Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 07/08/18

Personal Experiences from Ankara, Turkey

Ankara, Turkey 07/08/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have served overseas for 20 years in a variety of cities in multiple continents.

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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, DC. The authorized route stops in Munich and takes about 15 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic assignment.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Only apartments in high-rise buildings unless you are the DCM or Ambassador. The apartments have one air conditioning flat pack per apartment. I spend most nights sleeping in the living room because it is the only cool room in my apartment. The apartments come without carpets and no black-out curtains. The walls are concrete so the internet doesn't reach to the bedrooms from the living room. This helps with soundproofing with your next-door neighbors but you can still hear neighbors above and below you. It takes about 20 minutes from Park Oran and less from Park Vadi and Zirvekent.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find everything here between the commissary, the local economy, and the DPO.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Unfortunately, there is a restriction on items shipped through the DPO which is Turkey-specific. You can't ship make-up, protein powder, laundry detergent pods, any liquids, and even peanut butter. I relied on the DPO for my brand-specific items and was forced to switch to whatever was available at the BX or Commissary. I would have shipped all of my Seventh Generation, Tom's of Maine, Mrs. Meyers, Honest, and Shea moisture products.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is a variety of food available here through delivery using the app, Yemeksepeti. The food is always almost right with a little bit of Turkish flair, but they really do try hard.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Yes, the pigeons are a nuisance on your balconies. Come prepared to set up spikes to keep them from perching on your balcony.

There are biting flies and mosquitos as well.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I use the DPO at the embassy. If you are active duty or retired military you may use the APO at Ankara Support Facility.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We were able to find a maid through word of mouth. There have been a lot of issues with third country national staff at this post. Make sure you do background checks on your staff and only hire those who have legal papers.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The gym at the embassy is functional, but incredibly small. There are gyms available near all the housing locations, but gym etiquette is not something that is followed in this country. The are not accustomed to personnel that actually lift their body weight. There are never enough plates and the bars cannot handle even minimal weight. They are not regulation bars.

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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?

No, I have not been able to use my USAA credit card to purchase food from delivery companies. I always plan accordingly by having cash on hand which is very inconvenient. Why let me order through an app if I can't pay through the app? It is frustrating for both me and the delivery guy at my door.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are options here.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to have a basic knowledge of Turkish to do anything here.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, they do not have proper sidewalks and there is no elevator at the embassy. I was injured and realized very quickly that getting from office to office required going up and down a lot of stairs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We don't use public transportation, but it appears to be available and inexpensive. As we live in the suburbs, we have to drive everywhere.

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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?

I highly recommend bringing a 4x4 vehicle due to the hills everywhere. The city is prone to flash floods and you want to have enough clearance to be able to drive home without getting stuck on the street.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We have DSL in our apartment and it was installed prior to our arrival. It is fast enough to to stream and it costs us the equivalent of $70 per month for the best package.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone and obtain a SIM card locally. The plans are super cheap here.

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Pets:

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 didn't get enough information of how impossible it is to get a dog into the country. You can't fly directly into Ankara with your dog and your orders won't allow you to fly through Istanbul without going cost construct. The only way to get your dog here is to fly to Istanbul and either rent a car and drive your dog to Ankara or pay for a company to transport your dog (at great expense). Be aware that the housing is not conducive to having a dog here.

Once you actually get your dog to post, the vets are excellent and the kennels are affordable.

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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?

There are part-time jobs, full-time jobs, EPAP jobs, etc. Please be aware that post has a new policy that if you use your veteran's preference, you can't use it again during this tour although it's not clear to me why this is a rule.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual except on country team days.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The medical care on the regular economy is quite good but I do not feel adequately supported by the post health unit.

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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?

The air quality is better higher up the mountain than downtown.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Post morale has been difficult due to a number of curtailments and medical-related incidences. There has been more resiliency training recently but that was received with mixed reviews.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No one seems to be happy with the schools here. There are many options, but I see people swapping to a new school after their first year to go to another school. Please be aware that Oasis is a Christian school. It was not clear from their website or any of the material from the CLO. We were pleasantly surprised when we enrolled and were informed. I would hate for a family that did not know to unwittingly go through that process without all the facts.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

In reality, all the schools are accommodating. The issue is just being able to get here and making it through the catch-22 process of medical clearances. MED wants to see a pre-enrollment letter and none of the schools will provide that if your child has special needs. We had to sign a document that we would pay for any services required if the embassy did not provide the funding.

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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?

There are no preschools or daycare within walking distance of Park Oran where many personnel are housed. I don't have a need for these services but that would be a huge issue if we did. We hired a babysitter for after school care and the price is $10 an hour.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There is very little for school age kids to do during the summer here in Turkey. It appears all other diplomats from other missions leave for the summer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large. Very poor morale.

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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?

As we are in compound living, it is very difficult to meet regular locals. Also, the locals that work in the mission do not regularly interact with Americans. I joined Internations and really enjoyed meeting expats from other countries.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a not a good option for singles. I think it would also be a challenge if you are here without kids. There is literally no social scene here. I would only come here if I had elementary school aged children. The upper levels do not have many kids in their grades.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Access to flights into Europe. We took every opportunity to get out of the country.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

No, the rugs and handicrafts are really expensive here.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I thought I was thinking ahead by buying the car from predecessor. It took the same amount of time to get access to my car that was already here in comparison to another person that arrived and had their car shipped to post.

I also wish I had known that I would be forced to open a local bank account in order to claim my VAT reimbursement and that I would have to open a military star card in order to get tax free gas.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Comparisons to other posts.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience. You will need it to survive this post.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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