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Guests and Hosts: European Retirees in Coastal Turkey

As a country in transition from emigration to immigration, Turkey hosts many diverse migrant groups, creating a very dynamic research field to explore. Amongst them, European retirees have settled in the coastal Turkish Riviera. This paper tries to understand the perspectives of both retired EU migrants and local hosts on migration and settlement processes. After briefly describing the geographical distribution of EU citizens in Turkey, the paper focuses on the demographic characteristics and socio-economic integration of retired migrants in Antalya, the most popular destination in Turkey.

Guests and Hosts European Retirees in Coastal Turkey
The 5th International Noel Ceremony was organized by settled foreigners living in Antalya, Turkey, 2014. AA / Mustafa Kurt


As part of a wider concept of “lifestyle migration,” international retirement migration (IRM) is a relatively new form of international human mobility involving older people moving to places with favorable characteristics (such as the Mediterranean climate) in the pursuit of a better life. Factors such as increasing welfare levels, longevity and low-cost travel have played a crucial role in this type of human mobility. There has always been a strong nexus between IRM and tourism, of which the boundaries are mostly blurred. In the United States, the interstate migration of the elderly from northern states to the “sunbelt states,” notably to Florida, has also been widely researched.1

The conceptual diversity and increasing number of studies on different destinations or with different migrant groups have made the phenomenon difficult to describe, necessitating a more flexible definition. Finally, O’Reilly defined lifestyle migrants as “relatively affluent individuals, moving, en masse, either part or full time, permanently or temporarily, to countries where the cost of living and/or the price of property is cheaper; places which, for various reasons, signify something loosely defined as quality of life.”2 O’Reilly and Benson, in their co-edited book, defined lifestyle migration as “the spatial mobility of relatively affluent individuals of all ages, moving either part-time or full-time to places that are meaningful because, for various reasons, they offer the potential of a better quality of life.”3

Turkey’s political and economic liberalization in the 1980s and its bid for full membership of the European Union have made it an attractive destination for European tourists and migrants

Various concepts have been used to explain the range of lifestyle migration, such as retirement migration, leisure migration, international counter-urbanization, second home ownership and seasonal migration4. While the concept of lifestyle migration includes migrants of all ages, retirement migration refers to the elderly. The literature identifies several types of retirement migration, such as “rural retirement migration,” where the elderly move from urban to rural areas with beautiful scenery,5 or “health migration,” where the elderly migrate to warmer places to improve their deteriorating health.6

Even before the wider concept of “lifestyle migration” was suggested in the literature, the movement of the elderly towards coastal areas was already a distinct research topic under “international retirement migration (IRM)” both in Europe and the United States.7The IRM literature on Europe has focused heavily on coastal destinations with Mediterranean climatic conditions, with Spain, Portugal, Malta and Italy as the first wave countries. Since the early 1990s, Turkey has also joined the list of destination countries, particularly for British, German, Dutch and Nordic retirees who travel to tourist destinations located on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey, where the tourism-migration connection is very strong. This social phenomenon has become the subject of academic research recently with respect to the motives, socio-economic profiles and lifestyles of settled retired migrants, surveyed under different titles such as “lifestyle migration,” “settled foreigners and “international retirement migration.8 According to these studies, the main pull factors for migrants are the Mediterranean climate, hospitality and informal way of life of Turkish society, lower cost of living, relatively inexpensive real estate, availability of low-cost travel and visas upon entry. 

As Blaakilde and Nilsson have correctly pointed out, IRM “causes challenges for the senior citizens in that it signifies a transformation in both lifestyle and place of residence.”9 Nevertheless, IRM is also a challenge for the host community, especially if guests and hosts are from different cultures. Although the “guests” have been subjected to many surveys, the attitudes and sensitivities of the host culture towards these settled foreign retirees have remained under-researched.10 Turkey, with a different host culture and religion, represents an exemplar case.

This paper deals with both sides of the migration process in order to understand the perspectives of both retired EU migrants and local hosts. After briefly describing the geographical distribution of EU citizens in Turkey, the paper focuses on the demographic characteristics and socio-economic integration of retired migrants in Antalya, the most popular destination in Turkey. Comparisons are made with a similar research conducted in Aegean destinations. The paper then considers the local host community, analyzing their reactions and sensitivities concerning the influx of European retired migrants settling in their neighborhood. 



European Citizens in Turkey: Spatial Differences 

Turkey’s political and economic liberalization in the 1980s and its bid for full membership of the European Union have made it an attractive destination for European tourists and migrants.11 The rapid growth of the mass tourism sector in the second half of the 1980s, along with liberalization in tourism services and the strength of European currencies against the Turkish lira, have all promoted life-style immigration. 

According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), the total foreign population in Turkey was 456,056 in 2013. Between 2007 and 2013, this figure increased 4.6 times (Figure 1), comprising those registered in the Address-based Population Record System, plus those with at least a 6-months residence permit in the reference year12 and those who have revoked Turkish citizenship with official permission but reside in Turkey.

Europeans in Turkey settle predominantly in the western and southwestern provinces, including major coastal tourism destinations, such as Antalya and Muğla, and major cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Bursa. Those settling in cities like Istanbul or Ankara are more likely to have diplomatic, business, educational or other such concerns, compared to European retirees settling in the tourist regions of southwestern Turkey. In 2013, Istanbul, the economic and cultural center of the country, had the largest foreign population with 135,018 foreigners (a 58,2 percent increase from 2012), the capital city Ankara had 42,310, while Izmir, the metropolis on the Aegean coast, and Bursa in the Marmara region, had 21,597 and 22,591 foreigners, respectively. These four cities are home to about 46.1 percent of the settled foreign population in Turkey. The coastal provinces of Antalya and Muğla, as leading international tourism destinations, also have a significant share of 12.9 percent (Table 1).

Figure 1. Number of officially registered foreigners in Turkey between 2007 and 2013Source: Turkish Statistical Institute

Table 1. Provinces with a foreign population of more than 10,000 in 2013Source: Turkish Statistical Institute

Retired EU migrants have mostly concentrated in the coastal districts of the so-called “Turkish Riviera,” such as Kemer, Manavgat, Alanya, Fethiye, Bodrum, Marmaris, Didim and Kuşadası. This coastal zone, extending from the Aydın province to the Antalya province, is a major international tourism destination. These retirees are generally clustered according to specific nationalities at both the district and provincial levels. At the provincial level, citizens of Nordic countries, Belgium and the Netherlands prefer Antalya, while citizens of the UK and Ireland prefer the southwestern provinces of Muğla and Aydın. At the district level, the majority of retirees living in southwestern towns of the Antalya province, such as Kaş and Kalkan, are British, while Germans prefer the southeastern coast, Alanya. This segregation of nationalities also occurs at the level of housing complexes, where retirees prefer to live with people of their own nationality.13

Concerning the geographical distribution pattern, the preferred provinces for German citizens are Istanbul and Antalya, but there are also significant German populations in inland provinces like Aksaray, Konya and Yozgat. This is probably due to the presence of returning migrants, German citizens of Turkish origin who returned to their home towns or divide their time between the two countries. The same holds for Dutch and Nordic citizens in Karaman, who also hold a blue card that provides all the rights of a Turkish citizen, except political ones.14 (Table 2)

Table 2. Geographical distribution of nationalities by major provinces, 2013Source: Turkish Statistical Institute

Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway (Norway is not an EU country)

** The foreign population in inland provinces like Karaman, Yozgat, Konya, Uşak, Sivas and Aksaray may include returning Turkish emigrants with foreign citizenship, who are thus officially categorized as “foreigner”. 

Figure 2 show the concentrations of different EU nationalities at the provincial level. German citizens are more widely distributed (Map A), while British and Irish citizens concentrate particularly in the southwestern coastal zone (Map B). Dutch and Belgium citizens prefer the Muğla and Aydın provinces, whereas Nordic citizens15 favor Antalya (Maps C and D). 


Figure 2: Provincial distribution of EU citizens in Turkey in 2013. (A) Citizens of Germany (N=59,026); (B) Citizens of UK and Ireland (N=17,096); (C) Citizens of the Netherlands and Belgium (N=6,969); (D) Citizens of Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway) (N=6,317). (Prepared by authors based on data from the Turkish Statistical Institute)

All three provinces (Aydın, Muğla and Antalya) have experienced an ever-increasing influx of foreigners in recent years. During 2008-2013, the number of foreigners increased 4.4 times in Aydın (from 1,854 to 8,088), 3.7 times in Muğla (from 4,460 to 16,490) and 6.1 times in Antalya (from 6,934 to 42,310).16 Of these three provinces, Antalya and its districts have been the leading international retirement destinations due to earlier tourism development, including an international airport. There are some leading districts attracting the majority of the foreign population in each province, such as Didim and Kuşadası in Aydın with a total of 85.6 percent; Bodrum, Fethiye and Marmaris in Muğla with 80.7 percent; and Alanya, Manavgat, Kemer and Kaş in Antalya, with the city center, at 93.0 percent (Table 3).

Many investigations of northern European migration to the south have been particularly interested in the social contacts of the participants in both 
the destination and origin areas

Table 3. Foreign population by leading coastal districts*Source: Calculated from the Address-based Population Registry System database (

Official statistics do not provide foreign population by nationality at “district level, although the researches show us that the majority of the foreigners in these provinces are from EU countries.

** Officially divided into sub-districts after 2008. 



Methodology and Findings

Comparisons based on nationality and lifestyle in different regions is a common approach in IRM research to reveal differences and similarities between various national groups with respect to their socioeconomic profiles, migration motivations and social contacts with host cultures.17 Rodriguez et al. noted in their comparative study, which focused on nine different southern European destinations, that “many investigations of northern European migration to the south have been particularly interested in the social contacts of the participants in both the destination and origin areas.”18 As a relatively new destination country for IRM, there has been some research concerning the EU retirees settling along the Aegean and Mediterranean coast of Turkey.19

Compared to other South European IRM destinations, Turkey is unique due to the cultural and religious differences between the migrants, metaphorically referred here as “guests,” and the hosts, referred to as the locals. Exploring the perceptions and sensitivities of host culture members is important, as this may determine the long-term sustainability of this type of migration to the host country. This paper will try to look at this challenge by focusing not only on the issues concerning the settled EU retirees, but also by studying the issues that are significant to the host community. The conclusions will be based on surveys of two different samples of European retirees settled on the so-called Turkish Riviera. 

Therefore, retirees can carry out everyday activities using their own language, or with the help of a Turkish friend or a fellow citizen who is able to speak Turkish

The first field survey was conducted in Antalya province and its districts,20 which is the most popular coastal tourism and retirement settlement destination for EU citizens. A questionnaire survey given to 500 settled European retirees (55 percent male and 45 percent female) in various districts of Antalya, with the percentages calculated according to the distribution of the settled European retiree population in these districts, was followed by in-depth interviews of a random sample21. Another questionnaire was distributed to 500 locals (51.3 percent males and 48.7 percent female) living in the same districts (Table 4). 

The European retirees in the sample consisted of those living in the Antalya province for at least 6 months out of the year. The host community sample included locals with minimum residence of 5 years. Although most surveys in the IRM literature include retired foreigners ages 55 and over, in the Antalya study, retired foreigners over 40 were also included provided they had an early retirement scheme and were settled in the research zone. 

Table 4. Distribution of settled EU retirees and locals (Antalya province and its districts)Source: Project SOBAG-105K156

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland

The second survey22 was conducted in three IRM destinations on the Aegean coast, Marmaris, Kuşadası and Ayvalık, using a sample of 254 EU citizens (108 retired and 146 non-retired). This paper is only concerned with the findings of the 108 retirees. The mean age was 59.3,23 with the sample composed of 43.5 percent male and 56.5 percent female retirees. In the survey sample, 75 retirees were from UK and Ireland, reflecting the dominance of British retirees in this region (Table 5). 

Table 5. Settled European Retirees (sample from the Aegean districts)Source: Project 07EDB017

UK (75), Ireland (5). Irish and British participants are assessed as one single group in both samples. 

** Germany (17), Holland (6), Belgium (2), France (1), Denmark (1), Switzerland (1)

In both of the studies, similar questionnaire forms were employed with questions on the socio-economic profilemigration motivationsinteractions with the host communityproblems faced and intention to return back to home country. The replies to the questions about the interactions with the host community and the district will be compared in the next section. In depth interviews were made with key persons and notables of both migrant and host community. 



Comparing the Two Regions of the Turkish Riviera

As both surveys were conducted separately under different research projects, this section aims to compare the findings on issues that were included in both surveys. After describing the similarities and differences of the findings, the discussion will focus on the perceptions of locals concerning these issues. The selected questions for settled European retirees are “the preference of neighbors; knowledge of Turkish language skill; property ownership; wish for participation in elections; supporting Turkey’s membership to the EU; and approving free movement of Turkish citizens in their home country.” The selected questions for the locals are “the characteristics of the settled European retirees living in their district; property ownership of the retirees; preference to live/or not to live in districts densely settled by the European retirees; and their perception concerning the political participation of the retirees.” 

The results of the select questions from the Antalya survey are presented in Tables 6 and 7; Table 6 summarizes the results concerning settled European retirees, while Table 7 presents the responses of the local community.

Concerning the use of the Turkish language in different daily contexts, the majority of retired Europeans reported that they had very limited Turkish language skills (only a few words or at a basic level), with almost 28.6 percent of the respondents considering the language problem as their main concern. A similar conclusion was reached by Casado-Diaz,24 who compared different nationalities of retired Europeans in Spain. The Nordic group in the Antalya survey is the least able to speak Turkish, while UK and Irish retirees consider themselves more fluent. Looking at another destination in Turkey, Didim, Bayır and Shah25 state that Germans and Dutch make a greater effort to learn Turkish, while the English simply do not bother. The survey results show that the British in the Antalya sample are more educated with higher income levels and more fluent in Turkish than their working-class counterparts in Didim. Such difference, which is related to the socio-economic characteristics of the retirees, also has an impact on their willingness to interact with the host culture. For example, more than half of the participants (54.4 percent) with a university degree prefer to live in the same neighborhood as locals, a preference which has a potential to lead to social interaction and evidently motivate Turkish language use. There is also widespread use of English and/or German in the host community, especially by shopkeepers in the local markets. Therefore, retirees can carry out everyday activities using their own language, or with the help of a Turkish friend or a fellow citizen who is able to speak Turkish. Furthermore, learning Turkish is not a necessity for business life, which mainly focuses on tourism and real estate oriented towards Europeans. 

Table 6: Responses from settled European Retirees: Sample from Antalya Province

Irrespective of nationality, it was observed during the field work that some of the European retirees prefer to live in gated communities, which may limit their interaction with the local community. 

Migrant contribution to the local economies through real estate acquisition motive. There are many villa construction projects in the coastal districts, many reflecting national differentiation with its special reference to the culture and use of language in advertising.  | Photo by C. Balkır

The findings from the Aegean destinations are in line with the findings from the Antalya research. 84.2 percent of retirees in the Aegean sample have low-level Turkish language skills: 40.7 percent are able to speak “a few words,” 43.5 percent can use “basic Turkish,” 10.2 percent defined themselves “intermediate” and only 3.7 percent reported a “higher” level of Turkish. It is also noticeable that the share of retirees who cannot speak any Turkish or who know only a few words is higher in the Aegean destinations: 41.5 percent versus 18.8 percent in Antalya. Among the problems that the retirees encounter, “language/communication” scores 3.2, on a scale ranging from one (not important) to five (very important), which indicates that retirees view language as a noteworthy problem. 



Property Ownership and Preference of Neighborhood

Evidence shows that second home ownership in tourism destinations may lead to permanent residence in the later stages of life. Citing Williams et al., Quinn notes that “the purchase of a holiday home can act as a stepping stone to seasonal or permanent migration.”26 Differences in property ownership status between nationalities provide clues to the possible ties that retirees develop with the regions that they migrate to and their permanency. In the Antalya sample, 48.6 percent of settled European retirees rent while 47.6 percent own their home. There is a difference between German and Nordic retirees, who have the highest (54.9 percent) and lowest (43.1 percent) shares of house ownership, respectively. The share of home owners in the Aegean sample is 73.1 percent, the share of UK and Ireland retirees being 68.7 percent while the share of other EU citizens is 85.6 percent.

Concerning political participation, only a quarter of participants in the Antalya survey showed a willingness to vote in local elections

The 1999 Helsinki Summit, at which Turkey was granted EU candidacy status, was a turning point in the property market, while the devaluation of the Turkish lira boosted sales. A new legal regulation in 2003, which made it easier for foreigners to acquire real estate in Turkey, also contributed to the increasing trend of real estate acquisition by foreigners. It was reported that, before 2003, the total number of real estate acquired by foreigners in Turkey was 37,342 and that this figure increased to 42,884 in 2004. In 2012, it reached 117.399, which indicates a more than three-fold increase.27 85.4 percent of the participants in the Antalya survey acquired their houses between 1999 and 2006, the period between the granting of Turkey’s candidacy status and the beginning of membership negotiations. 

The majority of home owners in Antalya survey have residence permit (54.3 percent); and the majority with residence permit are British. The level of income seems to be effective in housing preferences. Almost half of the respondents (47.6 percent) own a house, while the other half (48.6 percent) rent. Settled retirees with an income lower than 1,000 Euros prefer to reside in rentals, whereas 70 percent of the retirees with an income of 2,500 Euros or more prefer to own a house. High-income retirees prefer to buy detached villas while low-income retirees prefer flats in mostly two or three story apartments. For those who are on the verge of making a decision to settle in Turkey, tours are organized by real estate companies, including free return tickets and accommodation, on the condition that the outcome of the trip is the purchase of property.28

39.8 percent of German retirees rent property while the percentage goes to 51.8 percent for the Nordic group. Approximately equal proportions of UK and Irish citizens rent or own property (49.6 percent and 49.8 percent, respectively). The survey also shows that quite a lot of British (25 percent) and Germans (28.4 percent) immigrants buy property as an investment. Interviews revealed that some retirees sublet their homes to relatives or friends, which adversely affect the income of small hotels,29 while boosting the local market through the everyday spending of these newcomers. 

Concerning neighborhood preferences, in the Antalya survey, nearly 70 percent of respondents claim to be indifferent to the nationality of their neighbors, although this is contradicted by the marketing of abovementioned gated residential complexes primarily to European customers of specific nationalities. The least concerned with neighborhood preference are British and Irish citizens, who also have the highest share (17 percent) of preference for having locals as neighbors. German retirees are most likely to prefer their own compatriots as neighbors (7.1 percent), while the Benelux group prefers EU citizens (13.5 percent).30 Similar to the findings of the Antalya sample, a large share (58.2 percent) of participants from both Aegean groups stated that it is not important who their neighbors are, while around one third of the sample (34.3 percent) stated their willingness to be neighbors with locals, which is significantly higher than the Antalya result (13.6 percent). There are also clear differences between the two coastal regions regarding the proportion of participants who are willing to live with people from other EU countries: only 1.9 percent in the Aegean sample but 9.2 percent in the Mediterranean sample. 



Interest in Political Participation 

Concerning political participation, only a quarter of participants in the Antalya survey showed a willingness to vote in local elections. The majority of the settled retirees who wish to vote in local elections either own a property (60.8 percent) or hold dual citizenship (55.6 percent). However, there is a noticeable divergence with respect to the nationalities of retirees. The percentage of those willing to participate politically ranges from 35.6 percent for British and Irish citizens down to 18.2 percent for Nordics. While retirees between the ages of 45-54 tend to regard voting in general elections favorably, those who are 66 years-old and above tend to regard it unfavorablyIn the Aegean destinations, more than half of the sample is willing to vote in both local and general elections. In parallel to the findings of Antalya sample, this share is higher among British and Irish citizens. 

Regarding approval for the free movement of Turkish citizens in EU countries, in the Antalya sample, 79.8 percent of the respondents were supportive, while 8.9 percent were against. British and Irish citizens had a distinct position here, with the highest support of 87.4 percent, while the Benelux group gave the lowest support of 74 percent. In the Aegean region, 61 percent of participants supported the free movement of Turkish citizens in their country, which is again high but lower compared to the results from Antalya. Concerning support for Turkey’s EU membership bid, as expected from the previous question, the results in the two coastal regions differ. In the Antalya sample, 84.8 percent of respondents were supportive, while 12.2 percent were not. However, support was much lower among retirees on the Aegean coast, with 34.3 percent supporting Turkish membership, 30.6 percent of participants rejecting it and 32.4 percent being unsure. In interviews, participants mentioned that the image of Turkey as an EU member would not be the same country that attracted them. They considered that such a change would make life in Turkey less relaxed and more expensive. This is interesting if we consider that the majority of retirees in the Aegean region are British, citizens of a country that actually supports Turkey’s membership bid. 



Perceptions and Sensitivities of the Host Community 

The survey conducted in Antalya provides us the perceptions and sensitivities of the locals concerning this influx of European retirees. Regarding the basic characteristics of settled EU retirees, they are mostly seen as honest, entertaining and hardworking people. Negative characteristics include attributes such as drinkers, gamblers and undisciplined people. The locals believe that the settlement of foreigners has caused “degeneration of values” (46.9 percent), “degeneration of the native culture” (45.9 percent) and an “increase in unregistered work” (11.5 percent). On the other hand, they also think that the retirees have also led to “increase in economic prosperity” (28.7 percent), “multiculturalism and tolerance” (20.2 percent), “achievement of democratic setting” (10.3 percent), a safer city (7.9 percent) and “less bureaucracy” (4 percent). There is a mix of positive and negative assessments, though the latter dominates.

Table 7. Perceptions of Locals concerning Settled EU retirees in Antalya Province

As a consequence, a very high share (63 percent) of local respondents is against property sales to foreigners, with only 29.7 percent viewing this positively. A majority of local respondents (61.6 percent) do not want to live in districts where foreigners are densely settled, although 60.4 percent of them do not support gated communities for foreigners. Whether this is simply a contradiction or a dilemma at stake needs further study. Finally, 52.9 percent of locals prefer not to be in the same entertainment places as foreigners.31

As a country in transition from emigration to immigration, Turkey hosts many diverse migrant groups, creating a very dynamic research field to explore

The findings of the Antalya survey also show that approximately 63 percent of local respondents disapprove of foreigners buying property in Turkey.32 Bayır and Shah33 report a similar finding regarding property sales to British settlers: “There is suspicion about foreigners buying land because a lot of Israelis have bought land in the eastern part of Turkey.”34 In the Antalya survey, 73.1 percent of respondents stressed that they preferred to sell property to Turkish people, while only a small group (4 percent) expressed a preference for selling property to foreigners. Among those who favored selling their property to foreigners, 35 percent did not give a specific reason, 30 percent said that there is a “financial advantage” and 20 percent stated that foreigners are “honest and reliable.” As for those who prefer to sell their property to Turkish people, 76.7 percent cited patriotic reasons, although the same local respondents had a positive view of Turkish people acquiring property abroad (54.9 percent).

Concerning political participation, most locals do not support the idea of foreigners having voting rights in Turkey, with only 30 percent seeing it positively while the rest finds it “not beneficial” (41.4 percent) or “inconvenient” (19.8 percent). While 41.8 percent of local participants responded negatively regarding the participation of foreigners in general elections, 19.8 percent were positive and a significant proportion (30 percent) was uncertain. However, the organization of a local committee representing settled foreigners was welcomed both in the district of Antalya (“Alanya Foreigners Council” – “Alanya Yabancılar Meclisi”) and in Muğla35 (“Foreign Residents Group” under the City Council). These councils, although having no legal authority, advise settled retirees about laws and regulations and their legal rights in Turkey. There are also many newspapers and magazines published in the languages of the settled foreigners, and some TV channels even broadcast local news in German.36 Social networks have also been established among European immigrants through their own local media.37




As a country in transition from emigration to immigration, Turkey hosts many diverse migrant groups, creating a very dynamic research field to explore. Tolay38 emphasizes that although migration studies in Turkey is progressing, they are “still in an embryonic phase, tending to be mainly descriptive.” European retirees have settled in the coastal Turkish Riviera. Along the Aegean coast, there is a predominantly English-speaking population (British and Irish) in the Aydın and Muğla provinces, while along the Mediterranean there are British, German, Dutch, Nordic, and Belgian retirees in the Antalya province subdivided into districts. Such geographical segregation, in parallel to the findings of other IRM studies, might be due to social ties and previous networks, as well as the availability of migration industry services, such as property brokers, but even this is a shifting process. Alanya, for instance, has become attractive both for Germans and Nordic retirees. In 2004, Germans were the dominant resident group (978 Germans versus 178 Nordics). However, by 2008, the number of German property owners had fallen behind Nordics (4,291 Germans versus 6,156 Nordic). There are many reasons for such shifts, including the marketing strategies of real estate agencies towards specific European countries. 

It is important to understand the perspectives and attitudes of migrants in order to manage diversity in a country like Turkey, where cultural differences between European retirees and host community members are significant. The settlement of European retirees has resulted in an “unexpected multiculturalism”39 as European retirees have brought their lifestyles to Turkey’s coastal districts, visibly stamping their imprint on the cultural atmosphere through bistros and shop signs in languages other than Turkish, and by creating their own social networks through associations, media, etc. Nudralı and O’Reilly40 emphasize that although it is difficult to enumerate the extent of this migration trend, it is evident to locals as it affects their lives in a number of ways. 

The interviews conducted in both destinations have demonstrated that a considerable number of the retirees are willing to participate in local politics, although this is not supported by the locals. Most locals are also against the sale of real estate to foreigners, when, in reality, such sales are on-going. Doğan41 discusses political opposition to real estate sales to foreigners in the context of xenophobia, emphasizing that the nature of the discussion and the language of debates provide us with some clues about the developing xenophobic attitudes in Turkey.

The Antalya survey showed that the integration of European retirees is a challenge for the local community and necessitates a change of mindset. Locals tend to approach retirees with caution, remaining reluctant to live in the same neighborhoods or entertain themselves at the same leisure places. Retirees, similarly, mostly live in gated communities with their own fellow citizens so there is very little intercultural dialogue. However, these findings should not lead to negative conclusions, as many locals also have a positive image of European retirees due to their contribution to economic prosperity, multiculturalism and tolerance, and the achievement of a more democratic setting. Nevertheless, they still perceive the retirees as “guests,” indicating a kind of temporary status, although many may have no intention of ever returning to their home countries. 




  1. Thomas O. Graff, Robert Wiseman, “Changing Concentrations of Older Americans,” The Geographical Review, Vol. 68, No. 4 (1978), pp. 379-393; Thomas O. Graff, Robert Wiseman, “Changing Pattern of Retirement Counties since 1965,” Geographical Review, Vol. 80, No. 3 (1990), pp. 239-251; Morton Winsberg, “The Changing South: Regional Migration Streams to Different Parts of Florida,” Southeastern Geographer, Vol. 33, No. 1 (1993), pp. 110-121; Daniel Clary, “La Migration de retraite en Floride,” Norois, No. 150 (1991), pp. 127–144; Charles F. Lognino Jr., Don E. Bradley, “A First Look at Retirement Migration Trends in 2000,” The Gerontologist, Vol. 43, No. 6 (2003) pp. 904–907.
  2. Karen O’Reilly. “The Rural Idyll, Residential Tourism and the Spirit of Lifestyle Migration”. Paper presented at the Association of Social Anthropologists - Thinking through Tourism. 2007, p:1.
  3. Karen O’Reilly, Michaela Benson. “Lifestyle Migration: Escaping to the Good Life?” In: Michaela Benson and K. O’Reilly (Editors) Lifestyle Migration: Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences (Ashgate. Farnham, 2009) pp. 1-13, p: 2.
  4. For the conceptual diversity, see Karen O’Reilly and Michaela Benson, “Lifestyle Migration: Escaping to the Good Life?” in: Michaela Benson and Karen O’Reilly (Eds.) Lifestyle Migration Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences (Ashgate, 2009) pp. 1-13; also Russel King, Anthony M. Warnes, Allan Williams, “International Retirement Migration in Europe,” International Journal of Population Geography, Vol. 4., No. 2 (1998) pp. 91–111; Russell King, Anthony Warnes, Allan Williams, Sunset Lives: British Retirement to Southern Europe (Oxford: Berg, 2000); Allan M. Williams, Russell King, Anthony Warnes, Guy Patterson, “Tourism and international retirement migration: new forms of an old relationship in southern Europe,” Tourism Geographies, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2000), pp. 28-49; Vicente Rodrìguez, Gloria Fernandez-Mayoralas, Fermina Rojo Pérez, “International Retirement Migration: Retired Europeans Living on the Costa del Sol, Spain,” Population Review, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2004), p. 1-36; Vicente Rodríguez, Maria Casado Díaz, A. Huber (Editors) La Migración de Europeos Retirados en España. (Madrid: CSIC, 2005); Maria Ángeles Casado-Díaz, “Retiring to Spain: An Analysis of Differences among North European Nationals,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 32, No. 8 (2006), pp. 1321–1339; Henry Buller, Keith Hoggart, International Counterurbanization (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1994); Toni Breuer, “Retirement Migration or rather Second-Home Tourism? German Senior Citizens on the Canary Islands,” Die Erde, Vol. 136, No. 3 (2005), pp. 313-333; Thor Flognfeldt, “Second Home Ownership: A Sustainable Semi-Migration,” in: C. Michael Hall, Allan. M. Williams (Editors) Tourism and 
    Migration: New Relationships between Production and Consumption
     (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002), pp. 187-203; Kevin E. McHugh, “Seasonal migration as a substitute for, or precursor to, permanent migration,” Research on Aging, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1990) pp. 229-245; Per Gustafson, “Tourism and seasonal retirement migration,” Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 29, No. 4 (2002), pp. 899-918.
  5. David L. Brown, Nina Glasgow. Rural Retirement Migration. (Dortrecht: Springer, 2008) 
  6. Jan Kåre Breivik, “Health Migration from Norway to Spain – Ambiguous Belonging,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 35, No. 9 (2011), pp. 1634-1653.
  7. Anthony M. Warnes, “Permanent and Seasonal International Retirement Migration: The Prospects for Europe,” Netherlands Geographical Studies, Vol. 173 (1994), pp. 69-81; Allan M. Williams, Russell King, Anthony M. Warnes, “A Place in the Sun: International Retirement Migration from Northern to Southern Europe,” European Urban and Regional Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2 (1997), pp. 115-34.
  8. Özlem F. Nudralı, “The Experiences of British Citizens in Didim, A Coastal Town in Turkey: A Case of Lifestyle Migration,” Unpublished Master Dissertation, The Graduate School of Social Sciences of Middle East Technical University, 2007; Uluslararası Stratejik Araştırmalar Kurumu (USAK) Yerleşik Yabancıların Türk Toplumuna Entegrasyonu. Araştırma Raporu. Ankara, 2008; Canan Balkır, Berna Kırkulak, “Turkey, the New Destination for International Retirement Migration,” in: H. Fassmann, M. Haller and D. Lane (Eds) Migration and Mobility in Europe: Trends, Patterns and Control (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2009) pp. 123-143.
  9. Blaakilde, A., G. Nilsson, (Eds.) Nordic Seniors on the Move: Mobility and Migration in Later Life. Lund Studies in Arts and Cultural Sciences 4 (Lund: Lund University, 2014) p.18.
  10. Some recent studies on the perceptions of the host community in Turkey include Kadir O. Unutulmaz. “The Unprepared Host: Governance of Unexpected ‘Multiculturalism’ in Turkey” Paper presented at Immigration, Minorities and Multiculturalism in Democracies. Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Montreal, 2007; Erhan Doğan. “Locating Xenophobia in Turkey” In. E. Berggren, B. Likic-Brboric, G. Toksöz, G. & N. Trimikliniotis (Editors) Irregular Migration, Informal Labour and Community: A Challenge for Europe. (Maastricht: Shaker Publishing, 2007) p. 430-445; Özlem Nudralı, Karen O’Reilly “Taking the risk: The British in Didim, Turkey” In: Michaela Benson, Karen O’Reilly (Editors.) Lifestyle Migration: Expectations, Aspirations and Experiences (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009) pp. 137-152; Derya Bayır, Prakash Shah. The legal adaptation of British settlers in Turkey. Queen Mary School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 97/2012. Unutulmaz investigates local responses to the problems of European retirees in Alanya, focusing on the governance of a new multicultural structure emerging after the influx of Europeans into Turkish coastal districts. In his work “Locating Xenophobia in Turkey”, Doğan deals with reactions to property sales to foreigners in Turkey. Nudralı and O’Reilly, in their qualitative study on Didim, a coastal town of Aydin province, that is popular with British settlers, address the perspectives of locals as well as British participants and conclude that local people have ambivalent attitudes towards the British settlers. In another study on Didim, Bayır and Shah (2012) investigate the socio-legal adaptation of British immigrants and the reactions of locals.
  11. Bianca Kaiser, “German Migrants in Turkey: The ‘Other side’ of the Turkish-German Transnational Space,” Thomas Faist and Eyüp Özveren (eds) Transnational Social Space: Agent, Networks and Institutions (USA/UK: Ashgate, 2004), pp. 91-110.
  12. There were more female non-Turkish nationals with residence permits (56.8%) than males (43.2%).
  13. See Canan Balkır and Berna Kırkulak, “Turkey, the New Destination for International Retirement Migration,” H. Fassmann, M. Haller and D. Lane (eds) Migration and Mobility in Europe: Trends, Patterns and Control (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2009), pp: 123-143.
  14. Bianca Kaiser, Ahmet İçduygu, “Türkiye’deki Avrupa Birliği Yurttaşları” (EU Citizens in Turkey), A. Kaya and T. Tarhanlı (eds), Türkiye’deki Çoğunluk ve Azınlık Tartışmaları (Majority and Minority Debates in Turkey) (İstanbul: TESEV Yayınları, 2005), p. 224-240.
  15. The category of “Citizens of Nordic countries” includes Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. Although, the paper deals only with the EU retirees, the figures concerning the Nordic retirees also include citizens of Norway, not a member of the EU.
  16. Figures show the total number of foreigners in the province.
  17. See Maria Ángeles Casado Díaz, Claudia Kaiser, Anthony M. Warnes. “Northern European retired residents in nine southern European areas: characteristics, motivations and adjustment” Ageing & Society Vol. 24 (2004) pp. 353–381; Vicente Rodrìguez, Gloria Fernandez-Mayoralas, Fermina Rojo. “European retirees on the Costa del Sol: a cross-national comparison” International Journal of Population Geography. Vol. 4 No. 2 (1998) pp. 183-200.
  18. Maria Ángeles Casado-Diaz, Claudia Kaiser, Anthony M. Warnes “Northern European retired residents in nine southern European areas: characteristics, motivations and adjustment” (2004:369).
  19. Muammer Tuna, Çağlar Özbek, Yerlileşen Yabancılar: Güney Ege Bölgesi’nde Göç, Yurttaşlık ve Kimliğin Dönüşümü (Ankara: Detay Yayıncılık, 2012); Canan Balkır, Berna Kırkulak, “Turkey, the New Destination for International Retirement Migration,” H. Fassmann, M. Haller, D. Lane (eds) Migration and Mobility in Europe: Trends, Patterns and Control (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2009), pp. 123-143; Özlem Nudralı, Karen O’Reilly, “Taking the risk: The British in Didim, Turkey,” (2009); Halil İbrahim Bahar, Sedat Laçiner, İhsan Bal, Mehmet Özcan, “Older Migrants to the Mediterranean: The Turkish Example,” Population, Space and Place, Vol. 15 (2009), pp. 509-522; İlkay Südaş, Mustafa Mutluer, “Immigration européenne de retraités vers la «Riviera turque»: le cas d’Alanya (côte méditerranéenne),” Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, Vol. 22, No. 3 (2006), pp. 203–223.
  20. The survey was part of project no. SOBAG-105K156, funded by the National Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBİTAK). Research team was coordinated by C. Balkır. Researchers are Z. Karaman Toprak, B. Kırkulak, and research assistant I. Südaş. The authors acknowledge the invaluable work of Toprak and Kırkulak who has contributed to the project. The questionnaire was prepared by the research team and the field survey conducted by Consensus Research and Consultancy. The in-depth interviews were conducted by the research team.
  21. Shares as to districts: Alanya–27 percent, Kemer–12.4 percent, Manavgat–10.6 percent, Kalkan–7.6 percent, Kaş–14 percent and Antalya city–28.4 percent.
  22. The findings are from the PhD thesis of I. Südaş, 2012, Ege University, based on project No: 07EDB017, coordinated by M. Mutluer. Of the 108 retired participants in the survey, 47 were from Marmaris, 53 were from Kuşadası and 8 participants from Ayvalık. Due to the relatively low share of retired participants, especially in Ayvalık, no specific result for this district was reported. However, comparison of Kuşadası, Marmaris and Ayvalık –based on the wider sample, regardless of retirement status– indicated that Ayvalık is distinct with respect to its cultural and historical attraction as a former Greek town. Being further north on the Aegean coast, it avoids the disadvantages of mass tourism, remaining distinct from other retirement destinations.
  23. Previous IRM study on several destinations (King et al.,1998:98) show that the mean age for migrant retirees was 69.1 in Tuscany, 68.5 in Malta, 69.4 in Costa del Sol and 65.5 in Algarve, much older than the sample in both surveys in Turkey.
  24. Maria Ángeles Casado Díaz, “Retiring to Spain: An Analysis of Differences among North European Nationals,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 32, No. 8 (2006), pp. 1321-1339.
  25. “The majority of the British people who spoke to us said that they could not converse or read in Turkish. Some had made efforts to attend classes or use language learning books, but only a few had advanced to any degree.” Derya Bayır, Prakash Shah. The legal adaptation of British settlers in Turkey. (2012:17).
  26. Allan M. Williams, Russell King, Anthony Warnes, Guy Patterson, “Tourism and international retirement migration: new forms of an old relationship in southern Europe,” Tourism Geographies, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2001), pp. 28-49; Bernadette Quinn, “Dwelling through multiple places: a case study of second home ownership in Ireland,” pp. 45-59; Hall, C. M. and Muller, D. K., Tourism Mobility and Second Homes: Between Elite Landscapes and Common Ground (Clevedon, UK: Channel View Publications, 2004), p. 8.
  27. Rona Aybay, Yabancılar Hukuku (İstanbul: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, 2005), p. 182; Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, “Response to the parliamentary question on 17.01.2012 with reference no: A.01.0.GNS.,” Document no: B.09.0.SGB.0.11.610.492 . 
  28. See Balkır and Kırkulak, “Turkey, the New Destination for International Retirement Migration,” p. 136.
  29. Ibid, p. 135.
  30. Based on field observations, such a segregation by nationality is also apparent in other aspects of everyday life. For instance, British citizens prefer to have meals at restaurants and bistros run by British owners, while Germans prefer places run by Germans. However, it must be emphasized that a more detailed research on the dynamics of a possible socio-spatial segregation is required.
  31. Balkır and Kırkulak, “Turkey, the New Destination for International Retirement Migration,” p. 137.
  32. The sensitivity concerning foreigners is shaped by traumatic experiences and events prior to the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic. See Türkan Ertuna Lagrand. Immigration Law and Policy, (Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2010).
  33. Derya Bayır, Prakash Shah. The legal adaptation of British settlers in Turkey (2012).
  34. See Bayır and Shah (2012:8). On the other hand, an official document from the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, dated 24.01.2012, as a response to a parliamentary question on real estate acquisitions by foreigners in Turkey indicated that the total number of the Israeli citizens acquiring property in Turkey in 2012 was only 71, or 0.06% of the total number of foreign purchases. The number of properties owned by Israelis was 96 (0.08% of the total) and the area was 17,465 m2, which was 0.02% of the total. 
  35. Ibid, p. 15.
  36. Julia Alaettinoğlu. “Türkiye’de yabancıların yerel hayata katılımı: Koşullar ve Perspektifler” In Canan Balkır (Editör). Uluslararası Emekli Göçünün Ekonomik ve Sosyal Etkileri: Antalya Örneği Çalıştay Tebliğleri. Antalya, 2008. pp.120–124. 
  37. There are local newspapers in English, such as the The Didymian in Didim, Land of Lights in Fethiye ( and The Ege Eye in Kuşadası ( Volunteer Advice Centre for Europeans in the Kuşadası district is also available (
  38. Juliette Tolay. “Discovering Immigration into Turkey: The Emergence of a Dynamic Field” International Migration IOM doi:10.1111/j.1468-2435.2012.00741.x (2012, p. 8).
  39. Kadir O. Unutulmaz. “The Unprepared Host: Governance of Unexpected ‘Multiculturalism’ in Turkey” (2007).
  40. Özlem Nudralı, Karen O’Reilly. “Taking the risk: The British in Didim, Turkey” p.149.
  41. Erhan Doğan. “Locating Xenophobia in Turkey” (2007).

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