The day that Turkey joins the EU…

… a lot of the 70+ million Turks may consider emigration.

Sampling of prices… Gasoline: $8.50/gallon. Diet Coke in a cafe: $6. Museum admission: $8-16. Haagen-Daz in the supermarket: $12.50/pint. Crummy Yellow Tail Shiraz from Australia in the supermarket: $32/bottle. Local table wine: $15-20/bottle.  Burger (or “McTurco”), fries, Coke at McDonald’s: $6.  Dinner for three at a local restaurant on a small island visited only by Turkish tourists:  $175, including wine but without dessert.

Income?  The per capita GDP is about $5,000 per year, compared to $44,000 in the U.S. and $35,000 in Germany.  An office worker in Istanbul might earn $700 per month.

Lingering Third World inconveniences: terrible traffic due to recent rise in automobile ownership, limited and slow highway connections (where “highway” usually = two-lane road), sluggish and/or intermittent Internet (DSL line in rich neighborhood), lack of consensus as to amenities that should be provided in a public restroom (after paying your $8 admission fee to a museum and walking into the men’s room you would be lucky to find 2 out of 3: toilet paper, hand soap, hand towels or drier)

The Turks went to extraordinary lengths in the 20th century to “Turkify” what had been a polyglot country.  Prices higher than London and incomes lower than Mexico may, however, cause even the most ardent Turkish nationalist to consider learning an Indo-European language and looking westward for a place to live during his income-earning years.

7 thoughts on “The day that Turkey joins the EU…

  1. Hmm. When I visited Istanbul (1999) it didn’t strike me as a a particularly expensive place. Transit and food seemed priced in line with incomes. There were expensive shops but they seemed aimed at us, the tourists. Has it changed? Should not the free import of goods from the rest of the EU help bring down the prices? What is keeping them so high, is it taxes or just plain lack of competition among vendors? What is stopping somebody else from bringing in the same wine and selling it at a competitive price?

  2. You probably went to Istanbul; a country all of its own. Prices there are much higher, as are the salaries–just like in major cities all around the globe. Plus we get reduced admission to museums (and free for students) but you didn’t hear it from me 🙂

    …and average Turks don’t eat Haagen-Daz or drink Yellow Tail. I’m surprised your hosts didn’t tell you.

    I concede that Istanbul has a traffic problem; I take the metro whenever possible.

  3. Well, the main problem that we have a very limited middle class in Turkey. Upper classes are already do not care about price tags while lower classes have limited consumption capability and way different habitude..
    Practically Turkish masses do not demand too much the products you consider as important, low demand brings low supply and non-competitive markets for particular products. State taxes wine very high, but there is no big protest against it because wine consumption in Turkey is low, on the other hand, EU pushes more taxes for RAKI because of its alcohol content ratio but there is a big reaction about it, and the government can not step with the fear of votes… So we can say taxation, price tags are up to habitude ..
    For example; Mc.Donalds is not the poorman’s stop in Turkey, because masses from lower classes do not eat burgers.. they eat lahmacun or other regional dishes and they are cheap and tasty… What you miss in here, the success of Turkish small enterprising on adaptation of their regional dishes to their fast food shops instead of franchising Mc.Donald.

  4. Brad: A lot has changed since 1999. Turkey has had strong economic growth, a lot of migration of folks from the villages to Istanbul, and a lot of inflation. Istanbul is a lot like New York City in terms of congestion and prices, but overall it still is apparently better than the villages because people keep pouring into the poor neighborhoods surrounding Istanbul. The gas prices are constant throughout the country (presumably taxes) and the wine prices are partly due to high taxes. But basically the whole country is a much tougher place to live than anywhere in Western Europe, considering the gap between income and cost of living.

  5. you need to live in Turkey to discover the real prices i think… Just seeing this beautiful country and this beautiful city from a tourist’s eyes and making the judgement with brands &products that aren’t popular among the public would make your comments a little more distorted… Here I made my list of prices in Istanbul:
    Ice cream: 1,5Liter=3,17pint– 5$-Algida brand-most widespread one
    Museum entrance- free or up to 8$- for turkish citizens-also discounts for students(Rome: Entrance to colloseum was 10€ for me, and10€for eiffel tower!
    Wine: the table wine I drink is about 7$a bottle
    Diet coke : 2-3$in a cafe –you should have left the place where you drank it for 6!
    McDonalds:that price is right but if I wanna have a snack I dont go to Mc, instead I grab a “döner” and ayran from one of the million buffets, costing me around 3$- half the price of McDonalds…

    Island dinner-175$- that price sounds a little too much to me, I would rather go have some other restaurant instead, which costs about 80$, the same menu you say..

    When you mentioned traffic, I suppose you have not seen the public transpotation alternatives in Istanbul: you can use sea buses, ships, boats, trams,trains,metro, etc in order to get to the place you go sooner, thinking of cars all the time sound so American to me…

    Especially internet connection has distorted comments of yours I think, because ADSL(lets call it DSL, OK) is all available around Turkey, not in rich neighbourhoods as you mentioned… and the minimum bandwith is 1Mbps, not that much of a 3rd world country style, I think…

    What I can say here is that you ned to be very careful when judging a country … Cities have diffeernt price alternatives if you look careful enough.. Not just trough a tourist’s eyes and a bad translator– cos we do have different notations for Highways and 2 lane roads maybe your translator has had to unify them…-
    with the prices I listed here, adding the joy and pleasure of watching the sunset over StSophia from Asian side which only this magnificent country can offer, emigration to Europe would not be as much as many Europeans think…
    But thanks for opening the debate!

  6. Mert,

    i have no idea what ammount of turkish emigration to Europe
    is to be expected in future, but i think the countryside
    would be the main origin ov movement here rather than the big cities.

    I remember Siebel, my employer´s canteen manager (in
    Berlin), telling me once: “If Turkey will ever become a member
    of the European Union, i will go back to Istanbul the very
    next day.”

    She prefers townspeople, i guess. 🙂

  7. Philip:

    You should know by now there are two (or more) levels of prices in countries like Turkey — one for you and one for the people. There may be one price level in shops in Istanbul off the tourist path, or in cities/towns/villages off the tourist path, but that takes an overnight bus ride to somewhere like Sinop or Trabzon — very beautiful places, I might add.

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