Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 08/04/11

Personal Experiences from Ankara, Turkey

Ankara, Turkey 08/04/11

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 and lived elsewhere in Europe, South America, South Asia, and East Asia.

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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?

The trip takes 13-14 hours from Washington, DC, via Munich.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years to date.

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

Government/embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For members at the mission, it varies. Anywhere from 5 - 25 minutes; more in rush hour.

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

If you have access to it, the commissary is a great resource. On the local market, fruits and veggies are cheap, while beef, chicken, and lamb can be a bit more expensive than in the States.

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

If you have access to the commissary, you can pretty much get anything you need here.

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

MacDonald's, Dominoes, Little Caesar's, Burger King, Sbarro, etc. Prices are comparable to those in the U.S.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There is at least one place in town that hosts an organic market regularly.

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

Primarily via the APO/pouch.

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

Most people have a housekeeper for one day a week. It is reasonable ($50-60).

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

Yes -- Ankara has some world-class gyms. There are also free facilities at the base if you are in the military/embassy community.

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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?

ATMs are plentiful and safe to use.

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

Yes.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, both Turkish papers and otherwise. Not too expensive. But it is a heck of a lot easier to just use the internet.

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

You need the basics to get around; cab drivers and servers do not speak English.

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

Very difficult. Ankara is a hilly city with uneven sidewalk pavement.

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Transportation:

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

Yes.

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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?

Whatever you like -- sedans or SUVs both work fine. V6 is maybe a little better for the steep hills.

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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?

It's an ok speed; cost is around $40/month.

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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?

Several companies to choose from -- no major problems that I'm aware of with any of them.

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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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes. Also, there are tons of vets, although quality differs.

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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?

If you teach, yes. Otherwise, not really, unless you speak fluent Turkish.

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

Professional. Casual is more dressed-up than in the States.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not beyond the normal, although the drivers can be dangerous on the roads.

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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?

Great medical care in general.

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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?

It depends on your elevation. However, in general, it is fine is summer, average to poor in winter, due to coal burning which, despite being illegal within the city, is still common.

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

Hot dry summers, beautiful spring and autumn, colder winters with some -- but not a lot of -- snow.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most people within the mission send their kids to the DODDS school. It gets ok reviews.

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

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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?

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

Yes, through the school, as well as Saturday spring/fall soccer and winter basketball programs for kids at the base.

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Expat Life:

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

Unknown. Consists primarily of the diplomatic community and a few businessmen/women and teachers.

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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?

Decent restaurants.

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3. Morale among expats:

Families are happy, others seem to be less so.

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

It's great for couples and families with kids. For singles without Turkish, it's a little more difficult.

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

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

Have not witnessed many problems.

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

Traveling to different ancient sites, hiking in the middle of nowhere, nice beaches, trips to Istanbul.

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

Ankara itself is rather boring. It's nice to walk around the old town and visit a few museums. Otherwise, it's easy to view films in English or hit a mall. Having the base here is a bonus.

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

Carpets and Kilims! Also, lamps, furniture (you can have it made to your specifications), tiles, towels, and backgammon sets.

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

Ankara is a relatively inexpensive city to live in. The kebap is cheap, fruit and vegetables at the markets are inexpensive and very fresh, and taxis are likewise easy on the wallet.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

American driving rules. The quicker you start to drive like and Ankara-native, the happier you'll be.

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3. But don't forget your:

Turkish phrase book and plans to take classes. (Good ones are offerred at the Turkish-American Association.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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