What Living as an Expat in Turkey is Really Like

Hey everyone! Today, for my Living Abroad series, I’m chatting with Zee, a Zambian college student who has lived in Adana, Turkey, for more than three years. As an African expat, she has a ton of interesting insights to share, from how underrated Turkish brunch to why Turkey-based expats should consider living in cities.

What living in Turkey as an expat is really like

The pros and cons of living in Turkey (as reported by Zee):

Pros: Beautiful landscapes, good public transportation, rich cuisine
Cons: Extremely high taxes, intrusiveness, heavy smoking

Zee’s background:

My name is Zyabo M’hango but most people call me Zee. I’m originally from Zambia. I came to Turkey three years ago to study architecture and to explore another country.

On cultural differences: Zambia and Turkey are very different culturally. For example, Zambia is a very social country, people love to go out and drink. Turkey is more religious, conservative, and traditional. In Turkey, I have to be much more careful about how I dress or present myself in public.

On Turkish food: Turkish cuisine is so rich in variety and every region has its own specialty. One thing to try if you are in Turkey is a Turkish breakfast — they’re amazing! The full breakfast usually comes with boiled and fried eggs, at least three different types of cheese and jellies, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread, and Turkish tea.

On the tea-drinking culture: Turks love tea! Back in Zambia I only had a cup of tea for breakfast and sometimes after dinner during winter. Here in Turkey, some people drink up to ten cups of tea a day — every day.

What living in Turkey as an expat is really like

On learning Turkish: Turkish is one of the hardest languages to learn but if you surround yourself with Turks you can learn the language really fast and also learn more about their culture. In general, Turkish people love teaching others about their language and culture, which makes it easier.

What living in Turkey as an expat is really like

On the cost of living: Depending on where you live in Turkey, the cost of living varies greatly. Cities in the southwest and west tend to cost more. Where I live, Adana, is considered one of the most affordable cities to live in. The average cost of an apartment in a new building is around 950-1400tl ($150-$230 USD), depending on whether it’s furnished or not.

What living in Turkey as an expat is really like

On personal safety: Turkey is safer than what the media depicts. There are some political and social issues but in my day to day life, I feel very safe.

On the best places for expats to live in Turkey: Despite being a little bit more costly I think cities like Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya are really good for expats. The expat communities there are large and being touristic cities they offer in terms of a social life.

What living in Turkey as an expat is really like

On living in Turkey as a black woman: There aren’t many black people in Turkey and as a black person here you stand out. Turks are very curious people and so when they see people that look very different from them (be it someone blonde and blue-eyed, Asian or black) they tend to take an interest in this. In my first year, I didn’t even want to go out because I felt very self-conscious from all the staring. People often ask me ignorant questions, like if we have wild animals roaming around our cities in Zambia. Sometimes people don’t even think we have cities! It’s baffling.

On staying in Turkey long-term: I don’t think I want to live here long term because I don’t see myself getting a permanent job, a spouse and kids here. Regardless of where I end up, I will definitely be back to visit Turkey because it’s such a beautiful place.

Thanks, Zee!

What living in Turkey as an expat is really like

P.S. What Living as an Expat in France is Really Like and What Living as an Expat in Berlin Is Really Like.