21 July 2016

Billy Watson - Expat in Antalya, Turkey

Billy Watson - Expat in Antalya, Turkey

Billy Watson is an expatriate in Turkey. About eight years ago, he moved to Antalya, a city on the Mediterranean coast of southwestern Turkey. When asked about what made him relocate to his host country, “I was married to a Turkish lady who was having some health problems. We also had a young son and decided that the change of weather and lifestyle would be good for her and also for him growing up,” he said.


According to Mr. Watson, getting a Visa and working permits, as well as international health insurance is getting difficult year after year. “I would say they were quite difficult and getting more so with every passing year it seems. In the past you didn't require health insurance but now they need to see a policy which meets certain standards and the cost is roughly 240TL a month, which equates to about £80,” he shared.


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Find out more about Billy Watson’s experiences in Turkey in his full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I am from a small town called South Queensferry, which is located 7 miles from Edinburgh in Scotland. It is famous for the Forth Rail Bridge which goes between North and South Queensferry and was the worlds most impressive engineering feat when it was built.


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

A: I was married to a Turkish lady who was having some health problems. We also had a young son and decided that the change of weather and lifestyle would be good for her and also for him growing up.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: I am living on the Southern Mediterranean Coast of Turkey in Antalya, a city of about 1 million people.


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

A: As I said my wife was Turkish and we came here on holiday a few times to visit her parents and I got a feel for the place and decided to give it a bash on a longer term basis with no real plan of how to survive here.


Q: How long have you been living in Turkey?

A: I moved here in 2006 although I left last October to go back to Scotland for good, or so I thought. However, when I came here on holiday in June I realised that Antalya was now my home, not Scotland.


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

A: That would be when my wife broke her back and leg in an accident.  She was in bed for 6 months after that and my Mother-In-Law had to move in to help deal with the situation. My son was 3 years old at the time.  Yeah, pretty stressful is an understatement.


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

A: Yes, I would say they were quite difficult and getting more so with every passing year it seems. In the past you didn't require health insurance but now they need to see a policy which meets certain standards and the cost is roughly 240TL a month, which equates to about £80. Well, it is time consuming to say the least as you have to go to the local police station where they take the applicants and many people are there all fighting to be seen. Sometimes you have to go on a paper trail before coming back and collecting the residence permit. This can take up to 3-4 days of your time before everything is sorted


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I got divorced a few years ago so I now live alone although I do still see my son most days when I pick him up from school.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people?

A: When I first came here I didn't meet another expat for the first 3 months which was difficult. However, I met an English real estate agent who introduced me to a few more expats and from then on I have met quite a lot.


Q: Do you mainly socialize with other expats in Turkey?

A: I have lots of Turkish friends and so it is a mixture of both really, although I do run a weekly trivia quiz these days which mainly Expats attend along with a few Turks.  If I took the time to learn the language properly I would socialize more with Turkish people. My bad.


Q: How did you manage to find a social circle in Turkey?

A: I helped to form an expat social group here just by going out and being social. I then made a website where I blog and post info about the region and that helped me make quite a few new connections, especially through the facebook page. I now help to set up and run regular events for expats in Antalya and I would say that the majority of them know me, or if not, then they have seen me, mainly because if they don't attend the event then they see the pictures on their tagged friends on facebook.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area?

A: Well, there are a number of things to do in the area depending on what your interest is. For those who like their history there are many ancient historical sites around the region and the city itself has an excellent museum. For those who like sports there is rafting, trekking, golf, horse riding, tennis and a whole host of other activities such as Jeep Rides and Quad biking which you can book through your hotel or small travel companies dotted around the town. Entertainment wise there are Piano, Film and Opera festivals as well as regular events which are well attended, such as the Antalya Orchestra and Theatre nights, held through the year. Of course we also have the beach life for when the weather is good and to be fair, it usually is, although from December to February the Sea may be just a little bit too cold.  Perhaps that could just be in the mind as from the Beach you can see Snow on top of the mountain range where Saklikent Ski Resort is located. Yep, Antalya sure has a lot of things to keep you occupied.


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

A: I would recommend going to Aspendos Ampitheatre to see a show. It holds 10,000 people and is the best preserved Roman Ampitheatre in existence. The acoustics are superb and it is a real treat to watch a show there as you can practically feel the history coming out of the stone walls. Also, a weekend trip to the ancient site of Olympos is a must as it has a beautiful beach and lots of small pansiyons (hotels) which are reasonably priced and have entertainment throughout the year.


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

A: Well, like most places I think it is comparable to the wage of the people so what may seem cheap because you convert into pounds, is probably the same price relatively speaking.  However, the exceptions to that are beer and petrol which are both more expensive here than the UK.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Personally speaking I have had very little problems with the locals. Although it is a large residential city, they are used to tourists here and most of the time they will go out of their way to help you if you need it. On no occasion have I ever seen a foreigner being picked on just because they are foreign. Of course, there are differences in our culture so sometimes small things can drive you crazy, like for instance their refusal to use indicators when driving or worse when pulling out from the side of the road. Some of them can also be a little quick to fly off the handle, especially if they are behind a wheel of a vehicle, but as I am a foreigner in their country I try to accept these differences and not let them get to me. In general they have been very welcoming to me and when I tell them I am Scottish, they seem to love that. I think Braveheart helped with that one.


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

A: On the negative side, if you don't learn their language then communicating is difficult as most of the locals don't speak English that well, especially the older generations. That is not their fault obviously, but it can be frustrating but that is mainly aimed inwards because I haven't done the necessary work to get a grip of it yet. Also, on occasion they may try to charge you a 'yabanci' (foreigner) price for some things and that is annoying and if you need anything official done that can be a minefield as laws keep changing and as I said before, the paper chase can start to wind you up but in general it is hard to be too negative as the positives far outweigh the negatives. On the positive side, well I have to start with the weather. The near 300 days a year sunshine definitely improves your general psychology and well being and it seems to make everyone else that bit chirpier too. The outdoor lifestyle that the sun enables is the main advantage I think. I also love the fresh fruit and vegetable markets that they have once a week in each locale. The food is fresh and really tastes good unlike some supermarket food in the UK so I really appreciate the quality and variety they provide. The people here are very friendly and if you offer them a smile, most of the time you will get one back. If you want to sing or dance, don't worry, there will be a crowd around you in no time, to support you and in most cases join in. It seems a bit freer here in that regard and I really love that. As I mentioned before the activities here are almost limitless and providing you have the money to travel or to spend on waterparks and fairgrounds etc, you will never be stuck for something to do.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Before I moved back to Scotland for a year, I thought I did miss it. I certainly miss the art and culture scene there as I like to perform comedy and poetry and I couldn't find an outlet for it here. I did actually run an open mic night on quite a few occasions but it was difficult to get people to join in so I let that slide. I have never been super close to my family back home so didn't miss them that much but after staying with my parents for the past year, I don't think I will ever miss them again. lol


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I put on my Kilt, drink whisky and play Jimmy Shand records. Every year I have been here I have returned in August to take part in the Edinburgh Festival so I guess that was my way of not losing touch with the homeland but to be honest, now after returning, I think I am over it. I will go back as and when but don't feel the pull like I used to.


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

A: Now that I have returned to live in Antalya I am much more settled this time. I think I needed to move away for a while to realise exactly what I have here.  I don't have any plans to move but always ready to move where the wind takes me so we shall see what the future holds. For the time being I am content.


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

A: That would be the financial aspect of living here as there is a law that states if a Turkish person can do the job then they get the job ahead of the foreigner, add the fact that to work here you need a special work permit so earning money is a challenge.


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

A: After a while of living here you can start to look on some things negatively that you used to see as quirky and interesting. These can start to get on top of you if you let them. I suggest breathing, taking a look around and appreciate where you are and the experience you are having. The good things far outweigh the bad so it is good to keep that in mind, especially when dealing with bureaucracy.


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

A: Yes, I have a few. These are my favourite three: Ellen In Turkey: Written by an American Opera Singer who lived here for 3 years and who I actually dated for a while even despite the differences in our vocal capabilities as I can't sing for toffee. Earth Laughs In Flowers:  A housewife's guide to living in Turkey. Kerry relates stories of her personal life as well as offering advice regarding Visa's and Work permits. Arse About Fez: An Englishman's guide