Istanbul, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 01/03/10

Personal Experiences from Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey 01/03/10

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 in several overseas posts

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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?

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3. How long have you lived here?

24 months

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

USG

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

From 15 minutes to two hours given the terrible traffic

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

Very expensive especially for Western/imported items.$11 for a medium sized jar of Jif peanut butter

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

Consumables which are very expensive here, if available at all

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

Major chains to include Starbucks here. Aside from that Italian is the main alternative to Turkish food. Not a very cosmopolitan range

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

None. They spray insecticide everywhere in the summer

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Daily Life:

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

APO which is now DPO and of uneven service. Mail sometimes 3 days and sometimes 1 month

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

Available but not cheap. About $60 a day

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

None at the Consulate for use and to join a health club is over 1k with payment in full up front.

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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?

ATM's everywhere in the city.

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

There are Western churches

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

Turkish Daily News and Herald Trib, as well as most Western news mags here. Expensive

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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?

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

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

Very difficult. No sidewalks and infrastructure uneven

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Transportation:

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

Safe and reasonable, but public transport does NOT go 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?

More compact the better given narrow roads, traffic

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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?

So many Turkish govt filters on the internet (ex youtube banned) that nothing is "high speed".Cost is normal

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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?

Available everywhere

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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)?

Pet care not a priority in this country

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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?

No and the Turks make it very difficult

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

Formal, even on weekends. Turks dress to keep up with the Joneses so you will stand out if not dressed well

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

unhealthy, esp in winter

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

Relatively safe city

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

Actually excellent and pharmacies here have everything over the counter

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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?

four seasons.moderate winters

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Schools & Children:

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

Schools are rated as good but long commutes for dependents

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

Rather small for such a large city. Not cohesive at all.

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2. Morale among expats:

No real expat community to gauge

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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?

If nightclubs/bars/eating is your thing than Istanbul has it. Aside from cafes, shopping and eating, there is little to do in this city

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

Couples if you're ready/willing to pay London prices for uneven service and quality

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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?

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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?

Rugs and other nick nacks

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9. Can you save money?

Not here. London prices and Middle Eastern quality in return. Very expensive city.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No

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

Mountain bike. Too dangerous to ride in the city

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3. But don't forget your:

Large cooler to take on the 5 hour drive to Ankara to stock up at the commissary

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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?

Istanbul is def better than Ankara to serve in. Having said that one must be prepared for a very congested, expensive city with minimal diversions for dependents esp if lang is an issue. The Turks, and their red tape, are not easy to deal with and one can expect endless hassles when dealing with tax free issues, or other basic necessities. There is no real community at Post or in the city among expats and frankly the food and the "Bosphorous" gets old real fast. Unless one is a major Turkophile I would skip serving here. It is NOT the Turkey of 20 years ago that everyone talks about.

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