Norwegian Kari Jensen, who married a Turk, moved to Izmir, and started to work here, tells us how it is to live in Izmir as an expat.
When and why did you move to Izmir?
I moved to Izmir in 2014, after I and my boyfriend decided to get married. He was already living here since it’s his hometown. I was a freelance social media specialist in Norway, which meant I could handle most of my work from home. That’s why I was able to be a little braver when I decided to move to Izmir. “I don’t need to decide on resigning from my job.” I was thinking, “If I can’t get used to Izmir, I can go back or try another city.”
Since you haven’t returned, you should be happy to live in Izmir. What do you like most about Izmir?
The aspect I had the most difficulty in getting used to at first became my favorite aspect of Izmir over time: its weather. As a Norwegian, moving to a city that hardly has a winter was not easy at first, but as time passed and I got used to the climate, I realized that I actually had a summer person inside me. I turned into a complete swimming enthusiast in Izmir. Here, I can escape to places such as Çeşme, Foça, Urla, and Karaburun on the weekends and even on weekdays for 8 months a year.
Does Izmir meet all your expectations?
Yes. I’m from Oslo. Some of my friends from the more crowded countries of Europe may complain that Izmir is not as cosmopolitan as Istanbul, but I do not think so. The population of this city is almost 7 times that of Oslo. In this respect, I feel myself in a cosmopolitan city. Here you can find culture and art events, access to branches of international shops, etc. Plus, the costs such as traffic and the cost of living that you have to pay in places like Istanbul in return are much lower here. Izmir is more advantageous in this regard.
Which districts of Izmir do you like more?
Alsancak has always been my favorite. It is the heart of the city. You can find many cinemas, theaters, shopping malls, bars, restaurants, and cafes around. In return, the rents are a little higher than the average of Izmir, but I can say that since you are close to such opportunities in a metropolis, the rents you would normally pay are still low enough. I also frequently go to Karşıyaka. The ferry ride is one of my favorite things about Izmir. You can find quality products, especially textiles, at very affordable prices in the bazaar and district markets in Karşıyaka. Apart from these two districts, I love the Karaburun peninsula. We love to hop in the car with my husband, spend time in hidden and not crowded bays and swim.
How do you get along with the locals of Izmir?
Great. The people of Izmir have both that warm and hospitable side of Turks in general and a more Western perspective compared to the country in general. So I can say that these two poles come together in a very balanced way. Since I come from a country where individualism is at the forefront, the warm-bloodedness of the people of Izmir was perfect to me. In fact, I can say that I hardly ever meet with my expat friends anymore, even my circle of friends consists of Izmirians.
Do you think Izmir is a city that respects religious beliefs other than Islam?
Absolutely. Personally, I am not a regular prayer, but I have friends from different religions and sects living here. They say that the churches and synagogues in Izmir are quite adequate. In addition, they did not encounter any difficulties while performing their prayers. Apart from these, I love to hear the good wishes of my neighbors on holidays such as Easter.
What about the healthcare system?
I am registered in both the public healthcare system and a private one. Fortunately, I have not had serious health problems so far, but as far as I have experienced in the few cases where I had to go to the hospital, the public and private hospitals here are also very good. For example, I was surprised that not only doctors but also other medical staff could speak basic English at least.
What advice would you give to foreigners who are considering moving to Izmir?
First of all, they should buy lots of thin clothes and five or six sets of swimwear! Joking aside, although Izmir is a very modern city, Turkey has a different culture, as it’s the case in every other European country. Therefore, I can recommend that foreigners who are considering moving to Izmir should be aware that they’re coming to a different culture and be prepared for this. But let me also say at this point, Izmir is an ideal destination to adapt to the culture of Turkey, especially for people from Europe and the USA, because it’s the most western city in the country. Apart from that, I can recommend that they start learning Turkish before they move here. The rate of English speaking among Izmirians is so high that you can be a little lazy about learning Turkish once you came here!