The real estate prices are low, the sun almost continuously shines and according to the Dutch who spend their winters there, the atmosphere is relaxed, open, friendly and hospitable. Southern Turkey is the ideal spot for anyone wanting to escape Dutch winters.
On Dutch wooden clogs John Slot approaches his visitors. Obtained especially for Turkey? “No, I just think they are very comfortable”, he smiles. The house where he and his wife Ingrid (62) live is covered with bougainvillea, inside the furnishings are classic Dutch. John and Ingrid bought this house seven years ago and never want to leave it again. Life in Turkey, they say, is good. Especially in the place where they bought their property: Alanya on the south coast, where they have everything that makes their life worth living: an international group of friends, hearty locals, practically always nice weather, and the easy Turkish atmosphere that reminds them of Holland fifty years ago. Also the practical circumstances are fine: an international airport (Antalya) two hours drive away, very good medical facilities, and in the shops everything is available. “A lot has changed in seven years”, says Ingrid. “When we first came here, chickens roamed free on the street and the main road was full of pot-holes. It’s less authentically Turkish now, but of course this modernisation has its pros too.”
John and Ingrid Slot
Over the past years Turkey has been slowly becoming what Spain once was: a country where more and more Dutch seniors buy a house (or rent one) to spend their winters, or even to live permanently, like Johan and Ingrid. Considering the circumstances in Turkey, that’s understandable: the real estate prices are low, life is much cheaper than in the Netherlands, and on the south and west coasts it’s spring or summer weather pretty much year-round. Besides, Turkey has modernized so much recently that there is no need to worry about a lack of good health care. The Dutch mainly live in the region of Antalya, Turkey’s most agreeable region weather- wise: even in December and January temperatures get up to 20 degrees.
Kees and Gré van Maanen (71 and 68 years old) are enjoying the sunshine on their balcony in a very quiet nice neighbourhood in Alanya, a city of about 90,000 inhabitants. Gré tells of the day she went shopping for the very first time in the grocery shop around the corner: “I only had a 50 lira note with me, and my groceries cost only 6. The grocer didn’t have enough change, so he said: ‘Well then, come back tomorrow to pay me.’ I was stunned: this man had never seen me before and trusted me completely! To me, that’s symbolic of how nice Turks are and how friendly the atmosphere here is.”
Kees and Gré previously spent their winters in Spain and used to drive over there in their own camper. But Spain got more expensive, so they sold their camper and started searching for an alternative. Through a Dutch couple they knew from Spain, they became aware of Turkey as a possibility. “We don’t have a high income. Here we pay 300 euros a month rent and because life is so much cheaper here than in Holland, this is very affordable for us.”
Kees en Gré van Maanen
The couple also makes some extra money baking cookies and traditional Dutch currant bread. Dozens a month come out of their oven, but they don’t get any richer from the profits: they donate the money earned to the Dutch church in Alanya. It holds a service every Sunday, and every two to three months a different minister from Holland is flown in to preach. “It’s a nice group of Dutch people here in Alanya”, says Kees. “All positive, easy going people. Part of the Dutch community comes to church, and there is also a Dutch club and there are a few bars and restaurants that are run by Dutch.” “We don’t go there too often though”, says Gré. “Waste of money, we think. If we go out to dinner, for example when we have visitors from Holland, we prefer to go to a real Turkish restaurant.”
So there is something for everybody in and around Alanya, as in most Turkish coastal towns: restaurants and cafes where English or even some Dutch is spoken, but also local restaurants. A nice beach close by, but also a short distance away beautiful nature where you can picnic and walk. Most of the cities have an old town with nice harbours, and in Alanya for example, a former fortress, but there are also modern shopping boulevards.
Kees en Marry van der Have
Around Alanya there are several smaller towns where also a considerable number of Dutch live. Kees (69) and Marry (73) van der Have, for example, live in Mahmutlar, which has grown so quickly it is almost joined up to Alanya now. Mahmutlar has a beautiful beach, broad and clean streets, and enough shops for daily needs. Kees and Marry bought an apartment on the tenth floor of a holiday complex that can hardly be described: six towers with luxury apartments, placed in a half circle shape, in the middle of which are swimming pools, tennis courts, a playground for children and other facilities. At the bottom of one of the residential towers is another swimming pool, a sauna, Turkish bath and a fitness centre. The complex is not totally finished yet. The shops are not yet opened, but that will be fixed before the holiday season really starts.
Kees and Marry’s balcony offers a view over hills, the sea and here and there some houses and a mosque. Kees: “The call for prayer from the mosque is part of the Turkish atmosphere, and we appreciate it. Turkish culture is very open, we never feel excluded here, even though we don’t speak the language.” Kees established the Dutch church in Alanya more than a year ago, and ever since Alanya offers them everything they need. “Officially we live with our daughter in Holland”, says Kees. “But we spend more and more time in Turkey. It is turning into our main residence now.” Kees is very active in the Dutch community, works a few hours per week for a local real estate agency and the couple knows the city and its surroundings very well by now.
Inci en Victor Houtkamp
A bit less active in the Dutch community are Inci (55) and Victor (57) Houtkamp. They live on one floor of a house in the hills of Alanya and have a view over the city. They have friends here of many different nationalities and also get along very well with their Turkish neighbours upstairs, who own the building. Inci (the Turkish name she adopted): “We live here in a quiet street, but if I go down the hill, I’m in the city centre in a minute.” Their days are filled with… well, with what? Rest, says Victor. Getting up relaxed listening to Turkish radio, a walk to the bakery for fresh bread, a walk through the harbour or on the beach, have lunch at home or outside in the sun, Inci writes on her own weblog regularly, together they try to learn some Turkish and now and then they go on a trip inside Turkey. Inci: “We are never bored for one second. Whenever we are in Holland, it strikes us how stressed everybody is there.”
The couple travelled a lot and wherever they were they wondered if they would be able to settle down there. Indonesia was not good because of the uncertain conditions for obtaining a residence permit, the Portuguese and Spanish coasts were dropped because they were too crowded and because they didn’t want to live in a complex or town with mainly Dutch people. Victor: “When we came to Turkey and especially to Alanya, we said: Yes, this is it! An international community, but also many locals and a surviving local culture. Beach, mountains, always nice weather, a not too complicated bureaucarcy. Ideal for us.”
Ideal. Perfect. Never wanting to leave again, and even preferring to be buried here rather than in the Netherlands. Ingrid Slot: “It’s not only the weather that shines here, it’s also the people.” Gré van Manen almost gets emotional when she tells about how much better the health of her husband is since they started spending a lot of time in Turkey: “Years ago he had some health problems and in Holland he used to be tired and sometimes a little down. But as soon as we came to Turkey, he felt better. Recently, we walked through town and he said suddenly: “Gré, I feel so good!” What a luxury, to find a place on earth that triggers that feeling.”
In the tourist areas of Turkey’s south and west coasts, health care is excellent. The state hospitals might be somewhat old fashioned and have waiting lists, but private clinics don’t offer less quality than Dutch hospitals. In private clinics, the costs can be higher then they would be in Holland, which might lead to problems with the compensation the Dutch health care insurance offers. So ask for details about coverage of costs: in many cases, an additional insurance levy solves the problem.
To own a house
Rule 1 in buying a house in Turkey: hire a specialized lawyer. Real estate agents usually work for both buyer and seller, so are not entirely focussed on your interest as a buyer. The lawyer can also find out whether the house is really owned by the selling party, can check if the house can be sold to foreigners (which is not always possible when it concerns a heritage site or a house in a protected area) and sees to it that you get the ownership documents. New houses and apartment blocks usually comply with the current safety demands, for example when it comes to being earthquake-proof, but with old houses it’s not always the case. In every case it is wise to have a structural inspection done. After purchasing the house, you pay (a little) tax on your property to the municipality – ask your lawyer how much your municipality charges.