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My life as an Expat in Turkey - Working in Turkey

28th February 2016

When I first arrived in Turkey to work on a five-star hotel complex down on the Mediterranean Coast, I had no idea of working conditions or what kind of workers I would find. As it turned out, both the Project management Team and Ucgen, the construction company I was seconded to work with were Turkish. However, everyone made me feel welcome, with our soon getting on well together. I had met the three owners of Ucgen in Istanbul at their head-office, with Esref, the overall project manager driving me down to site from Istanbul. Here along with two colleagues from my company, we were the only three expat's on the project, with over three hundred Turkish workers.

A short time after my arrival, Haluk, one of Ucgen's owners came to the site. During a walk-around, he asked me to report anything I thought not up to standard. As I was employed as an advisor on finishing details, I said although the project was still under construction, I would if I saw anything. 
Four young supervisors were onsite, all of whom spoke a various degree of English, which as I did not speak Turkish, were a welcome bonus. I found them eager to learn and taking notice whenever I mentioned something incorrect. One named Ugur spoke the least English, but some how always seemed to know what I said and went off to do it. As a result, we got on well, with my finding him an extremely good worker. In view of this, I was not too surprised when one day he said. "Mr. Colin, when you finish this project and start a new one, would you take me with you."
He later worked with me on another two projects, one with Ucgen in Turkmenistan, and one with an English company I worked with in Northern Cyprus.

Shortly before completion of my contract, due to a back injury, I flew back to England on a stretcher for treatment. Whilst there, the company who employed me left site on completion of the first phase of the contract. To my surprise, I received a fax from Ucgen, offering to take-over my contract. As this proved such a good one, I felt more than happy to accept. Once my back problem was resolved, I flew back to Turkey. 

As I now worked direct for Ucgen and no longer an advisor, things were rather different. One example occurred when after complaining about some paint finishes, I requested the company's supervisor come to the site. On arrival, he did not appreciate my complaint and asked, "Who are you to complain about our work?"
I replied with a smile. "No one, but until I am satisfied, you will not be paid." 
On hearing this, his scowling face broke in a big smile. "No problem!" he said, "What colour would you like." 
From then on I had no problems with his company or any other sub-contractor.

I got on well with Ucgen, with Haluk and I becoming good friends, as did Esref. In general I liked working with the Turkish workers, whom I found friendly and helpful both on and off-site. 

 I went to Turkmenistan when after finishing the contract, Haluk contacted me and asked if I would help him on a hotel contract they had. As he and Ucgen had helped me during the project and when I had a house built near the project, I had no hesitation about going there. During this project, although the only English person on the project I enjoyed working there. At one time, due to the tragic death of site engineer, who had become a very good friend, I was asked to run the site until a replacement could be found. This I thought very good for me as it was a sign of how Ucgen appreciated my help. I later helped on another project there, which involved completion of a new airport terminal that had to be completed in an incredibly short time. Here I stayed with the men until late at night, with the project completed on time and opened by the President of Turkmenistan.


About Author:

My name is Colin Guest, a retired 74 year old Englishman married to a Turkish lady and living in Istanbul, Turkey.
Since starting my working life as an apprentice joiner/shopfitter in Plymouth, Devon, England, I worked my way up to become a foreman shopfitter, and later a supervisor, project supervisor, finishes advisor and head of a quality control team on a 52 storey luxury apartment block.
Over the course of nineteen years, I have worked with both architects and interior design companies, with my both advising and controlling interior finishing works on several palaces and a number of five star hotels. These were spread through fifteen countries in the Middle, Far East and North Africa.
As I have always enjoyed writing, apart from writing and publishing my e book An Expat's Experiences of Living in Turkey
Due to my rather different style of working life, I have written “Follow in the Tigermans Footsteps.”

Although a memoir, it reads more like an adventure book and includes many thrilling, crazy, humorous and several life threatening experiences I encountered during this incredible time of my life. Instead of a boring 9-5 job, I enjoyed a life most only dream about.

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