Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 06/10/14
Personal Experiences from Ankara, Turkey
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, have lived in 3 other cities in various countries in Southeast Asia.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
U.S. East Coast -- 2-hour direct flight to Munich or Frankfurt, direct flight to NYC or Washington DC .
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Official work at the U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Typical commute time to the downtown area where most embassies and offices are can range from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on where you live, traffic and weather conditions. Housing is generally not close enough to walk to the Embassy, especially given the hilly nature of the city. Housing is good for those in the embassy community, I hear of very few complaints. Taxis are inexpensive and always easy to find. The metro system is not very extensive and the bus system is so-so.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can buy just about anything here. Fresh veggies and fruits are plentiful and reasonably priced at local bazaars, and local supermarkets carry just about anything. You may not find a familiar American brand but you'll find what you need. Americans have access to the military commissary and BX for American-goods including electronics and alcohol.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing really, everything is available.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC, Starbucks, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Dominos, Arbys -- cost is roughly the same as in the U.S.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None that I've encountered.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cleaners are about US$55 a day.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms tend to be very nice here (swimming pools, full-service spas, tennis courts, basketball courts, saunas) but you pay a bit more than at home. There are municipal facilities available that aren't bad with tennis courts and soccer fields, etc. Few apartments have gyms.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
I use my credit card often, but at some places it's not accepted because it does not have a "chip". Local ATMs are fine.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Cleaner and nannies may not tend to speak English. Taxi drivers, vendors, etc. also do not speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It's not very disabled-friendly here, so it might be challenging.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe and affordable and readily available. Ankara has a system of "taxi call buttons" on just about every street and corner. You can literally walk out of your house or a restaurant, if a taxi is not around you then walk a few steps to a taxi call button, press the button and wait a few minutes, if even that long. A new express train between Ankara and Istanbul is scheduled to open in mid-2014. The trip is expected to take about 3 1/2 hours. There really is no other city to city train travel in Turkey.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Small cars are ideal for parking and maneuvering through the chaotic traffic. Big cars with higher road clearance feel safer generally, especially if you're out on the highway or taking a road trip.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
No, I got a cell phone here.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I don't think so.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
It depends on your legal status here and whether you know Turkish.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Dog shelters, refugee groups, religious organizations.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business formal. Turks can be very smart dressers. But depending on the area of Ankara where you are visiting, there might be more conservative Turkish women who wear scarves, etc.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Street crime is low generally, compared to other Turkish cities. At times there are rumblings of terrorist-related threats against various institutions and interests. In 2013 a suicide bomber attacked a pedestrian gate at the U.S. Embassy, one U.S. Embassy local guard was killed and another visitor to the Embassy was severely injured.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Great. I know a decent number of foreign women who have their babies in Turkey. I know a good number of foreigners who spend their last few months here running around for full medical check-ups, seeing the dentist, and seeing dermatologists before returning to the U.S. where these things cost more. People say great things about medical care and costs of medical care here.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality is good. In the winter months, it can get a bit polluted but it's nothing compared to many other cities around the world. Generally bright blue skies year-round.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
4 distinct seasons, with neither summer nor winter being very harsh. Nice rain and thunderstorms in the spring. Some streets and sidewalks can flood over when there's a lot of heavy rain. Dry in Ankara, humid along the coasts and in Istanbul.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
No personal experience with this but hear that people are generally happy with the options -- British School, private schools affiliated with universities, Department of Defense school, etc.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I've heard it's almost impossible to find schools for special-needs kiddos.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
People I know seem to like living in Ankara, morale seems good. It doesn't have the color and pace of Istanbul but it's very easy to live here.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Bars, restaurants, movies, a nice lake, a couple of parks, the historical area with the castle ruins and old shops where you can buy copper, carpets, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, mostly. Single women have a harder time than single men do, as usual. Families seem to really enjoy Ankara.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There is a gay scene and though I don't have personal experience with it, my friends involved with it seem happy enough.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Nothing I notice or that impacts my quality of life here.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel, great food, locals are friendly.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hamams, wandering the old town Ulus and castle area, hanging out with friends at meyhanes (traditional Turkish pubs).
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Copper items, beautiful tiles, carpets, textiles.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Traveling domestically. It's a beautiful country year-round with beaches, mountains and ski resorts, country-side, historical sites, great food. Also easy travel to Europe from here.
10. Can you save money?
You can, but generally prices here are comparable to Europe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely. Hope to return again one day!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Desire to plan everything out to the last detail - Turks are not big planners!
Modesty -- if you want to visit a traditional Turkish hamam!
4. But don't forget your:
Appreciation of sunsets, balconies and leisurely, long Turkish breakfasts, camera, humidifier, sunglasses , and sunscreen.