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