Is It Realistic to Retire to Turkey – Probably Not…

Some nations are geared up for foreign retirees, and life living abroad in retirement can be great – other countries have too many negative aspects and can turn the dream of retirement into a nightmare for expats. We urge would-be expat retirees to do their country research carefully and to ditch the rose coloured glasses when it comes to Turkey for example.

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Is It Realistic to Retire to Turkey – Probably Not…If you look at the statistics you’ll see that month-on-month there are plenty of Internet searches related to “living in Turkey” – and the popularity of this one particular nation, especially for Brits, is its perceived and relative affordability.  However, when it comes to actually committing to live in Turkey, is it a nation suited to expats?

Perhaps the most vulnerable group of people when it comes to moving abroad are retirees – why do I say this?  Well, they are a demographic often living on a fixed income, with limited desire or prospects for employment, who may in time need greater personal support in the form of medical care for example, and who therefore need to think very carefully about their move from multiple angles.

So, is it realistic for any Briton to consider retiring to Turkey?  Our considered answer may surprise you!  You may feel that retiring to a nation that’s allegedly poised on the cusp of EU entry, where the cost of living and property can be exceptionally cheap, and where the weather can be wonderful makes absolute sense…however, the reality of living as a foreigner in this particular nation can be tough.

If you want to hear about the worst sides of life anywhere, hop on to an expat forum.  Few people regularly contribute to a forum unless they have an exceptionally strong viewpoint, and the nature of the beast is that those who do contribute most vociferously tend to be the ones with a lot of negative things to say!

Forums and threads that relate to living in Turkey have some of the most incredible tales of expat woe.  Read these and you won’t even visit the nation on holiday, let alone commit to living therein – especially in retirement!  However, if one believed everything one read – or, if one were only to read the negative aspects of a given nation – it would be fair to say that one would not have a balanced and fair viewpoint.

So, in looking at the forums anyone can get a feel for the worst elements of life living in Turkey.  However, it is fair and important to balance out the extreme negatives with, for example, the positive promotional spin that those who are selling the dream of owning property in Turkey use, and see where that leaves us in terms of considering Turkey as a country possibly suitable for Britons to live in in retirement.

So, let’s start with the extreme negatives… 

One male contributor on the TurkishLiving.com forum explains that he and his family left behind their dream of living a new life in Turkey after he was threatened with a gun, his wife was physically abused and his apartment was taken over by squatters. 

Many of those who comment on his tale are unsurprised at his family’s treatment and comment on the corruption in Turkey.  Also highlighted are elements such as the police not assisting any foreigner threatened by a Turk, Turkish men assuming that all British/Western women are unable to refuse their ‘charms,’ and the fact that some Turks treat foreigners very badly indeed – along the lines of believing ‘what’s mine’s mine, and what’s yours is mine too.’

Faced with these facts, who would move to live amongst Turks in Turkey?  No one in their right mind…

However, if one looks closely at any town in any nation there are areas where you’d be wise not to live, there are those who would mistreat foreigners, and even the most supposedly civilised nations in the world all suffer from corruption.  Therefore we cannot write Turkey off!

So, let’s turn our attention to the positive aspects of living in Turkey as pedalled by those attempting to sell Turkish property to foreign buyers for example: -

Why Turkey?  Well, apparently it has a growing economy, affordable property, a low cost of living (1/3 of the UK’s apparently), good weather, low taxes and plenty of culture.

These are all true – give or take the cost of living which expats can find is a lot higher than anticipated if they want to achieve the standard of living they had before they moved abroad.  But do these positives outweigh the potential negatives?  For some people yes, and for others no.

The fact is, there are plenty of expats happily living in Turkey – and there are plenty who are living a nightmare, who have been ripped off, scammed and abused and who want to get out but can’t because they can’t afford to and/or their can’t sell their properties.

So, is it realistic to retire to Turkey?  Well, are you in a position financially to afford private medical care for the long-term?  Because, be realistic, you may well need to one day.  Are you emotionally strong enough to cope with low-level corruption - because at best you will experience it (at worst you’ll face it on a grander scale)?  Are you happy to live a clichéd expat existence surrounded by Brits and not really integrating into the local community – because to believe you will integrate is unrealistic in Turkey (sorry – it’s a fact)?

Are you happy to live off your savings and investments – because you won’t find it easy to supplement your retirement income in Turkey, there are already too many pool cleaners for example!  Can you cope with poor build quality and the ongoing struggle to get anything done well, on time and on budget?  All are realities of life for many expats retired to Turkey.

All too often we hear tales of expats’ dreams about living a new life abroad in countries like Bulgaria, Turkey, Northern Cyprus, Belize – and the dreams are so unrealistic.  All too often we hear tales of how it all unravelled and went wrong – and now we’re never surprised or shocked.  In the past we’ve tried to tentatively suggest that would-be expats (particularly retirees) do their country based research carefully and try before they commit.  But clearly the message is not being heard…

So, we’re going to be a bit more direct now and state that anyone thinking of retiring to live in Turkey could face an exceptionally difficult period of transition and integration, and they may find the supposed ‘affordable cost of living’ is not achievable or realistic.  They may discover that the friendliest locals are actually out to rip you off (not exclusive to Turkey and not a racist reflection – think, if you moved as a foreigner to the UK, who would be most likely to quickly befriend you?  Those who thought you were a soft target of course!)

Healthcare in Turkey isn’t first world in most cases – unless you live in a major town or city and you can really afford to pay for it.  The build quality of many new homes is poor, local builders and tradesmen just don’t have the training and skills required.  You will not be supported by the police, local council, government or rules and regulations like you would expect to be in the UK – at times this is fine, but at times, when your back is against the wall and you really need help, it’s far from acceptable.

If you want to retire abroad and live in a country where you think your pension income will go far further…look way, way, way beyond the cost of living and the cost of property.  See what price you will really pay to live in a nation like Turkey in retirement.  Yes – there are of course exceptional benefits – but they really do come at a genuine ‘cost’ in terms of the change you will experience to your current way of life.

Is it right for you to retire to Turkey?  Only you can decide – but please proceed with caution and try before you commit!  Rent for at least 6 months out of season, and speak to as many expats and locals as you can to see whether you can fit into the new way of life.  If you do decide to go ahead then we wish you luck and hope you’re a success story.  Don’t get us wrong, at Shelter Offshore we have a strong respect for the nation on many levels, but we have been sent too many emails from too many expats who have had a really tough time making it work in Turkey to blithely suggest it’s right for everyone.

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