As an expat in Turkey, it is crucial that you seek advice from the experts who have done it all before, this is the first of our expat interviews – we are looking to interview expats in Turkey and get their stories to be published on our website.
Introduction of the expat
Jack Scott was born on a British army base in Canterbury, England in 1960 and spent part of his childhood in Malaysia as a ‘forces brat’. At the age of eighteen and determined to dodge further education, Jack became a shop boy on Chelsea’s trendy King’s Road. Days on the tills and nights on the tiles were the best probation for a young gay man about town. After two carefree years, Jack swapped sales for security and got a proper job in local government with a pension attached. By his late forties, passionately dissatisfied with suburban life and middle management, he and his Civil Partner Liam abandoned the sanctuary of liberal London for an uncertain future in Turkey.
Jack recently published his memoir, Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam move to Turkey. The book is a bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls their first year as an expat gay couple in a Muslim country. The book is available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and all major book sellers. For more information, news and reviews please check out Jack’s website.
Why did you move to Turkey to become an expat? What is your story? Why did you choose the area that you settled in?
We thought it was time to take a break from our labours, put our feet up and watch the pansies grow while we were still young enough to enjoy it. I’d like to say that we chose Turkey because of the swarthy men; Turkey’s a place where sexual ambivalence reigns supreme and stolen glances meet you at every corner. The truth is more prosaic. We had to settle somewhere within easy commute of Blighty. The Eurozone was off the agenda because the Pound to Euro exchange rate conspired against us. That meant the usual nations of choice for sun-starved Brits – Spain, Portugal and Greece – were out. We knew we would get more bang for our bucks in Turkey. Also, we’d been dipping our toes in the warm waters of the Aegean for years and knew the stunning country quite well. With the current crisis in the Eurozone, I think we made a wise choice.
For us, Bodrum was the bookmaker’s favourite from the outset. It’s a chic, cosmopolitan and happening kind of place attracting serious Turkish cash and an interesting cohort of Bohemian types. The little gem of a town also attracts relatively few discount tourists compared to its uglier sisters up and down the coast.
How do you find life in Turkey different to where you are from originally?
The opening words of my book are:
“Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently ‘married’ middle aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country.”
That sums it up really. London is a world city – magnificent, cultured, cosmopolitan, international, outward-looking, frantic, uncaring and unforgiving: a coffee-on-the-run kind of place. Bodrum is an ancient whitewashed resort on the Aegean shore where life is slow and deliberate, where taking tea with the neighbours is a time-honoured tradition of enormous social significance. Bodrum-life is village-life. Your business is everyone’s business. Interestingly, as a discrete but obviously together gay couple, the only overt homophobia we’re encountered is from the expats. Ironic don’t you think? We are surrounded by Turks who, almost without exception, are kind and extremely generous. Of course, we’ve no idea what they’re muttering behind our backs, but if they do have a problem with us, you’d never know it. Perhaps, as infidels, we’re Hell-bound anyway so it hardly matters what we do.
What advice would you give to other people looking to move to Turkey?
Moving to any foreign land throws up a host of practical and cultural issues that everyone has to cope with but with the right advice, a guiding hand and lots of patience it can be a hugely rewarding experience. My strongest advice is to try a place on for size first. Rent before buying and then only buy with the right legal advice and through a reputable agent. Too many people have lost their shirts on a dream that turned into a nightmare. Act in haste and repent at leisure.
Have you ever experienced any trouble whilst living in Turkey?
None (touch wood). Turkey is a low crime country and visitors are unlikely to be troubled. As with any country, people should take sensible precautions. Don’t flash the cash in crowded places and beware of pickpockets. Many Turks are still very poor. Be considerate. Ladies, please remember that, although Turkey is proud of its secular tradition, the overwhelming majority of people are Muslim and many are conservative. Please be respectful. No-one will expect you to dress head-to-toe in a polycotton sheet, but away from the coastal resorts and city centres of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, women are expected to dress modestly. It’s the way here.
Does the language barrier affect your lifestyle in Turkey? Did you try to learn Turkish? Why/Why not?
Avustralyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınızcasına is a Turkish term pronounced as a single word and an extreme example of agglutination, the process of adding affixes to the base of a word. This word translated into English means “as if you were one of those whom we could not make resemble the Australian people”. Though rhythmic and poetic on the ear, Turkish is not an easy language for Europeans to assimilate; it’s thought to belong to the Altaic language family and is distantly related to Mongolian, Korean and other inscrutable Asiatic tongues. Despite Atatürk’s valiant adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1928 and the fact that the language is phonetic and mostly regular, the word order, agglutinations and the absence of familiar sounds all conspire to make learning Turkish a very daunting prospect. That’s my excuse anyway. I try but I’m just hopeless. I get away with it in Bodrum where so many people speak good English and those who don’t want to practise on you.
How do you find medical services in Turkey? Do they compare with where you are from originally?
We pay for private health insurance but haven’t used it so far. I’ve been told that private hospitals in Turkey offer excellent care at relatively low cost when compared to the UK and other countries in the West. This makes Turkey a growing player in the health tourism sector. The only medical-related procedure I’ve experienced is having my teeth capped. My Hollywood smile wasn’t covered by insurance but came in at less than a quarter of the price I would have paid in London. My Turkish dentist did a top-notch job. You can see me coming in the dark.
Thanks a lot to Jack Scott, author of Perking the Pansies for the great interview. Are you an expat in Turkey? Do you want to get your story across to other potential expats and those looking to move to Turkey?