'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Gird Up (Y)our Loins

. . with apologies to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who is perhaps better known by his pen name, and to a certain walrus and carpenter of renown.

Charles Dodgsonaka Lewis Carrol

‘The time has come,’ the Boffer said,   ‘To deal with many things,   With signatures and rubber stamps,   and jumping through some rings,   With copies, forms and bureaucrats    a-pulling at our strings.’

walrus carpenter

Yes, you guessed it – we were setting out to renew our İkamet Teskeresi (residence permit). Having lived here permanently for more than 17 years we were delighted to be going after a permanent permit at just TL55, having coughed up TL4,296.04 for our previous 5 year one!

goc-idaresi-teslimthe new residence permit

Nothing is ever static and during our time here we have watched, sometimes open-mouthed, as Turkey has changed and evolved. In dealing with various bits of bureaucracy there have been good times and not so good times. I remember after one episode, in our early days, of jumping up and down and banging my head against a filing cabinet, our dear friend and helper, Emine, putting her arms around me and saying, ‘Alan, you must have acceptation!’ She was right! This country is going through some monumental changes in a very compressed time scale and not everything works out as planned or wished for.


The bureaucracy in Turkey was not set up to frustrate and screw us foreigners – it frustrates and screws everybody without discrimination! That, folks, is the nature of the beast wherever you reside in the world. Mind you, you wouldn’t think so as you swan over the various forums and FB pages related to the subject here. Some people are downright offensive, using abusive language that is really unhelpful to put it mildly. An insulted civil servant is unlikely to look very favourably on you or your bits of paper, or the poor sod in the queue behind you – I know, I used to be one! Listening to some folks going on I wonder why they are here, they seem to hate everything and everyone and believe everything is done better ‘back home’!

So, gird up your loins because, whenever possible, preparation and doing things in good time is key to success and a calm life. That being the case, a few weeks back we went to our local police office and enquired from our charming and helpful police lady what we would need. We came away with the list and set about pulling it all together. Keep in mind that we are dealing with Ortaca, Muğla and different towns/areas interpret things differently. Bodrum, I understand, requires a computer generated and filled application form – Ortaca hands you photocopied forms and tells you to use a black biro to fill in the boxes. My advice is to go with what they require locally and not start arguing about what you read online. Also, have an expectation that things will change between asking what is needed and handing stuff in – it happened to us! Evolution! In a couple of years we’ll all be looking back on these turbulent times and having a good laugh! You only have to read the expectations/mission statement of the new agency to realise that.

So, having got our updated list, we set about getting as much done as we could. We already had the usual colour photocopies (x2) of passport and ikamet, biometric photos and, just in case they want it, copies of our financial situation. The new requirements were: 1. for a statement from the kaymakam that we had not needed financial assistance from the state. To get this we needed to each write a dilekçe (petition) – we were given an example and assistance to complete this; 2. from the State Prosecutor’s office, using a simple form, we obtained a chit stating that we had no convictions – past or pending (Adli Sicil Kaydı); 3. a chit from the İlçe Nüfus (area population) manager confirming our residence at our address (Yerelşim Yeri ve Diğer Adres Belgesi).

Add to the above: (x2) colour copies of your Tapu Senedi (title deeds for your house) and, in Ortaca at least, you should be set up. We have to hand a form from the SGK confirming our health care coverage even though, as UK citizens, we are exempt because of our age – you may need to produce evidence of cover depending on your age. Finally, in our case, we paid our TL55 and included the receipts, having first taken copies. Actually, we have copies of everything and then some just in case things change again over the weekend! Now, we did all that and completed our weekly market shop and were home in time for afternoon tea – so, it wasn’t that daunting!

All of the staff who dealt with us so pleasantly and helpfully had only been informed of the new requirements five days before – think about that for a moment!  In all our years here we have been met with mostly smiling, helpful, tea-providing civil servants on minimal salaries. It is small wonder that there has been the odd misery-arse but, do you know, I can’t recall a single one of them!

Just two more stories and then I’m done: whilst we were in the police office there was a friend there who had forgotten to renew her passport which also cancelled her ikamet. There were two fees and three fines to pay as a result which couldn’t be avoided. By the end of the day all of the paperwork had been sorted (she’d been to Istanbul and got her passport extended a few days previously) and the forms sent off to renew her ikamet and she and her husband had been provided with tea with the chief of police! Their attitude had been great throughout and they got their reward.

Next there is a friend who speaks little Turkish who decided to do all the legwork for his ikamet himself, including dealing with a supposed monster in uniform behind a desk in Muğla. He approached his meeting with her with some trepidation! Everything went like clockwork and the ‘monster’ turned out to be charming! His great attitude saw him through as well!


attitude = success (mostly)

These stories confirm what we have found over nearly 18 years here – if you want respect, give it; if you want a smile, offer one; if you want to be dealt with calmly, be calm. One other thing, and I really recommend that you do this, once everything has been done and dusted – and even if there were moments when you or the bureaucrat were stressed, go back with a big box of pastries and say ‘thank you’ and smile. The effect and the ‘fall-out’ is amazing – trust me! And those behind you in the queue will tell stories about you to their neighbours and grandchildren.

Before I go, a word about ‘Girding Your Loins’ . .

Gird-Up-Your-Loins-2‘Once more unto the breech, dear friends, once more!’ W. Shakespeare – Henry V 3.1 but that’s another story.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps let me say again, this is what works in Ortaca – you need to sort out what is needed in your neck of the woods.

16 thoughts on “Gird Up (Y)our Loins

  1. Thanks for the post Alan – I nodded a lot and yet I have no cause to complain about British bureaucracy as the naturalisation process followed by yesterday’s check and send application for my first British passport through the post office sounds like a breeze by comparison.
    I also think Acceptation might be the best word ever. I’m pinching it!
    Kym Hamer recently posted..How does one become a butterfly?My Profile

  2. Much good advice there, Alan. We have found really helpful people in all the government offices where we have needed to transact business, whether it be the SGK office, the PTT or the Vatandaşlık office. When there is a problem, it is usually due to changes in laws and regulations, and a lack of timely, clear communication between Ankara and local officials. Sometimes it feels like a crap-shoot, whether or not you will get your precious document. Then you just put your trust in ‘kader’ (fate).
    seniordogsabroad recently posted..It’s For the BirdsMy Profile

    1. I really do think that attitude determines outcome a lot of the time – if I had some of the Orientalist expats on the other side of my desk they’d get short shrift for sure. I wonder that we don’t see more ‘Brits (or whoever) Go Home’ sprayed on more walls.
      Alan recently posted..Cycle RecycleMy Profile

  3. Our dealings with the authorities always went relatively smoothly despite the unending red tap and annual changes but then we always had help and always smiled. One year, though, we thought the requirement to be interviewed by a copper to ensure we were ‘fit and proper persons who wouldn’t offend the morals of the nation’ (or some such morality test) might scupper our chances. It didn’t though I suspect there were some among the emigrey Politburo who wished it had 😀
    Jack Scott recently posted..Death DutiesMy Profile

  4. We have not been here that long, but we’ve never had a problem dealing with the bureaucracy. Perhaps having been a bureaucrat myself helps manage expectations…. I remember thinking once, in the local tax office, watching a lady meticulously enter our details into her computer ‘I used to manage people very much like that’. And the polis in Izmir who processed our last Ikamet smiled lots and apologised that he could only give us one year this time. Though the Izmir office gets so busy that I couldn’t guarantee getting a box of pastries through intact…

    Hope your permapermit comes through rapidly. I am looking forward to qualifying for mine.
    Hilary recently posted..Ephesus MuseumMy Profile

    1. you two reinforce my conviction Re: attitude – when I see what some write on the likes of FB I think to myself, ‘If that is the way you are others then no wonder you have problems’. We really should meet up somewhere, some time and I keep thinking ‘Eğidir’.
      Alan recently posted..ExtinctionMy Profile

  5. And if you live in Fethiye, you can either wander about from office to office yourself…or you can pay an official translator to do all that for you. We hate bureaucracy and other real life things like that with a passion so we opt for the latter because the guy chases everything up for us…oh, and we drink with him, too. 😉
    Facebook’s a wonderful thing but the danger of groups is, everyone can start feeding from each other and if negativity starts, it gathers pace quickly. Yeah, there is always the assumption that it’s just the foreigners who get hit with so many changes but we very much know otherwise. 🙂 So much changes that we’ve only ever done our residency for one year at a time. Our philosophy is very much a who-knows-what-can-happen-next-so-why-worry-about-it, one. 🙂
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Fethiye And Valentine’s Day – Just Sharing The LoveMy Profile

  6. Gosh — where do I begin. I have had so many nightmare experiences with Italian bureaucracy. I have tried to follow your advice and remain calm, but to little avail. I swear the smarmy bureaucrats behind their desks will do anything to frustrate and humiliate. As an American married to an Italian I had a right to Italian citizenship. I went through all the bureaucratic hoops and finally ended up with a piece of paper with a number on it. Eight years went by and every year I called to see if there was any progress with my number. Nothing. Finally an Italian mother friend of mine told me to give her my little number. Her husband is a powerful lawyer. The question was resolved within a few months. Another time I tried to get access to health insurance provided for journalists in Italy. I brought all the necessary documents and presented them to the annoying bureaucrat. “But you are not a journalist,” she said. “Yes, I am” I said, “here is my contract, here is a confirmation letter from my boss.” “Yes, but you are not part of the journalist association,” she insisted. “Ah yes, but I am, here is my Membership card, I said providing her a xerox copy.” She looked at that for a minute, shuffled through the papers then said, “Yes, but you say you are an American journalist and you work for an American news organization but you are not part of the American journalist association, so you are not a journalist.” I tried to explain to her that in the US, we don’t have a journalists association. If you work as a journalist, you are a journalist, you don’t need to be part of any stupid club or association to prove it. She replied that unless I could provide proof that I was part of an American journalist’s association, I could not get the insurance. I gave up. I was too proud to ask my mother friend for her husband’s help again. I think if I went with a tray of pastries, I would probably mush them in the face of some of the bureaucrats here. I have learned though in Italy they key is to act extremely calm and humble, dress badly, make it seem like you have all the time in the world.
    Thanks for the diagram of how to gird your loins. I will definitely do that before my next Italian bureaucratic battle!!
    Trisha Thomas recently posted..Sumptuous Balls and Flying AngelsMy Profile

    1. Bureaucracy dealings are hardly a pleasure but by and large our experiences here have been either neutral or positive. The only time that wasn’t true was when dealing with the notorious customs at Izmir – fortunately we had a ranking bureaucrat to turn to who roasted a few backsides.
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