12 Mayıs 2020 Salı

IZMIR GUIDE FOR EXPATS



The view from the path right under Balcova Teleferik (cable car)

Hello everyone!
Welcome to Izmir if you've just arrived or Merhaba (means hello in Turkish), if you've been in Izmir for a while! :)

When you move to a new country or a city, you may encounter some difficulties. That's where a sincere local can be the biggest help for you. I was born and grew up in Izmir. My profession and lifestyle allowed me to be surrounded by expats throughout my life. So, I feel all of you guys :)
Now, let's get started with some topics that may help you for your time in Izmir;

CLIMATE OF IZMIR

İzmir has a Mediterranean climate, which is characterized by long, hot, and not rainy but humid summers, and mild to cool, rainy winters. The total precipitation for İzmir averages 695.4 mm (27.38 in) per year.

Autumn/Fall

As summer leaves Izmir late, fall season remains hot, up to 27C peaks in some days.

Winter

Izmir is known with its hot weather but many people from other cities of Turkey have usually found Izmir's winter cold, due to the high humidity, the real feel of each day in winter in Izmir will make you feel cold. Temperatures can go down to -5C in some winter days.

Spring

Spring is the best season of Izmir, if you're located in the center. You can really enjoy the spring
season with the pleasant, warm, sunny, positive days and watching the flowers bloom around.

Summer

If you have to stay in the city center throughout the summer, then welcome to the hell. I hope you enjoy hot, humid weather and keen on putting high spf sunscreen lotion each day. Because you'll experience up to 42C scorching hot days last for weeks of time here. If you have the ability to travel to Cesme, Urkmez, Ozdere, Mordogan, Karaburun or even to Kusadasi of Aydin, you can enjoy sunbathing, swimming or water sports in those very hot days. The heatwave of summer diminishes tad a little bit after 15th of August with some added breeze but the temperatures don't go dramatically down yet.

DISTRICTS OF IZMIR


  • Aliağa (50km from the center. It has a big port, mainly for oil and bulk)
  • Balçova (A theraphy forest for nature lovers. 2 hotels within the nature and features thermal spring water within. Shopping malls district. It has the biggest pool&aquapark of Izmir)
  • Bayındır (Nothing major to mention)
  • Bayraklı (Slum part of Karsiyaka recently turned into a business district)
  • Bergama (Including the historical Pergamon site, the northmost of Izmir is 118km far from the center)
  • Beydağ (Nothing major to mention)
  • Bornova (Populous district is home to the Ege university and for many students)
  • Buca (Populous district is home to the 9 Eylul university and for many students, expect to deal with traffic jam there daily)
  • Çeşme (A coastal town and the west most part of Turkey, is 85km from the center and gets overpopulated, overpriced every summer due to its popularity among people love beaches and nightlife) 
  • Çiğli (The Izmir Bird Paradise which has recorded 205 species of birds is located here. Also the Ataturk organized industrial zone has 485 factories, employing 30000 workers)
  • Dikili (A small coastal town of Izmir located 120km from the center)
  • Foça (A bit popular windy coastal town among locals that has many seafood restaurants)
  • Gaziemir (Izmir's international airport, Aegean Free Zone and Space Camp Turkey, plus Optimum mall (best place for outlet stores) are located in this district)
  • Güzelbahçe (You get to the beaches after you pass this coastal district which is still kind of in the center
  • Karabağlar (Its one of the industrial zones of central Izmir and a populated district)
  • Karaburun (It's situated close to the northern tip of the peninsula. It has beautiful bays and pebble or sand beaches. 100km from the center)
  • Karşıyaka (It is and it means "the opposite side" of Izmir's center, Konak area. It has a different, more lively vibe than other districts of Izmir. Many restaurants, cafes, bars, also running and cycling paths can be seen there)
  • Kemalpaşa (There're 306 industrial enterprises based in this east most district of Izmir but also you can find some historical sites like Karabel relief and a prehistoric mound (Ulucak hoyugu) there)
  • Kınık (Nothing major to mention)
  • Kiraz (Nothing major to mention)
  • Konak (The center and the largest part of Izmir.  Administrative and economic core of the city. The historic elevator (Tarihi asansor) is located within the former Jewish neighborhood. Izmir's international fair is located there too. Alsancak is a nice, lively part of Izmir for nightlife, shopping and drinking on the grass while enjoying the view of the Izmir bay on its shore)
  • Menderes (Nothing major to mention)
  • Menemen (Its earthenware pottery products are famous across Turkey since centuries. It is also the name of an egg and tomato dish popular in Turkey )
  • Narlıdere (It used to be a district hosting migrants from Eastern Turkey, nowadays it has upscale apartment complexes)
  • Ödemiş (113km southeast of Izmir, home for its small town Birgi which is on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list, Odemis is famous for its potatoes, which has the best quality in Turkey. Also with its 2050mt altitude, the peak of Izmir, Bozdag mountain where you can see snow throughout the winter is within Odemis district)  
  • Seferihisar (Another coastal district which is famous for its tangerines and satsumas. Metropolitan municipality mayor used to be the mayor of this district that was also known as "Citta Slow". The sea water temperature is lower than other areas even in summer, fyi. It has an ancient town called Teos and it's 45km from the center)
  • Selçuk (Selçuk is one of the most visited tourist destinations within Turkey, known for its closeness to the ancient city of EphesusHouse of the Virgin Mary and Seljuk works of art. The 6th century Basilica of St. John the Apostle, which, some claim, is built on the site of the Apostle's tomb, is also inside the town. Also a cute medieval tourist town named Sirince (means cute) is located 8km east of this district)
  • Tire (An agriculture district, famous with its meatballs "Tire kofte")
  • Torbalı (An ancient Ionian city, Metropolis, is found in the district. It was famous for its wines and religious sites, and had three sanctuaries in marble dedicated to the Roman Emperor Augustus and his foster child Germanicus, in an ancient theatre which dominates the valley)
  • Urla (Kind of central coastal district of Izmir which is much calmer than popular district Cesme, making it the best place for retired people or individuals seeking to spend some down time by the sea)

POPULATION OF IZMIR

4.367.251 is the current official number for its population, but as it has been the most popular city for Turkish to move to, its population has been increasing faster than ever. Especially people from Istanbul who have been bored of very fast paced, consuming, senseless, hard life there flee to Izmir year by year.

WORDS SPECIFIC FOR THE PEOPLE IN IZMIR

Izmirli (A person from Izmir)


Boyoz (Boyoz is a Turkish pastry of Sephardi Jewish origin, associated with İzmirTurkey, which is practically the only city where it is prepared for commercial purposes and follows the original recipe. The most widely preferred boyoz is plain, without addition of meat or cheese or spinach stuffings, and as cooked by a handful of master boyoz bakers in İzmir. Boyoz paste is a mixture of flour, sunflower oil and a small addition of tahiniThe usual accompaniments for boyoz are dark tea and hard-boiled eggs generously sprinkled with black pepper. Boyoz is generally consumed outdoors, purchased from street vendors)


Gevrek (Simit (Turkish: simit, Arabic: سميط, Persian: سیمیت‎,, Bulgarian: симит /simit/), gevrek (Turkish: gevrek, Bulgarian: геврек, Macedonian: ѓеврек, Serbian: ђеврек), bokegh (Armenian: բոկեղ), or koulouri (Greek: κουλούρι) is a circular bread, typically encrusted with sesame seeds or, less commonly, poppy, flax or sunflower seeds, found across the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, and the Middle East. Simit's size, crunch, chewiness, and other characteristics vary slightly by region. It is widely known as Turkish bagel in United States.

In İzmir, simit is known as gevrek ("crisp"), although it is very similar to the Istanbul variety. Simit in Ankara are smaller and crisper than those of other cities. Simit in Istanbul are made with molasses)
Simit is generally served plain, or for breakfast with tea, fruit preserves, or cheese or ayran. Drinking tea with simit is traditional. Simit ("Bokegh" in Armenian) is a traditional Christmas bread in Armenia.
Simit are sold by street vendors in Turkey, who either have a simit trolley or carry the simit in a tray on their head)
Kumru (Kumru means Eurasian collared dove bird in entire Turkey while it gets another meaning in Izmir, which is a type of a sandwich, its name is derived from its shape. Actually 2 different types of sandwiches are sold under the same name. One type of kumru is a cold sandwich you can get from a street vendor which has a salty, tasty cheese, slices of tomato, a hot green pepper offered in case you don't mind hiccups and a dash of salt. The other type of kumru is a hot sandwich contains salami, sausage, garlic sausage (sucuk in Turkish), pickeled cucumbers, ketchup and mayonnaise, that is mostly sold in Cesme district)
Çiğdem - Pronunciation "Chiy-them" (It's simply sunflower seeds and while the rest of the country calls these as Ay Cekirdegi (Moon seeds), people of Izmir call these as Çiğdem :) It's popular to consume it at the shore and nobody from outside of Turkey can beat cracking and eating sunflower seeds faster than Turks, a weird, yet a funny fact :) 
Dari (Again, the rest of the country says misir to corn, Izmirians call it dari)
Domat (People from Izmir tend to shorten words like domates (tomato in Turkish), making this word similar to actually Izmirians' closest neighbors and relatives of some Greeks' domata)
Verb + the future tense suffix "ecek/acak" + m (personal pronoun) = Gelecegim means I'm going to come or I'll come in Turkish, but you hear "Gelcem" in Izmir instead. Mediterranean people always find an easier way to do things, don't they? :) 

FOOD/CUISINE IN IZMIR

Izmir has a diverse and rich cuisine. As a coastal city by the Aegean sea, Mediterranean cuisine is dominant in its culture and vegetables take place in each meal. You may come across some vegetables that you've never known they existed before in local farm markets. 


You see fish and seafood restaurants throughout the bay, both in Konak-Alsancak side and in Karsiyaka (the opposite side of the bay) side. Though having fish and raki (the 40% alcoholic national drink of Turkey) duo in a restaurant means that you're going to spend a fortune there, be prepared. 


As millions of eastern Turks have migrated to Izmir in the last decades and they all love red meat, you'll find red meat dishes in every restaurant you'll visit. Kebap, doner, kofte are the most popular processed red meat dishes here but in mid-range/upscale restaurants, you can get steak (biftek) or something else too.


For vegans, there're few vegan cafes in Izmir too but not too many.

RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS/CAFES IN IZMIR

1) Gozlemecim (Gozleme is a traditional savory Turkish flatbread and pastry dish. The dough is usually unleavened, and made only with flour, salt and water, but gözleme can be made from yeast dough as well. This particular tiny cafe located in the center of Izmir serves 700 varieties of gozleme dish at low cost)


2) Ristorante Pizzeria Venedik (If you like to treat your partner on a special occasion or just want to have pizza in a nice setting, this is your place to go in Izmir. Likely 9 out of 10 pizza places in Izmir will disappoint you, if you love freshly baked pizza and if you're not a fan of pizza chain restaurants' options. So, make sure to note this place down for the future. They've a branch in Goztepe and serve to your door through yemeksepeti website)


3) Sut Cicegi (If you like milky desserts, this is the best place you can find in Izmir. It's a tiny shop where you can buy or eat traditional Kazandibi dessert at a low cost. There're 4 or 5 branches of this brand in Izmir. My favorite is in Goztepe. Give it a try sometime!)



Rumeli Pastanesi, best ice-cream shop in Izmir

4) Rumeli Pastanesi (The best ice cream shop in entire Izmir. Unfortunately it is located in Cesme, 80km from the center but if you go to the beach in Cesme, make sure to try its huge, tasty, real ice cream before you leave there) 

5) Aquarium Mezes & Grill (Another upscale restaurant for special occasions. It's located in Swissotel and it held the certificate of excellence between 2017 and 2019 years)


6) Careme Restaurant (Another upscale restaurant that belongs to Wyndham Grand Ozdilek Hotel in Inciralti. You're going to get the best view of the city while enjoying tasty food there)


7) Nappo (in Mavibahce Mall of Mavisehir) As some expats shared their positive comments about this restaurant, I added this one on the list as the most recommended Pizza place in Izmir.

COST OF LIVING IN IZMIR

It's so variable to state that cost of living in Izmir is low or high. It depends on which part of the city you live, whether you're alone or a family of 3 or 4, where you're coming from and which city you're comparing Izmir with.

For Americans, Brits, Germans, Izmir will be a VERY affordable city to live in. Even if you're going to make your money in the local currency (TL = Turkish Lira), the food, the rental fee, transportation and everything else will feel at a very low cost for you. Let's give an example;

Assuming that you're from Boise, ID, United States, where the cost of living is the lowest in the entire country. While you need 3833$ to live in Boise, you'll need only 1426$ to maintain the same standard of life in Izmir. This calculation uses our Cost of Living Plus Rent Index to compare cost of living. This assumes net earnings (after income tax).  


So, what's expensive here? Like everywhere else in Turkey, buying a car/motorbike, gasoline and any alcoholic beverage is expensive due to very high tax rate. Depending on its model and its condition, you can get 4 to 7 American car in United States for the same amount of cost you pay here. So, if you need a car in Izmir, either rent a car or get a clunker to dump it when you leave here, like some expats do.


LANGUAGE LEARNING IN IZMIR


There're many language courses in Izmir for expats to try learning Turkish. The most well known institution is Tomer in Alsancak but I had found out that even Tomer was offering a very extensive language course for Turkish learners to keep their education period as long as possible, so they could make a fortune over expats. Actually it's not only a waste of your money, but also wasting your much valuable time and increasing the possibility of getting disappointed by having to deal with countless (and unnecessary) details of Turkish language. When I had read their student's book, I was shocked by seeing a thorough content of Turkish grammar which would be a matter of only a university student studying Turkish language and literature department! When my first students gave up on working with Tomer and taking private classes from me, they learned not only the language but also became fluent in Turkish in less than a year time.


RUNNING GROUPS IN IZMIR


Despite its perfect climate, flat roads in the center and 300 sunny days a year, Izmir's people are so laidback when it comes to being active, particularly running. Though, every decade some minor changes happen in the culture, including some people try running by joining a group, like below; 


Adim Adim (Adım Adım is a volunteer-based social initiative in Turkey that promotes charitable giving through sponsorship for sports like running, cycling, swimming and trekking. Formed in 2007, Adım Adım is Turkey's first charity running group and as of 2011 it was the largest amateur running group in the country)


Ksk One Team (It's another running group of Izmir that organizes its runs majorly in Karsiyaka district) 


CULTURE IN IZMIR


Izmir's people have a pride over the rest of the country, you'll notice it after you blend in the society here. They call Izmir, as "pearl of Aegean" and see themselves as superior to other Turks as they value to live a secular, liberal life. Though, due to the high rate of migration from other cities like Istanbul and Eastern Turkey, Izmir has been becoming like Istanbul year by year. Still, not the same. Lucky you :)


40-50 years ago, you would see a similar city to Izmir's twin city Thessaloniki of Greece, where you could swim in the heart of the city, there were more traditions and customs seen, revealing trust and sincerity among its people. Don't get me wrong, there're still definitely nice and friendly people here too, just getting low in number over time.


As Izmir's people like to enjoy their time, they like to go out, dance, party, drink, socialize, join concerts of all types, visit art galleries etc throughout the year. When it's summer, where the temperatures reach up to 40C, the city center becomes silent. Because everyone goes to beaches, especially on Sundays.


AASSM (Ahmet Adnan Saygun Sanat Merkezi)


The Ahmed Adnan Saygun Arts Center is situated in the Konak district of İzmir, Turkey. It is named after the composer Ahmet Adnan Saygun and was opened to public at December 27, 2008, by Yunus Emre Oratorio's concert. The Center hosts a variety of concerts and festivals. You'll love this place, if you're into concerts.


RELIGION IN IZMIR


As a multi cultural place and the 3rd highest populated city of Turkey, there're people with every kind of belief in Izmir. There used to be more moderately conservative people 20 years ago but regardless of the party, due to the corruption in politics and endless mis-usage of religion in politics, young people of Izmir got sick of this non-sense situation and thousands of people either became agnostic or became atheist as a response to this corruption. On the other hand, the migrants of Istanbul and Eastern Turkey  replaced those people in Izmir who used to be believers and now you still have a sense of each side (believer and non-believer) on the street. Believers should be splitted into two main groups;

1) Sincere, moderately conservative people (You do not know or hear any act towards worshipping in an exaggerated way with them)
2) Fanatic but shallow believers (They just follow the herd, do whatever is told them, do not question any single thing in their lives, don't have a sense of their own minds, may worship any human in power)

Don't worry. Izmir is a safe city in many aspects. Its safety index is 72 according to the 242 contributors on numbeo. 


FUAR IZMIR / The Fair of Izmir (Actually there used to be an international fair in Alsancak, Izmir which was popular 20 years ago but as it was outdated and causing huge traffic jam when the fair would open each year, authorities built another place for the fair. This new and huge one hosts fairs and congresses for each topic in different times of the year)


SWIMMING POOL IN IZMIR

There are a few swimming pools in Izmir but I'll tell you about the most popular and the best one. Balcova Aquacity. Its name used to be Balcova Thermal Pool, then they built an aquapark in it and attracted more crowd and noise for summer time. Why is this one the best? Because it has 2 thermal pools at 2 different temperatures to sit in and relax, 1 olympic distance (50mt long) pool to swim in summer season, 1 half olympic indoor pool to do swimming training in winter, a thermal therapy facility for therapeutic use and an aquapark section for the kids/youngsters in summer. Though, they put a new rule in the last years that allow male customers to enter this place only if they're accompanied by a female, which is so not Turkish (but Arabic), but it shouldn't be your case as foreigners must be exempt from this rule from medieval era. I just wanted to let you know about its administration's view contrasting the pearl of Aegean, Izmir. 


GYMS IN IZMIR


The biggest gym is Sports International in Mavisehir. I had briefly worked for the 2nd biggest gym of Izmir 10 years ago and felt the commercial perspective. Either you are given a card that a training plan is written by your "assigned" coach or another member (among dozens in the queue) approaches you saying what you should do for your goal while actually and literally hitting on you to get laid :) 

So, I started my own personal athletic coaching business to fulfill the expectations of my each client. Izmir has a perfect nature both within and outside the center of the city. You wouldn't want to miss doing sports while enjoying its nature.

LIFE OF AN EXPAT IN IZMIR


You are going to get treated like a celebrity here, period. Get ready for that. Like in all Asian countries, Western people get extra attention. Especially if;

1) You're a female
2) You're blond
3) You're fit (means not obese like the majority here) 
4) You know a few Turkish words (this increases the cuteness rate)

Of course, it depends on the district and the neighborhood you move into, but you're likely going to feel so.
I would recommend you to learn Turkish "as soon as possible" to understand what is said to you and in order to communicate with people when necessary. I know a good language tutor :)
Before investing on buying any motorized vehicle, I suggest you to walk around a lot. Take different streets in each walk and learn more about the neighborhood.
If you like to commute faster, you may consider buying a bicycle. I would recommend a 29er (mountain bike), a folding bike or a cyclocross bike. Even though, Izmir is not a bicycle friendly city like Seoul or Berlin, you can get around by taking bike paths and wearing hi-viz clothing in all your rides.

STREET ANIMALS IN IZMIR


Kitties nearby Balcova dam always appreciate the foods you bring along for them


As soon as you get to Izmir, you notice stray animals everywhere. Cats and dogs are the majority among other species on the streets here. Therefore people in Izmir don't bother owning a pet to accompany them in their house. If they like animals, they feed them on the streets. Since there're many cats everywhere, you can't easily see a rat wandering around on the street :)

HIKING TRAILS IN IZMIR


Behzattepe peak of Balcova district, the best view of Izmir

Balcova (Balcova is the best district to meet the nature without having to spend long time for traveling. It has a cable car (its name is Teleferik) system that takes you to the top of its mountain. On the way to the top, you get a nice view of Izmir and once you reach the top, you can have a picnic time there. Better than this option, you can get to the Balcova Thermal Hotel (it is located at the last bus stop of Balcova) and walk towards the back side of the hotel. You'll see 2 paths. If you take the nice, new asphalt on the left/straight, it'll take you to the entrance of Balcova dam after 1km and there is no entrance to the dam, but right before you reach the dam's entrance, you'll see at least 15 stray cats and 4-5 stray dogs waiting for you to feed them. So, please take food with you if you choose to walk that short path. If you want to hit the trail and hike, turn to right/downhill right after you pass the hotel's back side. You're going to see the huge sign of Balcova Therapy Forest and a cabin for firemen on your right. That path is 14km long and 80% of it is uphill. After 14km of climbing, you reach asphalt road that takes you to Tirazli village, then Radar military base, then Kavacik and Payamli villages and finally to the main road to Seferihisar. This trail path has a turn to the right at km6. If you take that turn and just keep following the route, it'll be a 16km loop that will take you down to where you started (Therapy Forest sign) with a long, steep downhill trail path.


You may rest your body and your soul in Balcova Therapy Forest (This spot is 2.5km from the start of the trail)

Inciralti Kent Ormani / City Forest (It really is the only city forest! I'm so glad that it's still untouched and serves as the lungs of the city. It's a pancake flat route with asphalt, red soil or gravels in different sections. There's a center for disabled people to gather, socialize and enjoy their times at its entrance. When you pass that center, you may see people having picnic by the sea in spring and in summer time. If you turn left and keep walking, you get to the asphalt section which is a 2.3km round loop where runners and cyclists workout. If you go towards the little bridge (or towards the tall Wyndham Ozdilek Hotel building direction) you can see the flamingos on your left. If you visit there often, you may come across men in spandex jumping in the sea, actually taking mussels out to sell to the vendors. You can pick mulberries in its season there. Inciralti city forest is the escape point for every sensitive soul and nature lover)

Narlidere (Narlidere connects to the mountains of Balcova, if you get to the Narlidere public bazaar (farmers market) and pass it, keep walking/running until you leave the asphalt and reach the steep trail. I recommend you to explore there with someone who already knows the area, as it'll be easy to get frustrated by not being able to find the trail or not feel yourself safe if you come across some drunk redneck guys in a car harassing you (a rare case, yet may happen).

Karagol (It's top of central Izmir. Karagol => Kara/siyah = black, Gol = lake/pond. So it means black lake. It's located at the top of Yamanlar mountain, back part of Karsiyaka district. You'll definitely need a car to get there but the view and the nature is nice. Due to its altitude, it gets some snow in cold winter days there)

Kaynaklar (It's located in Buca. Both there are trails to hike and also good for bouldering)

Kavaklidere (It's on the way to Kemalpasa district. A bit far from the center and requires a car to get there, unless you have a fast bicycle, good fitness and a local guide next to you)

Note: All the photos belong to me and require permission to use.

If you need any legal help, (We've a legal counsel whose "primary" goal is to ease people's lives)
If you need an investment advisor,
If you need a private Turkish tutor,
If you need a running/triathlon coach,
Just contact me ( fatih at fatihbuzgan dot com )

I tried my best to cover as many topics as I could but feel free to write your comment below to contribute and enrich this page that is dedicated to the lovely expats of Izmir!
Cheers!

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