If you speak, however briefly, to a foreigner living in Turkey they are likely to tell you a horror story about dealing with some aspect of the Turkish administration. Whether they’ve had trouble paying a parking fine or converting their driving licence; or whether they have been kept waiting in a hospital or been given the run-around when trying to pay their local property taxes, the stories tend to be pretty much the same: the administration is slow, overly bureaucratic and doesn’t speak their language.
Whilst there is still an element of truth in some of these comments, the administration is often unfairly criticised. Many of these people will have been living in Turkey for many years and may not have realised just how much things have changed. Paying a parking fine – which used to involve going to three different offices and having to pay not in cash, by credit card or by cheque but by buying some special stamps – is now done in a couple of clicks on the internet via your e-government account.
Having said that, the administrative system in Turkey is different and therefore, inevitably, causes some confusion for people who are expecting things to operate pretty much as they did ‘back home’. The position is made worse if the person concerned does not speak Turkish.
Experience is key
It is worthwhile persevering and getting to understand how the various parts of the Turkish administrative system work. They are often a little – or a lot – bureaucratic, but they work. You will find lots of tips on this in the various guides on this website. You will, however, have to accept that acquiring all this knowledge will take time and – until you have got it – you will experience some frustrations.
One of the areas where you should be much less frustrated than you would have been even four or five years ago is with regard to language. Almost every administrative office in Turkey now, because of the passage of time and the greater number of English speakers leaving Turkey’s schools, will employ at least one person who is at least semi-proficient in English. This is especially true in the big cities and in popular coastal areas. Of course, this won’t help you if you come from Russia or China and don’t speak English – but it’s a very good start. Sadly, there is no guarantee that the person will be on duty when you turn up to deal with your problem; but in fact, in many of the larger administrative offices and especially in the towns and cities, you will find quite a number of staff who speak English to at least some level and some who speak other languages such as Spanish, French, German, Mandarin and Russian. These people are encouraged to wear a name-badge with a little flag or flags on it denoting the languages that they speak but many don’t and so just because you don’t see a badge don’t assume that there is no one there who can help you.