We continue our Turkey expat interview series by bringing you an interview with an expat in Ankara!
Terry Henson Kaymak has been kind enough to provide us with her thoughts on life in Ankara for expats in Turkey. Terry also updates her life in Ankara through her blog, Adventures in Ankara – well worth a read.
Introduction of the expat
Terry Henson Kaymak is a Philadelphia lawyer who quit her day job and moved to Turkey. Her life now brings a new adventure each day and she shares her musings in her blog, Adventures in Ankara. Through the blog, she explores Turkey with photography and wit, shares the cuisine, and provides useful and practical information to expats and visitors.
Why did you move to Turkey to become an expat? What is your story? Why did you choose the area that you settled in?
Honestly, I didn’t move to become an “expat”. I was not familiar with that term at all! But I guess that is exactly what I did.
I was looking for adventure. I have always been a person who gets easily bored. I like to be on the move. For years, my job had kept me on the road and that was perfect for me. When that changed, I needed something else, something more. Having married a Turk in 2009, the decision to move here came easily.
My husband found a job as an assistant professor at his undergraduate university and therefore, we moved to Ankara. It’s a really big city with lots to offer. My husband selected our neighbourhood before I arrived. He was looking for something not too far from his job, so the commute would be easier. But he was also very considerate of my needs.
My neighborhood is very close to the downtown district, which means I can walk to top-rated stores as well as traditional small shops. As far as groceries, I can throw a stone in any direction and hit a small market. I rarely drive to a larger grocery store. It is also very close to one of the better hospitals.
What I truly love about my neighborhood is that while it is close to all of the Embassies so that I have easy access to other expats, it is not what I would define as an expat neighborhood. It is traditional Turkish mixed with modern Turkish, older families and younger writers and artists. It’s rather bohemian. My husband did an excellent job of selecting the right place for me. I am happy so far!
How do you find life in Turkey different to where you are from originally?
Life is actually easier for me now. Not much is expected of me since I don’t speak the language yet. Other than teaching English, it very difficult to get a job that will sponsor a work permit. I get contract work from the States that I do online, but it is not full-time work. I love it because it allows me the free time to explore, write my blog, and do whatever crosses my mind on a particular day. However, I am constantly questioned by others as to how I spend my time. It seems a bit unusual to many that I could actually enjoy being at home every day. My friends in the States, on the other hand, would probably ask me where they could sign up!
What advice would you give to other people looking to move to Turkey?
I have three pieces of advice that I have offered over and over again. 1. Keep an open mind. Just because things are different does not mean they are wrong. 2. Get out and meet the natives. You are in a foreign land, take advantage of it! It’s a unique experience that will teach you a lot! 3. Laugh. Do it every day, whether you are feeling it or not. It helps to keep things in perspective.
Have you ever experienced any trouble whilst living in Turkey?
Unfortunately, I have experienced trouble first-hand. My wallet was stolen. I actually caught the guy, but at the time, I was not sure of what he had done. I had a friend try to occupy him while I checked my purse. By the time I returned he had struck my friend and got away. These things can happen anywhere. But the experience with how the police handled it was quite different from the States. Suffice it to say, I was unhappy with the whole mess. Next time, I will act on my instinct.
Does the language barrier affect your lifestyle in Turkey? Did you try to learn Turkish? Why/Why not?
Of course it does, but I am getting rather good at not letting it. I find that lifestyle is more about personality. I am an outgoing person, therefore, I think it is easier for me to make myself understood, even without a full grasp on the language, because I am not afraid to make hand gestures, draw pictures, and such. I have no issue with going to the store, only knowing two words, “I want”, which is only one word in Turkish, “istiyorum”, and pointing at something or drawing a picture of it. I always walk away satisfied.
I am learning Turkish and I am sure this is something I will be doing for the rest of my life. It is difficult in any language to understand everything. I wouldn’t say Turkish is hard, but it is very different. I believe the best way to learn it is to start at the beginning like a child does. I learn words and phrases and I don’t harp on grammar. Trying to translate Turkish word for word is one of the worst things a new learner can put themselves through. It causes frustration. As I said, it’s not like English, so a direct translation never works. Turkish is more like, “Me Dick. You Jane.” It’s simple, uncomplicated, and often rhymes.
I should mention that I have yet to come across a Turk who laughs at my lame attempts to speak their language. They simply adore those who try!
How do you find medical services in Turkey? Do they compare with where you are from originally?
Medical services are different than in the States. I don’t like it as much so far, but it is growing on me. One of the positive things about health care here is the cost. Generally, medical services are much cheaper.
An interesting difference is that most doctors’ appointments are held in hospitals or clinics. It is less common to go to a private office than it is in the States.
The health insurance laws have changed several times since I have been here. So it’s hard to explain. There is both private and government insurance. A brand new Turkish law has required that all citizens maintain government insurance. We will have to wait to see how that plays out. But before the latest law was enacted, a visit to the doctor was quite interesting for me. Some hospitals only accept one insurance or the other. While it is common that doctors and practices do this in the States, for an entire hospital to be based on the system was strange to me. Often, the hospitals that accept both types of insurance also have different corresponding wings. The doctors who accepted the private insurance work in the nicer part of the hospital, and their patients were scheduled better with less wait time. The check-in counters in the “government insurance” sections of the hospitals are a crazy scene.
I am also surprised by the lack of cleanliness in some hospitals. It is worse than I have ever seen in the States. But it is not so at all hospitals. With a little research, a traveller or expat will find a place where they will be comfortable.
There are many minor differences, too many to mention here. Your readers should feel welcome to read my blog from time to time, where I have and will continue to note those differences.
If you moved to Turkey as a family, how do you find the education system in Turkey?
I moved here with my husband. We have no children, but I am somewhat familiar with the system. Grade schools can vary. There are both public and private. The most interesting thing about the public schools is that classes are only scheduled half the day (at least in my area of Ankara). That leaves me to wonder about the system. But again, I don’t have children.
High schools are full-time, I believe. Again, there are public and private schools, but there is also a third option, the Anatolian high school. It is part of the public system, but admittance is based on a nationwide entrance score. My husband attended an Anatolian high school and he is brilliant. So the Turkish public school system must be doing something right!
Entrance to and the selection of universities is based on an exam. Universities are also either private or government owned. But don’t let that fool you. One of the top universities in the country, METU, is government owned. We are lucky to have it right here in Ankara!
Thanks a lot to Terry for the interview. Remember, if you are an expat in Turkey – we want to hear from you!
Please contact Turkey Expat Forum and we will be happy to interview you.