Life in Altinkum
07/05/2011 05:16 PM

Altinkum Daily Life

You may find this hard to believe, but my first time out of the UK (unless you count a day trip to Calais) and my first time on a plane was at the age of 50. I had just married my second wife Carol, and it was for our honeymoon to Marmaris in 2006. My second time abroad was when we came to Altinkum in March 2008 on a viewing trip and bought an apartment, and we returned two months later to start a new life together here. That didn’t take me too long to tell but obviously there is a lot more involved to it all than that but what I rather want to write about is how we have found life since we have lived here.

Having had only two weeks experience of being in a foreign country, let alone living in one, I was basically a blank canvas. I had no preconceived ideas and didn’t really know what to expect, and I think that actually helped me to adapt in the way that I have.

Our original plan was to live in Marmaris, because Carol had been there many times before I knew her and it was her favourite place. But it didn’t take long for us to discover that we simply couldn’t afford anything there and so I looked around on the internet for alternatives. Altinkum stood out partly because of the photos of the lovely beaches, but also because there is already a fairly large British contingent living here.

During our week long viewing trip the thing that struck us the most was the friendliness both of the locals and of the expats. One of the little concerns we had prior to coming out was that the British would have their own enclave, and we definitely didn’t want that. Of course it would be good to make new friends that had done the same as we were doing, but we wanted to live in Turkey amongst Turkish people as well.

Three years on we are still in the same two bedroom ground floor apartment, it’s located just outside the town centre of Didim, about 3km (2 miles) from the seafront, which is a 30 minute walk or a 10 minute bus ride. However, the beach does not dominate our lives, it’s there and we can go there whenever we like, but most of the permanent Turkish and UK residents live more towards the town than the beach. Like any seaside town, during the winter many of the businesses that rely on tourism close down, and on a wet January day having the supermarkets etc nearby is more of a priority!
Didim itself stays fully open all year round; it is only in the areas near the beach that are affected.

During the summer evenings we will either sit outside in our garden or more often outside our local bar where we can meet friends and people watch. Our local is very much that, the customers are both British and Turkish and it is a really good mix.

In our apartment block there is one other British couple, but they don’t live there it is a holiday home for them. The rest of our immediate neighbours and those in the adjacent buildings are all Turkish.

Soon after we moved in we began to notice little things, like people we didn’t know saying hello and smiling to us in the street, complete strangers knocking on our door with plates of local food given as a welcome, and invites into their home for tea. It was much unexpected and rather touching.

During the summer the bins are emptied three times a day, and the bin men still hang on to the back of the trucks as they do their rounds. It is possible to buy most things that you might need in a hurry at any time of day or night, and when out for a drink there is no waiting at the bar, drinks are brought to you and payment is made when you leave.
If we go out to a restaurant, many of them will take us home afterwards, and if we book in advance they will collect us too.

It is all about service, and the paying customer is treated with respect. But it isn’t just customers who are respected, the elderly are too and children are doted over. Parks still have swings and slides and children can play outside safely because there is a collective responsibility for them.

I remember on one of the first occasions I used the dolmus (a local minibus) a young lad got up and gave me his seat. I wasn’t sure whether to feel grateful or insulted because he thought I needed it but it was a nice gesture that has been repeated often since.

Holidaymakers are mainly families and older people, which means that it is lively during the summer but not rowdy. For example from last summer bars and nightclubs were forbidden to play loud music after midnight in consideration of people who weren’t on holiday and wanted to get some sleep!

There are no groups of youths hanging round on street corners, and street crime is virtually non-existent.

Although Turkey is a Muslim country it is not something that is noticeable in everyday life. People’s individual beliefs are respected and apart from a few minute’s calling to the mosques every morning and evening that’s about it really.

The pace of life is very much slower, and Turkish people have little regard for time. It’s really a case of you arrive when you get there and leave when you go, if you understand what I mean. This can be a little frustrating if you are waiting for someone to come and fix your TV, but if they are late and you complain they will look at you with genuine mystification as though” I am here now so what’s your problem?”

This is part of what I meant when I said earlier that I have adapted. This is Turkey, I don’t want to change it, and I have to change in order to enjoy it. It’s no use complaining that “we don’t do it like that back home” because this is the Turkish peoples’ home and this is the way they do it.

A few weeks ago I had to take a bus to Bodrum, and it was an early start such that I was waiting for the bus to arrive just as dawn was breaking. I have never before heard a dawn chorus, but as if on cue as the sun came up cocks started crowing, dogs barking and birds singing. I have learnt to appreciate things like that.

Things that were important in our previous lives are not important any more. Like many other people we had every gadget going and our home was filled with things we rarely used, and clothes we rarely wore. Life in the UK is centred on being indoors, whereas here it is centred on being outside.
Although we naturally have the home comforts we want, they are only a fraction of what we wanted before. Who wants to be sitting indoors when the sun is shining, which it does for around 300 days a year?

Every Saturday there is a huge market, it is actually the largest outdoor covered market in Turkey. It starts early and finishes late (no set times of course), it is mainly food and clothes and is where most do their weekly shop. Fruit and vegetables are organic and are grown locally and you would not believe the difference in taste, or how cheap it generally is.

Because Muslims don’t eat pork, it isn’t easy to get but not impossible, just expensive. However, there are always people going backwards and forwards to the UK and we just ask different people to bring back with them small amounts of anything we can’t get here that we really want. Honestly speaking we haven’t found anything that we can’t do without, and have also found substitutes for many things.

There are no branches of western shops or banks here, it is all Turkish, but if you feel the need for some serious retail therapy the cities of Izmir and Aydin are only an hour or so’s drive away.
Things like electrical goods, furniture, curtains are all available locally; they just aren’t brands you are familiar with.

But electrical goods such as fridges or TV’s all come with a 3 year guarantee and service is provided by the manufacturer’s local service agent, not by the shop it was bought from.

I apologise that this has been rather disorganised, but I have written just as I have thought of things, and they haven’t always come out in the right order! All I wanted to do was give a taste of life here, but there is so much more to tell.

I am often asked if I have any regrets about moving from the UK and it is a very easy question to answer – no, none at all. If for any reason we did have to go back we could simply sell our home here and we would be no worse off than when we came here, but I can’t see that happening.

Carol had to go back for one week two years ago, I haven’t been back at all. This is our time now, and our doors are open for friends and family who want to come and visit. We have the sea, sun and lifestyle that they don’t, why would we want to go back there?

Rob Thomas

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