By Justin Mays:
According to the OECD Better Life Index, Turkey has made considerable progress, over the past 20 years, in improving the quality of life for its citizens. Turkey ranks above average in civic engagement and 86% of people surveyed believe they know someone who they can rely on in a time of need. Life in the public sphere is good and the spirit of the mahelle is strong. For those who are not familiar with the term, mahelle means neighborhood but beyond that, it describes the home you create by forging special relations and bonds.
When you join a mahelle you will establish yourself in a new community while exploring a different lifestyle. After settling in your new home, learning the new customs will be an enjoyable journey and improve your quality of life.
The local shopkeeper, the neighborhood children, the water deliveryman, the ustas (handymen), the muhtar (elected neighborhood head) and more will make up a colorful neighborhood network. These people will provide the backbone to your Turkish experience. There is an entire set of traditions that comes along with being part of a mahelle.
Turks are curious and hospitable so be prepared for a knock on the door and introductions, most likely with a gift of food in hand. Do not refuse the offer but invite them in for a cup of tea. These small gestures can lead to friendships and a wider support network. The concept of helping as part of the community is strong. Offers to help and provide kindness in a time of need will be much appreciated when faced with challenges.
Local tradesmen will also be of great support. Home deliveries are the norm and the extra service a local shopkeeper provides will be much appreciated when you are looking for a special item or advice on other spots nearby. A handyman will often come within 24 hours of your call to help and try their best to make sure whatever issue you were faced with is settled as soon as possible.
Life in Turkey is wonderful especially when you find the right neighborhood to establish yourself in. Luckily it is firmly ingrained in Turkish culture to be welcoming and supportive to those nearby.