1 August 2016

Hans Biekmann - Expat in Istanbul, Turkey

Hans Biekmann - Expat in Istanbul, Turkey

Mr. Hans Biekmann is a Dutch CEO in Turkey. Though he is not living with his family, he claims that he is not as homesick as he used to be, because he has gotten used to living abroad away from his loved ones. He moved to Turkey two years ago to be a little more adventurous and also to find new business ventures.

According to Mr. Biekmann, “The national rules of most countries do not encourage international moves at all. So during my expat life and career, I faced a number of extreme bureaucratic issues that makes the life of expats complex and less attractive. Authorities in most countries do not support foreigners to settle down or to leave the country easily. Even within the EU it is a big issue.  As an Expat, you are less protected.” Despite these sentiments, he does admit that his biggest challenged was simply finding an apartment for himself and starting his own business.

Starting up a business and finding the right accommodations for expats differ depending on the country of expatriation. Nevertheless, it would be much better if you gather as much information as you can about housing and property, as well as business structures and permits before you move. It’s best to consult a financial specialist for services to handle these technicalities, as well as to avoid handling the stressful process yourself.

For more on Mr. Biekmann’s life as an expat in Turkey, read his full interview below.

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: Adventure, business. I left the Netherlands when I was 34. Worked and lived in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Russia and now in Turkey. Working in Western Europe in saturated markets is sometimes businesswise, boring. I love to work international, preferably in Emerging Markets.

Q: Where are you living now?

A: Istanbul

Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I was requested by a big international insurance consortium to reorganize one of their foreign enterprises. This appeared to be in Istanbul.

Q: How long have you been living in Turkey?

A: For 2 years now.

Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in your host country?

A: Private: to find an apartment was not that easy. Businesswise I encounter many other issues.

Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in your host country? What was your experience with these?

A: I contracted with my company some excellent legal advisors. So no problem for me to obtain residence and working permits. For health insurance I can say that this exactly my own expertise. The company I lead and reorganize offers a range of services to foreigners in Turkey based on their health- and travel insurances.  So also for Expatriates.

Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: No my wife and one son (21) are living in the Netherlands. Another son (also 21) lives at this very moment in Munich, Germany. We decided not to move the entire family, as at this age and stage everybody goes its own way. My wife and sons are coming over on regular basis and I go once a month to the Netherlands.

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in Turkey? How did you manage to find a social circle in Turkey?

A: It is easy to make friends via all kind of business contacts and other even Dutch social communities in Istanbul. To be honest I have a very busy work life so I am already happy to have an evening alone so I can relax a little.

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Apart from the very touristic hotspots I would recommend to visit the Price Islands. There are some very nice beaches you can visit. Beautiful architecture and historical wise interesting to see. It just 1 or 2 hours by boat and you are out of the hectic city. Also the Back Sea coast is a beautiful area to visit. 

Q: How does the cost of living in Turkey compared to your home?

A: Most of it is cheaper than in Western Europe. Only alcohol is more expensive.

Q: How do you find the local culture and people in Turkey?

A: I find the people in Turkey in general very friendly and they show great hospitality. Istanbul has a mixture of western and (middle) eastern influences. So it differs a lot who you meet and how they treat you. 

Q:  What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Turkey?

A: Positive is that there are many business opportunities and the Turks are very creative and business oriented. The negative part is that you have put an awe full lot of energy in selecting reliable (business) partners.

Q:  Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Yes I do. Certainly when there are some problems issues at home.

Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: No I do not. I am too long abroad for that.

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Well I do not know what my career will bring next. For the moment I am happy here in Turkey and have an exciting job. But I am always open to consider a next destination.

Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: The national rules of most countries do not encourage international moves at all. So during my expat life and career, I faced a number of extreme bureaucratic issues that makes the life of expats complex and less attractive. Authorities in most countries do not support foreigners to settle down or to leave the country easily. Even within the EU it is a big issue.  As an Expat, you are less protected.

Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: Talk and make friends with other Expats so you can learn from another the do’s and don’ts.

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Turkey?

A: For (and rather independent) news in Turkey in English I recommend: www.hurriyetdailynews.com. For housing: www.hurriyetemlak.com.