2k for your indoor meals. Every other expense might differ regarding the type of life quality you choose to have.
The most important question to ask yourself is whether or not you are the relocation kind of guy or not. If not, refrain from pushing it any further as it will most probably hurt you and those very close to you. Otherwise, don't be afraid to explore and fail once in a while because that makes the thrill even higher.
There it is, my notes on relocating to Istanbul. Take most of the notes with a grain of salt because I come from a country whose civil rights are damaged, to say the least. I would probably write a post on that later.
This may not be a general rule but a personal opinion; if you want to relocate to Turkey, you need 3 things: 1) Money 2) Connection 3) Turkish language. The first two will definitely shadow the third.
Finally, I would kindly ask you to tune in as I am writing regularly and you don't want to miss that ☺️.