Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 07/14/10
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?
This is my first expat experience.
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. About 12 hours with a stop at Munich.
3. How long have you lived here?
3 years. Sept 2007 - July 2010.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
US Government. I work at the US embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Almost all apartment living here. Ranges from medium to extremely large.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
In the local market the groceries are adequate. Great produce. But all embassy personnel have access to the military base, which is a 10-minute drive from the embassy. The base has a good-size BX and commissary where you can get all your American products.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
None. The BX and commissary can supply it all. And if they do not have what you're looking for, they can order it from Germany.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
A lot of American fast food is available. McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, etc.
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?
APO. About a week to receive a package.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is easy to find here. We pay 40 dollars a week for one day during the week.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are quite a few available, but they can be pricey. The embassy has a small gym, and the base has a good-size gym with basketball and racquetball courts.
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 everywhere.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You MUST know some Turkish in Ankara if you're going to have an enjoyable experience.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
A lot. Ankara does not seem to be a handicap-friendly city. There are a lot of deep cracks in the sidewalks and not too many ramps.
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?
Any car is adequate, but we enjoyed having an SUV to drive all around Turkey. The roads are paved well.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. About $30 to $40 a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The embassy supplies cell phones to the staff. But families can get cell phone service at the local market at reasonable prices. TurkCell and VodaPhone are the big names here. If you bring a phone into the country you must register it with the Turkish government.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
Without knowing Turkish, it'll be difficult to find work in the local economy. A lot of spouses work at the embassy or the base.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual to business.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Ankara is very safe. My wife and walk home from restaurants late at night with no problems. There have been reports of break-ins, but they are very rare.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Hospitals are good, and the dental care is great. There is also a doctor at the embassy.
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?
Moderate to unhealthy. Air is especially poor during the winter. Turks still burn coal for heat, which pollutes the air.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Four seasons, like DC.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I heard the schools are good here. There is a DOD school here as well
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Mixed. Some can't wait to leave. Others do not want to leave.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
It's what you make of it.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think families and couples like Ankara much better then do singles. There is a large American community here -- both diplomatic and military. Kids enjoy Ankara and all the activities the DOD school offers. Single men seem to have a good time here. It's mixed feelings for single women.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
We met a few gay couples here, and they seem to enjoy Turkey.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
None that I've seen. There is some diversity in Ankara because of the multiple diplomatic communities. Outside of Ankara (or other big cities) it can be different. People would stare if you look really non-Turkish. I have a couple of African American friends, and they tell me when they go to rural towns in Turkey, people want to take pictures with them.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
At first Ankara can be a bit boring, but it has improved these past three years with modern malls and better infrastructure. Ataturk's mausoleum is a must-see in Ankara. The museum at the mausoleum gives you a great intro to modern Turkey from the days of the ottoman empire to Turkey today. Traveling all around Turkey is magnificent. Turkey is rich with history, and the people are generally friendly. Istanbul, Ephesus, Pamukale, Bodrum, Cappadocia, Antalya, and Troy are just a few great cities to visit. Unfortunately, you must drive at least two hours to get to an interesting city, but it is totally worth it.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Ankara has some great movie theaters with current movies. Even IMAX movie theaters. Also good restaurants and a few good pubs. Travel and go sightseeing outside of Ankara.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Evil eyes and carpets.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Touring, Save some money if you stay in and shop on the military base. But the touring is great in Turkey.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
YES. We liked it here.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
notions of a middle-eastern Muslim city. Ankara is a Muslim city, but it is quite westernized.
3. But don't forget your:
patience and sense of adventure.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
There are still a few things in Ankara that may remind you of a third-world country, like the crazy driving and awful air pollution during harsh winters. But overall, it's not a bad place to live, and if you travel around the rest of the coutry, it's totally worth it.