Istanbul - Post Report Question and Answers

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

This was one thing that surprised us. There is almost zero English spoken on the local economy outside of the downtown tourist areas (which we don't live or shop or work in). This made life extremely challenging the first six months. NOTHING is in English in stores, and shopkeepers, cashiers, taxi drivers, kids' school bus drivers, administrators, apartment complex guards, pretty much everyone you interact with, only speak Turkish. On top of that, in my opinion, Turks are not overly friendly, welcoming to foreigners, or helpful. They will ask you a question in Turkish and instead of trying to help you as you mime out/use Google translate, they will stare at you silently in an annoyed manner while you fumble (then call you yabanja "foreigner" in a disdainful tone). We had some real stumbling blocks starting out here - food shopping was really tough in trying to read labels, taking my kids to the doctor was hard because none of the nurses or support staff spoke English, dealing with school administrators was tough, organizing little things like water delivery was overwhelming, etc. We eventually adjusted and learned a few basic words, but were at a real detriment for a while. I would definitely recommend taking survival Turkish before coming. It would have made a huge difference in our daily life had one of us had it. - Aug 2021

Some Turkish is certainly necessary. You can get by without in the tourist areas, but at grocers, in cabs and at smaller restaurants basic Turkish is necessary. Post offers language classes for employees and families. - Sep 2017

You will get caught up pointing and talking loudly and slowly to be understood at some point (does that EVER work with ANY language?). It is best to have even a little Turkish before coming to post. - Oct 2010

The more you have, the easier it is anywhere you go. I do not consider myself much of a Turkish speaker, but all efforts are appreciated if you smile and be patient and remember YOU are the foreigner. - Jan 2010

Good to have basic Turkish as taxi drivers and most do not have English - Jan 2010

You need basics, and a few formalities. With zero Turkish it could be unpleasant to be here, but every little effort to speak the language is most appreciated by locals. Businesses catering to expats and many professional contacts will speak English. - Dec 2009

Outside of the tourist areas there is very little English spoken. Turkish is a must. It also helps when bargaining prices. - Dec 2009

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