Tag Archives: moving to Turkey

It’s Harder Than You Think To Do Favours For Sailors …

On more than one occasion since we moved to Turkey there have been occasions when we would have been totally lost without the intervention of our neighbours, Tommy and Mehmet, so when I heard there was a lot of work to do on their family boat over the winter, I was quick to offer my assistance and collection of power tools in return.

Used for tourist trips in the summer months, the Deniz Bey sails daily from the beach at Ölüdeniz, taking up to 30 people on trips along the spectacular Anatolian coast. However, every winter, the effects of wind, sun and sea need to be redressed – which means several weeks in dry dock for sanding, varnishing and painting.

Volunteering, I imagined a few afternoons plugged into iTunes, brandishing familiar equipment acquired from my dad or – often on impulse – from DIY superstores in the UK.  But despite admitted recent failings as a “proper man” in the eyes of the average Turk (Time To Man Up …) I’ll admit I was still a bit disappointed by the questioning looks that my offer inspired.

“Can you paint?” asked Mehmet.

“I think so,” I replied. “I have my own sanders and I did decorate quite a bit of our house in England myself.”

Perhaps it was the small smile from Bec – who has never quite forgotten the “Incident Of The Flooded Bathroom” back in 1995 – or maybe it was the absence of experience on boats, but Mehmet still looked doubtful.

Nevertheless, a few days ago, the call came: “Stiv? Is Mehmet. I work on boat while the weather is nice today. Can you help?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ll get my tools out of the shed….”

“No need. I have tools. I come to get you.”

Half an hour later another new experience began. Unexpectedly, I found myself on the back of a scooter (without a helmet) being bounced savagely along a narrow mountain road en route to the boatyard in nearby Fethiye.

I’m a balding man of 53 but, nevertheless, on arrival what hair I have resembled a clown on a bad day. I also had to surreptitiously shake the cramp out of a leg before I could even begin to make my way to the dry docks.

Once there, I realised that, far from spending the day on nice, safe decks, I’d have to get used to the idea of working 20ft up on rickety planks, suspended between makeshift scaffolding mostly made up of elderly stepladders.

In short, it was hell. It takes a certain skill to wield a heavy-duty sander above your head when you have no handholds, a yawning drop beneath sucks at your heels and dust cakes the inside of your mouth and nose. I missed bits, which Mehmet had to point out before he could add a layer of varnish, and I must have been slow because there were plenty of times when he seemed to be watching and waiting.

Other boatyard workers passed beneath. There were shouted conversations with Mehmet, which seemed to end with looks in my direction and a little laughter. But, after what seemed like hours of torture which left my fingers tingling and shoulder muscles aching, it was time for a lunch-break.

It turned out even that was a challenge. If you’ve tried kokoreç then you’ll know what’s in it. If not, let’s just say I discovered sheep intestines are probably an acquired taste. Then it was back to several more hours of back-breaking work in the midst of a forest of masts and rigging, the shrill sounds of drills and sanders – and more Turkish banter.

The thing is, I loved it. I have spent most of my professional life in an office or at least in front of a keyboard, typing – but this was something completely different.

It was hard, yes. I was also aware of being a stranger in a tight-knit community which gathers in the boatyard every winter. But it was an experience – and one I have repeated more than once since.

A couple of weeks later, and now I get nods and handshakes. Indeed, the boatyard boss has shown me around and given me his card. It’s not like I’m ever going to be a professional – Turkish laws prevent that anyway – but it’s been fun helping out and should the Deniz Bey ever need me, I’d be happy to step up to the mark again.

Just don’t ask me to eat kokoreç though…

Mehmet on the boat

Mehmet ready to start work on board the Deniz Bey

Advertisements

The Day We Ran Headlong Into The Language Barrier…

Before we came to Turkey we were determined to make an effort to learn the language. We reasoned that if we wanted to integrate into village life, then being able to communicate without resorting to the usual pantomime of sign language would be important.

We made friends with the owner of a Turkish restaurant in Yorkshire and tried to visit once a week to practice the pronunciation of a few rudimentary phrases we thought might stand us in good stead. We bought phrase books and – although one evening with friends descended into an inevitable and puerile quest for rude words – made enough progress to be able to count to 20, say “hello”, “yes”, “no”, “pleased to meet you”, and even “Can I have the bill please?”

The thing is, once we arrived in Turkey, every attempt to use the language seemed to be greeted with accented but perfectly understandable English. Communication, it seemed, wasn’t going to be the problem we thought it might be …

But that was before we encountered officialdom.

If you’re a foreign national and you want to live in Turkey, then you need a residency permit – and that’s when you’re likely to come across bureaucracy for the first time.

I’m sure Turkey is no worse than anywhere else. Every nation has to have its established procedures and each one must seem equally convoluted to an immigrant. But here, anything official is definitely conducted in Turkish and, having been lulled into a false sense of linguistic security, suddenly, all our shortcomings were exposed.

Despite help from our Turkish friends who patiently tried to explain what was happening (thankyouthankyouthankyou), I’ll admit I lost count of how many offices we visited – or even why. All I can remember is sitting in front of a procession of desks while council officials, the village headman, tax officers and even policemen argued – sometimes vehemently – with our interpreter about details on the multitude of forms we’d filled in.

Perhaps the worst moment was when, during one encounter with the “belediye” – the equivalent of the district or county council – I noticed grins among the Turkish families waiting their turn at the desk as, without looking up, the official dealing with our case started waving our forms above his head, muttering something aloud which I took to be some sort of jest.

I thought smiling might at least help to portray my forbearance of the procedure, or at least that I was trying my best to co-operate – but the gimlet eye and sudden stiffness in the bearing of the officer suggested otherwise.

I still have no idea what our offence had been. Maybe there was a detail missing or a box not ticked … but, for an awkward ten seconds, it seemed our applications were in jeopardy. An interjection from Ahmed, our driver and interpreter, seemed to diffuse whatever faux pax we’d committed and minutes later the official’s stubby finger was tapping a final form I had to sign – but it felt like a close-run thing. The disdainful and pained look the official threw me as we left said it all.

After that, even the appointment at the harbour-front offices of the Fethiye passport police seemed more amicable. There were still no smiles, but at least the silence and the regular thump of an official stamp on a piece of paper felt reassuring. All we can do now is wait and hope our applications are successful.

If you found this blog and thought it was going to be an idiot’s guide to residency applications in Turkey, I can only apologise. I’m afraid I’m still none the wiser about the proper procedure myself.

However, if you are about to embark on a residency application, I’d thoroughly recommend having someone who speaks fluent Turkish alongside you at all stages of the process.

As for us, Turkish lessons have now begun in earnest with two-hour sessions booked for every Saturday. So far, we’re not much further forward than the Janet and John stuff – but at least we’ve made a start…

SP

“But why Turkey…..?”

“But Turkey…? Why Turkey?” So many people have asked that question when we’ve told them about our plans.

You might think it would be easy to bash out a few glib paragraphs and a couple of anecdotes to explain the background, but I’ve actually found myself staring at a blank page for half an hour.

The reason? Well, I suppose it’s because there are at least a dozen different answers – and marshalling them into some sort of order is something of a challenge. Like everything, it’s probably best to start at the beginning.

I suppose it began as a slow but nevertheless powerful realisation that, professionally at least, we were unhappy because we didn’t seem to have any real direction or goal. Neither of us is particularly ambitious and we’ve never had any desire to grow an empire; just the same, we were finding ourselves working harder and harder just to stand still.

Although it’s changing fast, the PR market is also undeniably overcrowded, flooded both by journalists being made redundant as the internet continues to offer new channels for news and information and by universities churning out energetic, bright young things who wake up every morning eager to wrestle the PR tiger.

Of course, many would find dramatic and rapid change exciting and, if you don’t mind endless networking and late nights in the office, if you have an encyclopaedic grasp of the latest social media platforms and the stamina of the Duracell bunny, then the Yorkshire communications industry can get you all the things in life we’re told we need.

The thing is, we realised “things” are not necessarily what we want. Instead we want a life lived, not an existence – and, almost immediately, we began to feel a little like misfits. Put another way, we realised we were no longer enjoying a ride which was taking us somewhere we didn’t really want to go – so much so the desire to get off became overwhelming.

So why Turkey? Actually, Turkey wasn’t the first choice – for me, at least. After an exploratory trip last year, Africa seemed to offer more opportunity and we even worked with UKTI to identify potential markets which needed our skills and expertise.

In the end, obstacles presented by distance and the risks posed by volatile political and religious situations persuaded us to reconsider. Spain and Italy – where we have family – were discarded in light of the turmoil and uncertainty over the Euro. So, having visited Turkey and fallen in love with its beautiful Mediterranean coast, it was our next target.

We found a relaxed and easy-going culture, low cost of living, affordable property, potential for work with companies in an expanding tourism sector in a country identified as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Turkey moved straight to the top of the list and work resumed with UKTI to establish how we could adapt our offer to match possible demand. As a result, Dolphin International Communications is finally launched this week – a name chosen to reflect both our new Mediterranean location and the fact we’re still only a “click” away for clients who have opted to stay with us.

Of course, some have told us we’re mad. Others seem convinced we’re heading for some sort of war zone or a backward nation stuck in the 1930s. It’s true we might not be able to buy ham or sausages unless they’re “under the counter”, the power goes off pretty regularly and most of the TV will be unintelligible (although I’m actually looking forward to learning a new language).But if you’ve watched The Hobbit, you’ll have seen Bilbo leaving the detritus of a meticulously-organised life behind him as he runs after Gandalf and the dwarves, shouting: “I’m going on an adventure!”

There’s no doubt there will be challenges ahead, some involving things we don’t even know about yet. Just the same, inside, I’m with Bilbo.

SP

Overwhelmed by ‘Stuff’

I’ve been itching to crack on with packing up, sorting out and/or disposing of our belongings.
The idea is that we will take as little as possible with us – mainly clothes and personal items. Some things will be stored at my stepfather’s; some sent via courier later in the year.
I’ve booked the maximum amount of allowable luggage with the airline – nine cases in total, each to weigh no more than 22kg. In theory, that sounded like quite a lot.
However, having just packed one of my bags, I’m no longer so confident. I hardly seem to have made a dent in my own bits and pieces, let alone anyone else’s. I’m telling myself that it will be fine and we’ve got a second run at it with the final move in June.
I’m also having to stop myself crazily filling all nine cases so that I feel I’ve achieved something; that way, I’ll either end up taking things I don’t need or will have to live without vital possessions until we go.
It makes you think, though, about how much ‘stuff’ we accumulate over the years. The trinkets we keep because they mean something or “just in case” they prove useful.
Clearing out your life in such a way as we are makes you look long and hard at everything, and there are tough decisions to be made.
Some aren’t.
The hand-made birthday cards the children gave us when they were little? The baby books we kept to record every detail of their first years? Easy. Put them to one side to keep in storage.
Those beautiful pink satin shoes I fell in love with but which I’ve never worn because they’re slightly too high and a little too big? Pop them on an auction site; if they don’t sell, they go to charity.
But what about my wedding dress, for example, which lies in the loft in its clear plastic protector? What happens to that?
I’ll never wear it again. A few days shy of our 22nd anniversary and I’ve never even got round to having it cleaned – so even if it wasn’t hopelessly out of fashion, I can’t sell it. It’s not the most practical thing to store – and why, anyway? What will I ever do with it?
But there’s a lot of emotion, so many happy memories tied up in that confection of satin and lace. It feels wrong to say: “Bin it.”
Someone who has already been through this process told me to be ruthless. To remember that all my memories and associations with this ornament or that picture are in my mind, safe for ever. That it might seem a waste to part with household items and then buy replacements once we’re there, but it’s likely to work out cheaper than bringing it all with us and paying for the extra weight.
I’m trying to remember this, as we begin the process of picking over some 24 years of accumulated ‘stuff’. But with just under four weeks until Round 1 of The Big Move, I can’t help feeling I’ll still be buried under a mountain of books, bedding and bric-a-brac when the airport taxi arrives at the door.

RP

The Calm Before The Storm

We’ve got ages until we move. It’s a good – ooh, just under three months. Plenty of time to get everything sorted out. Let’s check the calendar – yep, roughly 11 weeks.

Hang on. Eleven weeks? That’s nothing! There’s the cats’ transport to book. We need to decide what we’re going to take, sell and give away, and start packing accordingly. I have to set up the mail forwarding, send out change-of-address notifications….. I’ll NEVER be done in time.

This is pretty much the state of my mind right now, veering between calm confidence and blind panic. We just want to get on with it, really. Once our worldly goods start going into boxes, our son’s new flat or to their new owners, I’ll feel like we’re getting somewhere.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. We’ve got an American student arriving this weekend for two weeks – the return leg of my daughter’s school exchange – so we need to keep things pretty much normal for her.

Which means there’s not a lot I can do until the end of April, except maybe offload a few trinkets to the charity shop or local auction site. Which means by the time we can get on, there’ll only be around eight weeks left before we go, and that really isn’t any time at all.

In among all this, we’re trying to keep the business ticking over, our daughter has GCSEs to do and there’s the usual domestic chores to keep on top of.

I guess we’ll get there, one way or another. In just under three months, I’ll be sitting on our balcony in the sunshine and all this will feel like a distant memory,

Hang on. Just under three months? That’s roughly 11 weeks……

RP

Taking Up Residence

So another month has gone by…. So much has happened and yet there’s so much still to do!

I’ve been back in Fethiye for two weeks, the aim being to get the house ready and make sure we’ve got services like internet and electricity in place. I also wanted to apply for my residency permit, so that at least one of us can come and go as necessary.

I expected to have tales of a long and tortuous process to tell, based on what I’d heard from others. But, yet again, my Turkish heroes rode to my rescue – and it proved so simple as to almost be an anti-climax!

We collected the list of what was needed from the Passport Polis office and returned just an hour later with the necessary admin and paperwork completed. Handed it in, along with my passport, and received a slip of paper to help locate my documents when I returned. Job done. It’s amazing what happens when you have people who know where they’re going and who the need to see.

For those that aren’t so fortunate, you can hire people to help make it equally straightforward. (I’m not sure so don’t quote me, but I think it’s about 150TRY.) You can also, of course, do it yourself – but it can get complicated. On the day I collected my permit, a fraught-looking American lady returned for the fifth time trying to put in an application for her son. On each occasion, there was something just not quite right and she was nearing the end of her tether.

No matter which route you choose, remember you need five passport-style photographs of yourself – they will take them all but for some reason you’ll get one back with your permit – and a photocopy of your most recent bank statement, showing you’ve got sufficient funds to support yourself. I’d read initially that you needed a Turkish bank account in order to get residency, but that’s not true. In spite of my earlier post, my optimism proved somewhat premature and, more than two months later, ours still isn’t up and running. It would have been quicker to do it in person. However, for residency purposes, a UK account with a lump sum in it was fine.

I was thrilled to collect my little blue permit that said I was entitled to stay in Turkey for three years (assuming I don’t break any rules!) and I’m rather looking forward to the next time I come through Turkish passport control!

RP

 

Focus on Fethiye

It’s so hard to concentrate on the day-to-day stuff when your head is in the clouds (possibly literally at the moment, looking at some of the weather forecasts for southern Turkey).

We have a business we need to keep going. We have jobs to do around the house to get it ready for sale. Not to mention all the other bits and pieces of everyday life – looking after the kids, cooking, cleaning, shopping. You know what I mean.

But my heart and my mind are already in Fethiye. I just want to up sticks and go. I’d far rather spend time planning how we’re going to get the cats over there, work out whether I can take my slow-cooker and make a decision on what to do with that very delicate but beautiful vase we got as a wedding present than…..well, pretty much anything, really.

I keep telling myself that it won’t be long until we’re there for good, but the next few months still stretch out interminably before me.

At this point I’d like to pay public tribute to Steve, who really is the stronger one of us at the moment. He knows what needs to be done and he’s doing it; not that he doesn’t want to get moving any less than I do, he’s just better able to focus on the here and now than I am. He’s being brilliant.

As for me – I’ll keep kicking myself onwards like a particularly obstinate mule, interspersing Turkey-related tasks with domestic necessity.

We’ll get there. Eventually.

RP