The cost of living in Turkey…

I have been wanting to write this post since I started my blog last year, but I knew it would take a lot of research to get it right, and I also know a lot of people will disagree with me, but after discussing it with someone today, I was determined to post my view on this.

People think living in Turkey is cheap… It’s not. Unless you’re living off a British pension or have an income from other sources in the UK, it’s not cheap to live here at all. When I say to people it’s hard to live off a Turkish wage and that we always end up getting into debt, people tell me ‘you just need to budget better and not have a holiday lifestyle, it’s so cheap to live in Turkey’… I know for a fact that it’s not, and people just do not realise how local people really struggle.

Ok, now a little disclaimer, this is NOT about me. It’s not a pity party. I can get on the next flight home to England if it becomes too hard to live here. This is for the local people, the Turks, the thousands of people working in Turkey who do not have the luxury of choosing where to live or have many job opportunities.

I have always said that living in Turkey is actually more expensive than living in the UK. When you compare like for like, Turkey appears cheaper, but when you consider local wages, you realise it’s not. If you’re an expat in Turkey and have more than £250 a month in income from a pension or other means, you are financially better off than a lot of locals in Fethiye, and all over the country. The minimum wage here is 895tl a month after tax – that equals £255 a month or roughly £3068 a year. (For arguments sake throughout this article I’m using an exchange rate of 3.5tl/£1 as this is the rate being given in town as of today). This is minimum wage across the country. Compare this to minimum wage in the UK which is £6.31 an hour – for 40 hours a week this would be £11,380 a year AFTER tax, or £950 a month, roughly. This means that the minimum wage in Turkey is 3.7 x less than the UK, therefore, for Turkey to have a cheaper cost of living than the UK, the prices of everything would have to be 3.7 x lower than in the UK… let’s look into that and see if that is the case.

I have investigated the prices of many everyday items – I looked online at two main supermarkets – Migros for Turkey, and Tesco for the UK. These are pretty much the same thing, big supermarkets. Of course there are cheaper options for all of the foods listed, I could have looked at Aldi & Lidl compared to Turkey’s Bim & Sok for lesser known brands and cheaper choices, but for ease I’m looking at the two main supermarkets. The fruit and veg prices were compared using Tesco prices vs Fethiye market prices – the cheapest possible place to find them.

The photo below shows my findings.
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As you can see, for most of the products, the price of these when converted into pounds is cheaper in Turkey, but not by very much, and certainly not 3.7 x cheaper. Things like bread, water and some fruits such as grapes and cherries are significantly cheaper here in Turkey, even with the difference in wages. For most things however, when considering the wage difference, are more expensive here in Turkey. For example, I did not find one single house product that was cheaper here, in comparison. Bleach, toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo and deodorant are all more expensive, along with everyday food items such as pasta and milk.

Meat prices here in Turkey are ridiculous – as you can see from the table all red and white meat is significantly more expensive here when you factor in the wage differences.

Perhaps most shockingly, some of the everyday items are actually significantly more expensive in Turkey without even looking at the wage comparison – cheese, eggs, bananas, potatoes and pet food are all more expensive here in Turkey than it would be if we were shopping in Tesco. There’s also the fact that supermarkets in the UK often have “buy one get one free” deals which I rarely see in shops here.

I see where other expats are coming from – their pounds go further here than at home in England for the most part, but for people living here off a local wage life is very hard and a daily struggle. I have no idea how large families cope.

Groceries aren’t the only things that are more expensive in Turkey. I looked online and compared typical internet broadband prices, in the UK the average price worked out at £230 a year. Here in Turkey we pay around 90tl per month, or 1080tl (£308) per year. Again, that shows that the price of the internet luxury here is more expensive than the UK, without even considering wage differences.

I tried to compare electricity prices, but there are such vast differences in the amount that people pay each month it would be impossible to do a comparison, our electric bills every month are between 30-50tl, while I know others who pay 200tl a month, and I have no idea of the breakdown in prices either here or in the UK.

Petrol prices here in Turkey are far more expensive than the UK before even considering the wage difference. Car prices here are also ridiculous, a car that you would pay £1000 for in the UK is likely to sell for the equivalent of £5000 or more here in Turkey – no wonder I see so many ancient, non road-worthy cars around, nobody can afford models less than 20 years old.
White goods, fridges, washing machines etc and other general household goods here in Turkey are around the same price as in the UK – again when you consider wages are a lot less here, this makes them a lot more expensive in comparison.

Another significant thing here to remember is there is no free healthcare. For local people working their bosses should pay for their health insurance which enables cheaper treatment, and for those not working, the amount they pay for health insurance is means tested, but it’s not free. There are also very little income benefits. In order to be entitled they have to have worked and paid insurance for a certain amount of days in a period of time, Berkay was entitled to it last winter and got 300tl per month, who could ever live off that?

There are things that are cheaper here in Turkey, for example, council tax, road tax, insurance etc, but when everything else is considered, this is so small and insignificant.

Rent prices are a different story. Rent prices are undoubtedly a lot cheaper here in Turkey. From searching online, I found the price of a one bedroom flat in England varied considerably – from £400 in Northern areas, to over £700 in London. In comparison, prices for a one bedroom basic apartment here in Fethiye vary from 300 – 650tl (£85 – £170) – I can’t deny that they are much cheaper here.

You may be thinking to yourself, ‘why dont they work harder to earn more’ – it doesn’t work like that. I can only comment for people working in Tourism, as that is all I have knowledge of, but generally people working in this sector will be stuck in it for life. It doesn’t mean they’re lazy or unqualified (Berkay has a diploma in hotel management!) it just means they have no choice. It’s not like they can take on a second job to bump up their wages either – working days here are long with people working up to 12-15 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no time for another job.

All of the above isn’t even considering the fact that a lot of people in tourism don’t have work during winter, and those that do are more than likely working for less than minimum wage as their employer knows they are desperate and will work for any money they offer – some take total advantage and do not even pay them at the end of the month, they simply refuse, and because they have been working without insurance and for less than minimum wage they have no option but to accept it.

Im not suggesting the whole of Turkey is poor, there are of course people with very good jobs earning tens of thousands lira a year and people who would be rich even by English standards. But that doesn’t change the fact that for Turkish people, living here in Turkey IS more expensive than living in the UK. I know there will be people who disagree, but if you do the research you might be surprised at what you find.

Let me know if you agree, or disagree, I’m open to all comments. I’m really curious at people’s opinions of the cost of living here in Turkey. Before I moved here I had no idea, I didn’t care, I was ignorant, but it’s something that really fascinates me now and I can’t help but get into discussions about it when I see people saying the infamous words ‘it’s cheaper to live over there’.

Of course there are many positive things about living here, perhaps the quality of life here outweighs the increased cost of living? Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading, If you got this far, well done, what an essay this turned out to be! 

The opening of Erasta Fethiye Alışveriş Merkezi – a new modern side to Fethiye?

Last Friday the new, 80 million lira, ‘shopping & lifestyle’ centre opened in Fethiye. I dragged Berkay along to the opening ceremony to be one of the first inside.
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I’d seen adverts all over the billboards and bus stops in Fethiye and Calis regarding the new shopping centre – Erasta Fethiye Alışveriş Merkezi – and when they announced the opening day and time, I knew I wanted to go and check it out. Berkay came home at 9am and we rushed to get ready and on the bus so that we could be there for the official opening at 10am…like I actually expected it to be on time!
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Most people had taken the sensible option and were waiting under the shade of the building or using the coffee shop seating area – but I wanted to get a good view, so chose to stand under the sun, my poor red shoulders regretted that decision later. There was a separate seated area sectioned off which was for the special guests, they even had an armed policeman guarding it! Once all the guests of honor had arrived, including the designers and the major of Fethiye, the barriers were removed and all us normal folk were allowed to move forward and fill in the remaining seats, I’m certain it was just because they wanted a photo showing a crowd of excited people!
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The speeches began, all in Turkish so I of course had little or no idea of what they were actually saying, but whatever it was seemed to go down well with the crowd as there were a lot of happy faces, loud cheers and clapping hands, especially when the major of Fethiye – Behçet Saatcı – stepped up for his speech. The people of Fethiye clearly adore him, Berkay included, as I’ve never seen him clap so enthusiastically before! After the speeches were over, a ribbon was cut and a plaque presented signifying that the new centre was now open. An Imam was then called up to the stage to say a prayer – I’m assuming as a kind of blessing of the new building. Everyone in the crowd joined in the prayer by cupping their hands, although I did not. I felt a bit guilty, but I’m not a religious person and wouldn’t want to fake anything. My guilt was short lived when the Turkish lady behind me answered her phone and was shouting loudly down it all whilst the prayer was still going on…

After all was said and done, they opened the doors and everyone piled through them. They had metal detectors which everyone, including the armed police, ignored even though they were constantly beeping!

The major went around to each shop, cutting more ribbons and shaking the hands of all the employees – it seems like he is really respected and loved, he seemed genuinely happy and excited about the whole thing which was really lovely to see.

Now onto the actual shopping centre – it’s situated near Fethiye otogar – the main bus station that all the big coaches go into. The building is very impressive looking, it’s really well designed, but it cost 80 MILLION Turkish Lira, which is an awful lot of money, so you’d expect it to look pretty amazing.
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The first things we saw are the huge letters spelling the name of the shopping centre ‘ Erasta’.  There is a huge wooden frame design covering a large garden and seating area with water fountains at the bottom. To the left of that is the main entrance from ground level, which had a huge Turkish flag draped above it- but I’m not sure if that is a permanent fixture – knowing the Turkish pride it may well be!
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There are around 50+ shops inside, although not all are fitted and open yet. There’s a good variety of shops,  some fashion ones such as LC Waikiki, a shoe shop – Deichmann, some swimwear shops, a good sized Migros, and a superdrug type health/beauty shop by the name of ‘Gratis’. Those are just a few of the shops currently open – there are many more.
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There are water fountains all around the centre, both inside and out, which really adds to the modern look. The whole place is air-conditioned too which is a big bonus for hot days! There are escalators to the 2nd floor, which as well as more shops hosts a small cinema, a children’s indoor play area and a food court, all of which were not fully open when we visited. From what I could see of the food court, there were a few kebab restaurants, a Burger King and an Italian, there was a good amount of seating and a large outdoor seating area attached too. Apparently escalators are not a very common thing in Turkey – I remember that Berkay had never been on one until he was at Dalaman on his way to England the first time, which I thought was really bizarre, but it turns out he’s not the only one… While trying to go upstairs we became stuck behind 2 Turkish women who were afraid to step on the escalator and had no idea how they worked.. it was amusing to say the least!
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We had a little walk around the shops and made the most of the freebies on offer – we got given free cakes in Migros which were delicious, and then queued up for free candyfloss outside afterwards, embracing our inner child!
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One of the things I was most excited about was the fact the centre has TWO coffee shops, with almost identical names. We went to Kahve Dunyasi (coffee world), and had a drink. I had the cappucino with icecream, it was yummy, but I’d have preferred a Starbucks! The menu was really expensive, think Starbucks prices, my coffee was 8.5tl. There were all kinds of hot and cold drinks on offer, a huge selection of chocolates and cakes too, but again, these were expensive at 9tl for a piece of cake.  Both of the coffee shops were really busy and I can imagine that they will be very popular even after the inital opening period.
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After our coffee, we went to pay and noticed there were a band and dancers performing inside, so I went out to get some photos. There were women and men on stilts dancing, people dressed as clowns juggling and people playing instruments – it was all quite impressive really and a large crowd gathered quickly!
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I know that when people first heard about this new shopping centre they were afraid that it would take away business from the smaller, family run shops in the surrounding area, personally I don’t think this is the case at all as the new shops are all part of large chains and are more expensive than the small, family run shops you find in Fethiye town. The centre is definitely aimed at certain types of people, in my opinion, and we probably won’t visit much because of how expensive most of these shops are. I don’t think it will be overly popular with tourists, as it’s not in the main resort/town area. However, I love that it adds a modern side to Fethiye and think it will be very popular with university students and expats as a place to meet up. It’s definitely worth a visit for the air-con alone and would be a great meeting point for friends to just walk around, shop and relax. It’s definitely something that Fethiye was lacking. I just hope that the new centre continues to be popular and busy and that Fethiye continues to grow and modernise, whilst still keeping it’s more humble roots in mind.