Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 10/19/17
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?
Sixth (Moldova, Moscow, Baghdad, Cairo, Riyadh).
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?
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're all in apartments. Some are closer to the embassy and a little smaller (Park Vadi), some are further out but larger and next to malls and a park on a gated community (Park Oran). Families tend to be at Oran, with single folks and couples more in Vadi, but it's not universal. Housing is good.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Turkey is inexpensive. Lots of fresh produce is grown here, and supermarkets have lots of fresh veggies and fruits almost year round.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing really; we have a commissary here, most everything you want is available in stores anyways, and Amazon through the DPO is only two weeks away.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Yemeksepedi is the online ordering service with anything you want (Papa John's with beef pepperoni, McDonald's, Domino's, etc.). There is decent range of American fast food, along with lots of kebab places here. Good, cheap, fresh food is a perk of Ankara.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use DPO. DHL and others are here too.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available and affordable. Not as cheap as in the Gulf, but you can hire Turks or Filipinos here and they do a decent job.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There's a gym at Oran with a pool as well.
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?
Yes. ATMs are fine, but most folks cash checks at the embassy for cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are services on the military base.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Turks generally don't speak English, so some basic Turkish helps. I had eight weeks; it was enough.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are cheap here. About $10-12 from Oran to the Embassy and back. Cabs drive aggressively (like everyone else here), but it's better than driving in the Gulf.
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?
If you're just in the city, anything is fine. If you go further out or worry about security, get a bigger car, but you don't need anything huge.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, and we've never had issues, even during the coup.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The embassy had to register my wife's phone, and we had to deal with the slow Turkish bureaucracy (remember that today's 'Byzantine bureaucracy' is Turkish in origin), but we haven't had any issues.
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?
Yes, lots of good vets around and boarding places for dogs and cats. Some stray dogs here, but for the most part it's a good place for pets
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?
The EFM hiring freeze has been a real problem for morale but also embassy efficiency (fewer hours for DPO, longer waits to see medical personnel for non-emergencies, etc.). Turkey is a poor country compared to the EU with whom it competes, but it's still a prosperous country.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of opportunities to help with Syrian refugees, about 3 million of whom are in Turkey.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Normal dress at the embassy; a little more casual in summer.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There has been growing anti-Americanism of late, with some hassling of American and local staff when going to the embassy or consulates. The press here makes it seem like the U.S. is waging war on Turkey, which of course we're not, and most Turks don't buy into that, but some will if Turkish pride is questioned. Turks are like Arabs in that they pride themselves on hospitality and kindness to strangers, but they are quick to be slighted and jump to anger if they feel insulted.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Oran is right next to a nice modern hospital called Acibadem. The embassy has a doctor, and you're a quick flight away from Germany if needed.
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?
Ankara is a bowl, so in winter all that pollution collects downtown where the Embassy is. It's not uncommon in winter for it to be raining at the embassy, but up on the edge of the bowl at the edge of the city (Oran) for it to be snowing.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Some pollution (see previous), but by and large it's fine.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
The security environment is getting tighter, and folks who think this is just another EUR post are disappointed it's more Asian and NEA-like than EUR, but it's still a nice place to live.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and dry summers, quickly switches to a chilly fall, and then a three month winter with snow. Ankara is half a mile up, so we have more snow than the coasts of Turkey where it's still summer in October.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Excellent. BESA is great, and Oasis and the DOD school are solid options as well. Oasis just expanded to a new location south of the city near Oran. The DOD school I've heard is better for high school with all the AP classes and such, and worse at lower levels as they have to do lots of TEFL for the foreign students.
2. 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?
Yes, there are pre-schools and day care that are good value.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Medium-sized. Morale is ok, but worse for the U.S. because of all the unwarranted hostility.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
We have kids, and we love Oran with its playgrounds, easy to walk to malls and supermarkets, availability of help, and good schools. Ankara is not an exciting cultural place, but Turkey is, and Ankara is cheaper and easier than Istanbul, if not as interesting a city. Think of Ankara as Philadelphia to Istanbul as New York.
3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Erdogan is pushing for a more conservative country. That's seen more outside the cities, but while women at the Embassy are the equal of men amongst the secular local staff crowd, outside the Embassy women are not treated as equally.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Turkey really has everything; Mediterranean coasts, skiing in the mountains in winter, a cosmopolitan city among the best in the world, and calm quiet Black Sea beaches. Lots more to see here than you can in a few years.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, many towns specialize in particular things that you can easily find as you drive around Turkey.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Thoughts that this is an EU/EUR post.
3. But don't forget your:
Willingness to travel the country. Security awareness.