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Life goes on in Turkey but much has changed

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Alien landforms of Cappadocia
Alien landforms of Cappadocia
Amphitheatre at ancient Pergamon
Amphitheatre at ancient Pergamon
Ancient Library at Ephesus
Ancient Library at Ephesus
Ankara's Art Deco Sheraton Hotel
Ankara's Art Deco Sheraton Hotel
Any T-shirt you want
Any T-shirt you want
A pile of pumpkins in Goreme
A pile of pumpkins in Goreme
Balloons galore
Balloons galore
Bustle in the city
Bustle in the city
Congestion free Istanbul
Congestion free Istanbul
Dates and dried fruits galore
Dates and dried fruits galore
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Dried fruits at the market
Dried fruits at the market
Early morning ballooning near Goreme
Early morning ballooning near Goreme
Eerie terraces of Pamukkale
Eerie terraces of Pamukkale
Evening glow in Pamukkale
Evening glow in Pamukkale
Fairy chimneys of Cappadocia
Fairy chimneys of Cappadocia
Fairytale rocks in central Turkey
Fairytale rocks in central Turkey
Fishing on Istanbul's Galata Bridge
Fishing on Istanbul's Galata Bridge
Herbs and spices in Istanbul
Herbs and spices in Istanbul
Housing in Ankara
Housing in Ankara
Istanbul's Blue Mosque
Istanbul's Blue Mosque
Local pottery
Local pottery
Oranges and pomegranates
Oranges and pomegranates
Pergamon ruins
Pergamon ruins
Spectacular scenes in the skies over Goreme
Spectacular scenes in the skies over Goreme
Strange rock formations in central Turkey
Strange rock formations in central Turkey
The wondrous Hagia Sophia guarded by police
The wondrous Hagia Sophia guarded by police
Towers in the Istanbul suburb of Maslak
Towers in the Istanbul suburb of Maslak
Vanishing point at Ephesus
Vanishing point at Ephesus

The first time I left Europe was as a 15-year-old back in the mid-1990s when I visited the Mediterranean city of Antalya on Turkey’s southern coast. During the 20 or so years since that first visit to Asia the tourist industry in Turkey has boomed, as the lure of sunshine, beaches, culture, history and modern resorts have tempted holidaymakers. In 1995 Turkey received seven million foreign visitors but by 2014 this figure had reached 41 million. Two years on, however, and numbers have dropped dramatically to 25 million in 2016. These tourist figures give an indication of how much the country has changed over recent years.

Fairytale rocks in central TurkeyLooking at press coverage over the past 24 months one could be forgiven for thinking that the cities of Turkey are dangerous warzones on a par with the likes of Damascus, Baghdad or Kabul. Istanbul (the most populated city in Europe) was the victim of several high-profile terrorist attacks in 2016 and on New Year’s Day this year. The capital, Ankara, has witnessed atrocities too, and in January there was an attack in Turkey’s third city, Izmir. Such events have been caused not only by ISIS and Turkey’s involvement in the Syria conflict, but also by Kurdish militants seeking an independent state in the east. As well as terrorism, there has also been an obvious increase in political instability in the country. Last year there was a failed coup attempt against the Erdogan government which prompted some 40,000 arrests and widespread uncertainty. There has also been a clampdown on news and media with journalists being detained and censorship of websites. Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since April this year.

So, how have the upheavals affected the day-to-day lives of those resident in the country? Istanbul is home to thousands of expatriates from all sectors of the global workforce and Ankara houses hundreds of foreign embassies and all their diplomats and other staff. Izmir, too, is an important port with many foreign assignees. I recently visited the four largest cities of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Bursa and my overall impression was one of normality. The supermarkets and shopping malls are open and thronging with shoppers, the metro stations and buses are full of commuters and the parks are green and vibrant with family picnickers and teenagers playing football.Herbs and spices in Istanbul

It’s fair to say there seems to have been no major shift in daily activities of citizens; not on the surface anyhow. Recent reports from some of ECA’s clients, however, have indicated that there are subtler changes taking place. Some have noted that several Western-style establishments have closed down and that there have been restrictions on some social activities due to the security threat. As well as the increase in censorship, expats have mentioned greater restrictions on alcohol and even an increasing threat for female expats. The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) also states that there are a larger than usual number of police checkpoints on main roads and an increase in ID checks on members of the public.

The FCO doesn't, however, advise against travel to Turkey except for areas in the south-east close to the Syrian and Iraqi borders – well away from where most expats are located. ECA’s own advice to companies with expats in Turkey also indicates that the situation is certainly not as critical as it is in other Middle-Eastern countries such as Iraq or Syria. Having also addressed the question of whether companies should increase location allowances for Turkey in an earlier blog post, results from ECA’s spot-survey a few months ago show that most companies have not changed their location allowances for their staff in Turkey but two-thirds have provided extra security training and advice.

Alien landforms of CappadociaThere is a state of high alert across much of Europe with prominent 2017 attacks occurring in Sweden, Russia, France and the UK. Many other parts of the world have suffered too, showing that the threat of terrorism is not unique to Turkey. Since January, there have been no major incidents in Turkey, but in March it was included on the list of countries from which passengers flying to the UK and USA could no longer carry large electronic items, such as laptops, tablets or cameras, in hand luggage.

I mentioned at the beginning of the post that Turkey received 41 million tourists in 2014 (ranking it sixth in the world, although it’s now outside the top 10) and during my data collection trip I took time out to appreciate some of the attractions which draw visitors. The ancient ruins of Ephesus, the architectural gems of Istanbul and the fairy-tale landscapes of Cappadocia are just some of the marvels on offer (see slideshow above). And I’ll end with an interesting ‘fact of the day’: Did you know that Turkish Airlines flies to more countries (117) than any other? It leaves British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa all trailing in joint-second place with a mere 78 country destinations!

  FIND OUT MORE

Webinar recording: Location allowances in a turbulent world

This on-demand webinar outlines ECA's Location Ratings system and uses Turkey as a case study to illustrate the impact of socio-political events on location allowances and how to manage common policy issues.

Location Allowance Calculator

ECA's Location Ratings are delivered through ECA's Location Allowance Calculator which offers a transparent and detailed system for calculating location allowances for expatriates relocating to a new country. The system recognises that where an employee is coming from as well as going to can affect the level of adaptation required. Users can select region-to-city allowances or city-to-city allowances, so that depending on a company's policy the system reflects the level of detail required.

To find out more about how ECA can help you determine and manage your expatriates’ location allowances, please get in touch!

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