Over 650,000 foreigners have residence permits to live or work in Turkey. In 2015, 41million came as tourists. In the last few years Turkey has also received 3.5million refugees, mainly from the terrible conflict in Syria.
Turkey is a powerful country of 80million people: the regional superpower. It has the 13th largest economy in the world and deployable armed forces of 495,000.
It is also a modern secular democracy with universal suffrage and extensive human rights legislation. For a long while, it was a progressive and liberal force in the region. However, at the moment (2018), Turkey may be in transition. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, has a different agenda from the secular ideals which the much-revered Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded Turkey upon. Issues such as religion, freedom of press and international politics have split the nation. Time will tell how this drama develops.
Turkey has been a trading nation for well over 2,000 years and has been (and still is!) a pivotal point on the world’s trading routes. It has close ties with the EU, including tariff-free trading arrangements, but the prospect of full membership seems a long way away at the moment.
During the early 21st century, Turkey gained popularity among European travellers, home buyers and investors due to its growing wealth and population, laid-back culture, abundance of history, pleasant climate and exceptional scenery. More recently, Turkey has introduced an incentive to attract foreign investment by offering citizenship to qualifying investors.
All these new arrivals face the challenge of adjusting to a new life in a country where the main language is Turkish – a language in which few people outside of Turkish-speaking nations are fluent – and where the culture, laws and business practices are a confusing but fascinating mix of the European, the Asian and the truly international. We hope our online guides and book can help.
A big thank you to the CIA World Factbook for providing – free of charge – a lot of the statistical information below. It was the latest available as of June 2018.
This is not a travel website, so we are not going to write about Turkey’s beautiful beaches, fabulous food, magnificent mountains or superb sunsets (although we always welcome the chance to indulge in appalling alliteration).
However, there are some things you need to know if you are going to be living in Turkey.
The Country: Turkey (Türkiye)
Adjective: Turkish (Türk)
The Nationality: Turkish (Türk)
The People: Turks (Türkler)
Languages: Turkish (84.54%), Kurmanji (Kurdish) (11.97%), Arabic (1.38%), other (2.11%). Furthermore, 17% of the population (including expats) speak English, 3% speak French and 4% speak German.
Article 42 of the Constitution of Turkey says:
“No language other than Turkish shall be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institutions of training or education. Foreign languages to be taught in institutions of training and education and the rules to be followed by schools conducting training and education in a foreign language shall be determined by law.”
Time Zone: UTC+2
Currency: Turkish lira
ISO International Country Code: TRY
Local Country Abbreviation: TL
Internet Domain: .tr
International Telephone Dialling Code: +90
Capital City: Ankara: population 4.6million.
But Istanbul is (by a long way) Turkey’s biggest city, with a population of well over 14million.
Area: 783,562km2 (37 out of 252 countries in the world).
Terrain: A huge variety! In Turkey you can find snow-topped mountains, rolling hills, barren rock, expanses of conifer forest, deserts and diverse coastlines.
Climate: As it’s so large, Turkey has a lot of variation in climate. See our guide to Climate in Turkey.
Fresh Water: Per capita consumption: 1,500m3 per year (US: 1,583, France: 512; Cyprus: 164; China: 410).
Most of this is from the Turkey CIA World Factbook page – we’ve linked to other pages where relevant.
UN Human Development Index: 71st of 188 countries (2016).
This index attempts to measure a country’s achievements in education, healthcare, wealth generation and other areas. It looks at the extent to which the people in a country enjoy a long and healthy life, a good education, and a decent standard of living.
UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 55th of 151 countries.
This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country. With perfect equality, this index and the HDI would show the same result.
The Turkish healthcare system went through a dramatic reform in 2003, significantly improving access to healthcare. However, Turkish healthcare still leaves a lot to be desired, especially in rural areas. Many people shun the state-run hospitals and opt to pay for private care.
All the below is from the Turkey CIA World Factbook page.
Turkey is ranked 145th out of the 163 countries included in the 2017 edition of the Vision of Humanity Peace Index. This is similar to Egypt and Colombia. Syria comes last.
Global Terrorism Index
Turkey is ranked 14th out of the 162 countries in the 2016 edition of the Global Terrorism Index. A high number is good, so Turkey’s placement is poor. Iraq is number one.
The Turkish legal system is based on the continental European civil law system. This, in turn, has its roots in the Roman law system of 2,000 years ago, but was later heavily modified by Napoleon and, via the Code Napoleon (1804), became the accepted model for the legal systems of many Western European countries. Read more in our Guide to the Turkish Legal System.
See our guide to Currency in Turkey.
Turkey has transitioned from an economy which was, 20 years ago, heavily controlled by the state – particularly in areas such as heavy industry, communications, transport and banking. Now even these sectors have been privatised and operate as part of a free market economy.
Very large parts of Turkey remain rural and agriculture still accounts for about 25% of total employment, although it makes up a much smaller percentage of Turkey’s national GDP.
Today, the biggest contributors to Turkey’s GDP are industry (in particular, the construction of vehicles and shipping), the service sector, and tourism.
Turkey’s GDP has, since the Syrian war, fallen a little but the economy remains the 13th largest in the world (at about US$2.13 trillion in 2017) and now seems to be growing again, probably at 3 or 4% per year.
On the coast, and particularly in the area around Bodrum, the economy has benefited from the desire of wealthy Turks living in its great cities to own and enjoy property by the sea. At the same time, the demand for such properties from international buyers has fallen sharply in the light of the perceived refugee crisis and the current political uncertainty in Turkey.
Despite these changes, the economy in Bodrum (where we wrote this book) remains one of the strongest in Turkey. It is seen as a liberal and democratic refuge for people from the cities: a place where they can enjoy a high quality of life.
Inflation has remained a problem for Turkey. In 2014, Turkey sharply increased interest rates in order to slow inflation. This had limited success: inflation stood at 8.9% in 2012 and 8% in 2016.
Most of the below is from the Turkey CIA World Factbook page – we’ve linked to other pages where relevant.
Unemployment: General: 11.8%; youth 23% (Trading Economics).