Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 04/02/15
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. Other foreign countries I've lived in are India, Taiwan, China.
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?
Home base is in U.S. Ankara has an early-morning direct flight to Munich, then it's a direct flight from Munich to Washington DC. Some people prefer routes through Istanbul and then direct to U.S.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We live in a high-rise apartment building in a gated communities with security guards. Our apartment is modern, clean, and in good condition. We have a covered parking spot and extra storage in the garage. Most apartments lack closets and instead provide wardrobes. Our wardrobes are not very spacious. Ankara does have a "rush hour" but it's not bad.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Similar to in the U.S. Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful, and you can shop in western-style grocery stores or local farm-to-market bazaars. You can find just about anything on the local market. There are Target-type stores, Home Depot-type stores, and stores that resemble Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn. There is even an actual IKEA!
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Starbuck's, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Stone Cold Creamery. Lots of good Turkish restaurants in all price ranges - kebab, kofte, and fish restaurants.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I haven't noticed any particular insect problems.
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?
Available, about US$60 a day for a full day of house cleaning. Unsure of child care costs.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, they are available. Many gyms here have full service spas, saunas, and swimming pools, so I find I get more for my money here than at gyms at home. But they're not cheap here.
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?
Safe and easy. But it helps to have a bank card from a Turkish bank, because not all places accept international/foreign cards.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
The Vatican, U.S. Dept of Defense chapel at the military base, British church, Mormon services, a very small Jewish group; maybe others I'm unaware of
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It depends. Taxi drivers and small business owners don't speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Ankara is a city of hills, so there are lots of ups and downs. The sidewalks are good in some places, not so good in other places. There are very few wheelchair ramps, and I've been in numerous multi-story buildings that do not have elevators or escalators.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses, trains and taxis are generally safe and affordable. I avoid the "dolmis", small buses where you hear of more problems.
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?
An SUV is good for highway driving. Smaller cars are good to have while living in Ankara because of parking and traffic concerns. Maintenance is reasonable. If parts are unavailable here, you usually can order from Istanbul.
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?
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?
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Refugees, animal shelters, women's groups.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business at work. Turkish women can be very glamorous and hip. Casual is also quite common.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Ankara doesn't have a large problem with violent crimes, although you hear about pickpockets in some of the more crowded areas of the city.
You see Syrian refugees begging on the streets in Ankara, but I haven't heard of them causing any violence.
Given the situation in Syria and Iraq right now, there are concerns, but mostly in the south of the country. Terrorist groups (PKK and DHKP-C) have been a concern in Turkey for years. As in most countries, try to be smart about your travels, and you should be fine.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There is good medical care in good hospitals with English-speaking staff and doctors.
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?
Usually there is good air quality, with bright blue skies. In the winter some people burn coal for heat so the air can get a bit unsightly, but it doesn't last long.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Not a lot of problems with allergies that I've noticed.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There are four distinct seasons. Summer is dry and hot, but evenings are cool and you often need a sweater if you're outside. Autumn and spring are beautiful, with some spring thunderstorms and rain, but no "rainy season". Winter can be cold, dry, and overcast. It does snow, and winter only lasts about 3 months, so it's tolerable.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
British, German, French, US Dept of Defense, and Turkish private schools affiliated with private universities.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
You should carefully research this topic, as people have come here with special-needs children and been unable to find appropriate schools.
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?
I know they exist, and expats use them, but I have not experienced them myself.
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?
Decent size. Morale appears good.
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?
Dinners or get-togethers at friends' homes; restaurants, parks.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families, yes. Couples, yes. Singles, it depends. Ankara is not Istanbul, but there are bars, clubs, restaurants, and lots of activities around the embassy community and its social organizations. It would depend on exactly what you want.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I have noticed.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel in Turkey is the highlight of living here. There is just so much to see. As for living in Ankara, I like that the city has a small-town feel to it. It's the government center, so there is a nice international community here with diplomats and many international organizations. There's not a lot to see and do in Ankara for tourists, but living here is very pleasant. Rush hour traffic isn't horrible. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, coffee houses, bookstores, movie theaters and a few nice parks.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Carpets, copper, Turkish tea and coffee sets, textiles, pillows, pottery.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Travel. It is a beautiful country with beaches, mountains, historical ruins, great cuisine and friendly locals. Driving is easy and convenient, and there are low-budget domestic carriers for travel in-country. The climate in Ankara has 4 distinct seasons. But Ankara is dry year-round. Winters have been rather mild during the last 2 years. You can save money in Ankara, but it's not an inexpensive city.
9. Can you save money?
You can, but not as much as you might like. The cost of living is more comparable to that in Europe than it is to Asia.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
More about the history of the country and its current political environment.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Stereotypes about the "typical Turk". Any thoughts that Turkey is a backward country---far from it!
4. But don't forget your:
Love for the outdoors, hospitality,and appreciation for the simple things in life.