Making the decision to leave your homeland for life in a foreign country is exciting. There’s a whole new way of life to discover, new places to explore, new friends to make. It’s also scary; no matter how much you’re looking forward to it, it can also be a daunting prospect.
The best way to ensure your move overseas goes well is to have a realistic approach. Many people have a rose-tinted view of how life will be, especially if they’re moving somewhere like Antalya, which they may have only previously visited on holiday. It’s important to understand that living in a place all year round is hugely different to staying there on vacation.
It won’t be plain sailing all the time, but as long as you’re prepared for that you’ll settle more quickly. To help you, here are 5 common challenges people face when they move to another country.
The language barrier
One of the hardest things about moving to a new country is not speaking the language. During holiday season in Antalya, you’ll find staff in the restaurants, bars and shops usually know some English. There are plenty of other people around to talk to in your native tongue. Out of season, especially if you’re away from the main resorts, that changes.
Amid the excitement of signing on the dotted line to buy your luxury apartment in Side, you might not think about how you’ll make yourself understood in the local bakkal (back-al), or grocery store. You’ll also find few officials speak English in buildings such as the tax office or the banks.
It’s a good idea to make learning some Turkish a priority. You can learn online or in person, in groups or one-to-one, or try an app such as Duolingo. Practise and speak the language as often as you can – the key to learning quickly is to be regular and consistent.
Being far from home
If you’ve left family behind in your homeland, be prepared to feel those heartstrings stretching across the miles. You’ll feel it most keenly on special occasions, such as birthdays or at Christmas. Many retired expats in Antalya say it’s particularly painful to be so far away when a new grandchild arrives.
Plan as many visits home as you feel you need, especially in the early days, and arrange regular calls with parents, children, siblings and close friends. Modern technology means video-calling is almost the same as being in the same room – some people leave the connection open for extended periods, so it feels like they are together.
You’re used to the way of life in your home country. You know how to do things, and where to go if you need help. So suddenly finding everything is different can really throw you off balance. Even struggling with previously simple things like being able to read road signs or topping up your mobile phone package can be disorientating and frustrating.
There are different customs and rituals to learn. You’ll be worried about fitting in or doing and saying the wrong thing and inadvertently offending someone.
It will seem strange, if you’re used to celebrating Christmas, that December 25th is just another day in Turkey. The shops are open, children are at school, and everyone is going to work.
Maintaining your own traditions at home can help you adapt. Many hotels in Antalya offer special Christmas and New Year packages in recognition of both the growing expat community and an increasing desire to spend the festive season abroad. Some restaurants offer special menus or parties during December. You’ll also find that, while Christmas may not be ‘a thing’ in Turkey, New Year certainly is – there’s no shortage of celebrations on December 31st!
Even if you’ve planned your adventure as a couple, it’s important to remember that people adjust at different rates. While you might fall easily into your new life in Antalya, your partner – or children, if you have them – might find it more difficult.
Adapting to a new place and routine, away from friends and a familiar support network, can be tough. Be sensitive to each other’s emotions and make a point of checking in with each other regularly. Discuss what you enjoy about living in Antalya, what you’re finding challenging, and how you can make the transition smoother. Take time to decorate or buy beautiful furniture and homewares that will truly turn your new villa in Kalkan into your dream home. If it helps, set firm dates for a trip to visit family so you have something to focus on.
Even though children are generally resilient, the move might be harder for them. As well as leaving behind friends, they’re having to get used to a different school environment and education system, and form completely new relationships – and in a different language. Make sure you talk to them about how they’re feeling and discuss inviting friends from home to stay during the holidays.
With the best will in the world, there will be times when you feel it’s all a bit much. Turkish bureaucracy can be confusing and time-consuming, and it’s something you will experience at some stage.
Maybe your house is full of boxes waiting to be unpacked and it’s getting you down. Or perhaps something as simple as finding you’ve mistakenly bought ayran (eye-ran), the Turkish yoghurt drink, instead of milk and not realised until you’ve poured it into your coffee will tip you over the edge. (If it makes you feel better, this is a really common one – the packaging is often similar and the two tend to be next to each other in the chiller cabinets.)
Accept this will happen. Take it all one day at a time and don’t blame yourself for any mistakes. It’s a learning curve, and every day there will be things you know that you didn’t before. Breathe deeply and be kind to yourself – it’s all part of the adventure.
Ready to take the plunge?
If you’re looking forward to starting a new life in Turkey, we’d love to help you find your perfect property. Our extensive portfolio ranges from sea view apartments in Alanya to luxury villas in Kalkan – take a look here, and our experienced team is on hand whenever you’re ready to talk.