Firstly let me set the scene, I am a 29 years old and I’m from Britain. I have spend the last two years in Turkey and most of my experience comes from living and working in the capital city Ankara.
When I arrived in Turkey from China I came with an open mind, I had not been to the country before and in all honesty knew very little about the country. One of my relatives has been to the country several times before (as a tourist) and always spoke highly of the country and its people.
Here, is my experience…
I wont go into exact detail as to not incriminate myself and others.
Before I left China I searched for a job and was promptly offered a teaching position in Ankara, I explained my experience and qualifications and we agreed that I would come and work for them.
After I arrived I started work within a couple of days, a month or so later the company took me to the immigration office and sorted out a residence permit. I was told that was enough and of course I continued to work. A year later the police come knocking at the company for illegally employing foreigners and after extensive denial the company and I depart. Of course as everyone knows, you need a work permit to work!
Much later another former employee threatened me on facebook for my comments about news articles relating to Turkey.
Leaving the job was not a problem as by this time I was already engaged to and living with a wonderful Turkish woman. We decided that her apartment was not in a suitable location for working in the city centre with all the transport time and costs so we went apartment hunting.
Unfortunately we very quickly found out that no-one would rent their apartment to us, why? Because we are not married! She was told by every landlord that if they see people of the opposite sex coming in and out of the apartment that she will be evicted!!
So after staying put in her old apartment we decide that the next best thing is to buy a car to make life easier.
Cars in Turkey are very expensive, even second-hand ones, so we eventually find one that seems nice and is in our price range. Before we hand over the cash and sign for ownership the car is taken to a garage to check that everything is ok, which of course it is.
We pay for the car and sign for ownership, all notorised no problems… however when we take it to OUR garage, we find it’s been in a significant previous accident (which the records didn’t show) and that the engine size is smaller than stated, in fact, the engine is so small that it struggles to get up and down the numerous hills and slopes that make up the city of Ankara!
This one sounds worse than it actually is to be fair but I have to put it in some perspective….
I have lived in a few different countries, most of which with terrible road safety records (China, Turkey and Cyprus). It took 29 years to be involved in my first (and hopefully last) road crash. Travelling on a coach from Ankara to Bursa we were hit my a car, I’m not sure how it happened exactly but we felt a hit and then heard a screech followed by another crash and then we saw the car limp in front of us and pull over to the side. The was little damage to us put their car had to be towed away. Thankfully no-one was hurt.
A sad story, you could say that this sums up capitalism or life in a developing country.
My fiance and I bought a cat, a beautiful Scottish Fold female we called Illa. We bought her from a pet shop in Ankara, who were the middle men for a breeder in Istanbul. The cat arrived about two weeks later to our home, a small and very adorable cat which we loved very much. We noticed that Illa had external parasites and wanting the best health for the cat we took her to a vet in Golbasi (on the outskirts of Ankara) which is the closest to where we lived.
The ‘vet’ prescribed some medication, unfortunately wrong medication and in the wrong dosage, instead of a pill for small cats, he prescribed for dogs and said to give the quarters of the pill in a much shorter time apart.
After Illa stopped eating and drinking we decided to take her to Ankara’s animal University who did all they could and immediately recognised the problem. Unfortunately not only was Illa effectively poisoned she was taken away from her mother too young and still needed her mothers milk.
It later came to our attention that many vets in Turkey are actually operating using a bought license and are not trained veterinarians. So we have a breeder and a pet shop who only care about getting their money and not the welfare of the animal and we have a ‘vet’ who also only cares about making money and not the animal.
We had Illa for 10 days before she eventually died after taking her to the animal university every day after she became sick.
Getting married in Turkey as a foreigner to a Turkish citizen (as may be true for other countries) is a bureaucratic nightmare. One aspect of the process really got to me though, the proof that Turkey is NOT a secular country, as part of the process there is one particular form which includes a space for religion. Of course I left this blank as I have no religion, this however is not acceptable, neither is atheist or agnostic. There HAD to be a religion, either Muslim or Christian, in the end in order to proceed with the marriage I told him to put what he likes, so he did! No freedom of choice here!
After we got married, we went to the immigration office a few days before my residence permit expires and along with the marriage certificate and the fees I got a 1 year extension (from 27th April 2013).
Leaving Turkey at the Bulgarian border I was taken off the coach and asked why I didn’t have a valid permit to be in Turkey, when I have them my Turkish citizen number and explained the situation the said that I didn’t have a valid permit and that it expired (yes you guessed it) on the 27th April (with today being the 19th August). Of course I was promptly fined 65 euros and told not to come back for 3 months!
The marriage (again)
I am now married to a beautiful and wonderful Turkish woman who is part of a lovely warm, friendly and welcoming family and I couldn’t be happier.
>The exit (again)
The second best thing in my life (after my wife) is leaving Turkey.
So I came to Turkey with an open-mind, ready to embrace another culture with it’s customs and habits. I welcomed the prospect of Turkey joining the European Union so that it may break down the barriers of Islamophobia, that Europeans and Muslims can learn to understand each other and realise that we’re not so different after all.
Now I think and feel pretty much the opposite, the Chinese share more similarities with Europe than Turkey does. The values that the average Turk holds dear are not compatible with European values. Europe and Europeans value democracy and freedom of choice and expression, sadly, generally speaking Turkish people do not.
Aside from my personal experiences almost daily you can find examples from the Turkish press (in English) where this is proved to be true. Children being sold into marriage, girls gang-raped and the girl gets sentenced and the men go free. Where if you tell someone you do not believe in God they can kill you. Sadly the list is almost endless.
I have met some very nice Turkish people, some have become very close friends but these people are in the vast minority and they themselves hide who they really are, what they really think because to express oneself freely in Turkey means to risk your own life.