Climate: summers are hot and dry, whilst winters are mild and quite wet. Away from the coast and high in the mountains the climate is harsher.
Terrain: several mountain ranges, a high central plateau and narrow coastal area.
Natural hazards: there is the risk of severe earthquakes, especially in the north of the country and along the coastal stretch from the Sea of Marmara to Lake Van. Drought and bush fires commonly occur during the summer months.
Living in Turkey
Cost of living: the cost of living is very low in Turkey and as a result it is possible to live on a significantly lower income than one would earn in the UK. Everything from rent and deposits for a property, to commission of an agent is negotiable. The standard of accommodation and degree to which a property is furnished varies widely, however, so be prepared to spend some time searching for the right place to live. When eating out, restaurants offer a wide range of cuisine ranging from traditional Turkish food to Chinese and Mexican, all at reasonable prices.
Utilities: the cost of utility bills in Turkey is relatively inexpensive. Water, gas and electricity bills are usually paid monthly directly through your bank account. Authorised personnel from the individual companies will visit your property to take meter readings when you move into and vacate a property. Power cuts occur fairly frequently in Turkey, although services are improving. You should be provided with a surge protector to protect your appliances from being damaged. Turkish electricity runs at 220 volts.
Internet domain: .tr
Health: Turkey does not yet provide the reciprocal healthcare many EU citizens have come to expect so it is strongly advisable to take out health insurance to cover the cost of any medical expenses. The state healthcare system is inefficient and hospitals are often overcrowded and understaffed. The major cities all have large, international private hospitals, offering excellent facilities and good levels of care, many with medical staff that speak good English. Pharmacies are able to dispense drugs without the need of a prescription from a doctor. Vaccination against Hepatitis A is recommended as the virus is commonly seen in Turkey. It is highly contagious and visitors are advised to only drink clean, safe drinking water and to ensure that fruit and vegetables are either peeled or washed properly in clean water before being eaten.
Laws and customs: homosexuality is not illegal but remains a taboo issue due to the traditional, conservative nature of society. Harsh jail sentences and heavy fines are given to those who break the laws associated with illegal drug use, possession or trafficking. It is illegal to remove any cultural artefacts from Turkey and anyone caught attempting to do so is prosecuted. National pride is very important and there are many statues all over the country of the republic's first president, Mustafa Kemal who, in 1934, was given the name Atatürk or Father of the Turks. It is illegal to behave disrespectfully towards Mustafa Kemal or to in any way insult or offend the Turkish flag or government. All Turkish men aged between 20 and 41 have to participate in National Service in the armed forces and the completion of this National Service is viewed as an important part of every man's life. The length of service they have to undertake depends on the level of education achieved by each man, and although women are not conscripted they are allowed to join the armed forces. Turkey withholds any recognition of conscientious objectors although homosexual people are barred from joining.
Economy and finance
Currency: Turkish Lira (TRY).
Type of economy: capitalist combining a mixture of both modern industry and commerce with the traditional agricultural sector.
Health of economy: Turkey's well-regulated financial markets and banking system mean that the country has come through the financial crisis relatively easily. Previous economic reforms and recent economic growth means the Lira is stable and able to attract foreign investment. Risk factors that could threaten the stability of the economy include a high current account deficit and fiscal imbalances.
Unemployment rate: 12% (2010, World Factbook).
Main exports: apparel, foodstuffs, textiles, metal manufactures, transport equipment.
People: Turks 70-75%, Kurds 18%, other 7-12%.
Major religion: Islam. Most inhabitants are Sunni Muslims although there are a small minority of Christians and Jews.
Local etiquette: body language and proper behaviour are very important, as is being courteous when meeting and being introduced to new people. Handshaking is a common greeting but in some particularly religious areas of the country it is considered disrespectful to shake the hand of a member of the opposite sex. Turks exchange many pleasantries and compliments when in conversation with each other and will often invite new acquaintances to their homes for refreshments, such as a traditional Turkish tea served in a tulip-shaped glass. If being invited to dinner at a Turk's home it is polite to take a gift such as baklava or an ornamental item; flowers are not a customary gift. Public displays of affection are frowned upon, as is nose blowing in public and bearing the soles of your feet to others. Pointing at people is also considered particularly rude.
Type of government: republican parliamentary democracy.
Major political parties: Democratic Left Party (DSP), Democratic Party (DP), Equality and Democracy Party (EDP), Felicity Party (SP - sometimes translated as Contentment Party), Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP), Grand Unity Party (BBP), Justice and Development Party (AKP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), People's Voice Party (HSP).
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