Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 09/27/16
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?
We have lived in Central Asia and Azerbaijan. This is our third overseas assignment.
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?
Washington, D.C. -- connect through Munich when flying with government; great connections through Istanbul if flying on own.
3. How long have you lived here?
Over three years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My husband's job at the Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
All apartments. In the three years we've been here, the housing pool has gotten better. Older apartments in GOP are being phased out. Now options are Mesa Koza in GOP, Zirvekent, Park Oran and Park Vadi. All have benefit and drawbacks.
Commute times to Embassy are all reasonable. (People complain about traffic, but compared to Istanbul it is child's play.) Park Oran is the furthest from the Embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
This is the best place for groceries we've ever been. You can get everything and reasonably priced. The American Commissary and BX has a great selection of U.S. products (and wine!) while the local groceries and markets are stocked with amazing produce and local meats, cheeses, breads, etc. Eating and cooking here is a dream.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I used to send myself green curry through Amazon. But even that I've now found locally.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is a delivery service called Yemeksepeti, which you can get in English and get delivery of just about anything. Very reasonably priced items as well.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and Pouch
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
More expensive than other places we've been. We have a full time housekeeper and nanny and pay her US$10/hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are many. A few of the buildings also have facilities like pools and small 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?
Credit cards are safe to use and widely accepted. ATMs are also common.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes. There is a chapel on base. There is also a Catholic Mass at the Vatican Embassy and an Anglican service at the British Embassy.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
My Turkish is pretty pathetic for living here three years. But with a mixture of a good attitude, flexibility and miming, you can get by okay.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There would definitely be challenges for someone with a physical disability. I use a stroller alot and have trouble with the uneven sidewalks.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
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?
Most expats tend to drive big cars. But if you are serious about trying to find parking, a little mini would work wonders.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. GSO can help set it up before you arrive. But even "unlimited" data isn't really. It can slow quite a bit during peak times.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I love the international plan for vodafone. As others have mentioned, buy your phone elsewhere and then register it in Turkey. It can take a bit of time, but phones here are more expensive.
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?
If you are a diplomatic spouse, the restriction are tough. You can work at the embassy or in an "education/teaching" job. Or telecommute. This is a real struggle for alot of highly professional and qualified spouses here.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many. And CLO does a great job of getting information out about the many volunteer opportunities.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal for balls; work dress like the U.S.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is one of the biggest challenges. In terms of crime, it is almost non-existent. But there is heightened awareness of terrorism and violence after the last several years and the entire embassy community is on edge. You kind of wait for the next "event" to happen. That said, many of us LOVE living here and don't feel like the threat is so severe that we need to leave.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is great. Many women here give birth and it is a medical tourism destination. (Think botox!)
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?
Generally good. There are some smoggy days, but nothing like Hong Kong, Beijing, etc.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
After the recent string of terrorism attacks at the attempted coup, there are certainly folks who are coping with a changing security environment.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. Overall dry. Someone once described Ankara as "50 shades of Khaki."
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We have two young children at the British school and could not be happier. Many friends have children at the DoDDs school and have generally positive feedback. Less positive on BLIS. And many kids were at Oasis until they moved to a new location that is quite far away from most Embassy housing.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I do know that some special needs kids are/were at BESA and they seem to do a good job. But I don't know specifics.
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?
Many preschools available and they range in price from US$300 - $800/month.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Many. You can pretty much do anything you'd do in the states here. You just have to seek it out.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I think morale is pretty mixed. There is a segment of people who love it here (me included) and those who find the security situation untenable. It is really a question of what you are comfortable with. Embassy hours are LONG and that has been a real struggle for us. But I love this country and I love the friendships I've made here -- both within the expat community and locally.
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?
I've met a ton of friends through my kids schools and embassy events. There are a ton of clubs and events. Just need to seek them ut.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Fantastic for families. Turks love kids and I honestly can't imagine having these young kids anywhere else. Turks will pick up your child when she is crying and let you eat a meal -- there are play areas EVERYWHERE. My kids have become totally used to being doted on and loved everywhere we go. It is just heaven for kids.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
So many wonderful places to travel. Cesme, Ephesus, Antalya, Bodrum, Cappadocia, Istanbul, Bolu ... the list goes on. Turkey and its people are a total treasure.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
The exchange rate was 1.7 Turkish Lira to the dollar 3 years ago. Now it is almost 3 to 1. Makes for very affordable shopping. I do almost all of my shopping locally.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely. We are extending and love it.
2. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Birds without Wings.