And so it happened: as more and more people take to the skies again it is not unheard of that whilst completing the online airline pre-departure clearance form you are rejected. Credit card maxed out and tickets not issued? Birthday written in the wrong slash dot slash – order… possibilities, certainly! Yet there is another trap nicely laid out for would-be travelers: our passport or EU ID document expiry date.
Many of our dear readers will not have flown internationally – or at all – for the best part of the past 15 months or so; hence, regularly checking on the ‘from – to’ lines was a useless exercise anyway. So we forgot about it. Then panic all around: departure in a fortnight, hotel booked and paid for? Stuff for a horror movie as in the age of doing everything electronically who would still issue a passport manually so that we could collect it in person in time for the flights? To top it all up some nations have outsourced passport production not just to the best domestic printing facility but to a printing facility in a different European country.
There are stories of renewals or in the case of minor’s first issues taking weeks if not months to be dispatched and that can be said for many if not most European countries. And this was reality well before today’s global health situation.
But why devote an entire column to this topic? Well, it is not just about passports but in general European administrations and bureaucracy, respectively, and said in all due modesty tend to be somewhat moderate speed wise. However there is a shining light, a rare exception of where the saying of less haste, more speed took onboard a new meaning: more haste equals more speed or in other words, welcome to Turkey!
The example chosen above for detailing how efficient and fast Turkish civil service and the administration in general operate is lifted from real life so to speak. And we are set for a new record. Always extremely speedy anyway this time it happened to one of my family members and it took 48 hours from filing the application to receiving the ‘green tick’ that all is proper, and another 48 hours until a sealed envelope was delivered to our apartment’s door. Contents: you guessed it, a brand-new passport.
The buzzword is e-government and it is fair to say that after one or two years of experimenting with servers and the system as such today’s e-government – or ‘e-devlet’ – can be considered world-class. Granted, in some instances you would still need to attend a face-to-face interview at your local town hall or the police station but many offices allow you to simply walk in and take a ticket and then sit down. From personal experience the longest I ever had to wait and in this case it concerned a document for our daughter was two hours, a jam-packed reception hall but everyone got sorted as fast as possible as there were many counters with perfectly trained staff. Recently of course you would have asked for an appointment beforehand so as to keep social distancing intact.
And the good news is that all this is not just a privilege extended by the Turkish government to their very own citizens. Leaving ‘e-devlet’ and for example new passports aside for a moment we expatriates need to attend to paperwork as much as anyone else has to, local or foreign. Think asking and obtaining a Turkish tax number. Consider taking out health insurance. Being in need of a print out of your address records or requiring any other officially stamped and signed document. Chances are you will not have enough time to read your online newspapers first few pages before your number is called and you are taken care of.
Now let us put matters into the wider context and why Turkey comes out on top once again same as with so many other issues affecting daily life. Turkey is a country where the word ‘service’ did not have to be invented, it comes naturally. Turkish society is very courteous and supportive by definition. Turkish families are large so the term solidarity is nothing new either. Need help from your town hall? Sure, we are here to help.
But Turkish people are unlike most of their Mediterranean neighbors less patient when it comes to actually achieving results. So one might say supply meets demand – as the nation and population continue to grow more and more citizens need public services. So as we wrote earlier on in this piece speed is of the essence indeed.
But we should be honest with each other: in case you want to do it alone it helps to have prepared a few sentences in Turkish so that when it is our turn we are ready to ask for, and receive the service you actually came here in the first place. Alternatively, you may want to bring someone along who has enough command of the language and sorts you out. And last not least there are fine professionally operating interpreters and translators.
But before you embark on any such mission why not get in touch with the Citizens Advice Centre here in Kusadasi– contact details in this very newspaper – and ask for support and help? The system as described today is fast indeed but to make the most out of it as a non-native speaker having someone by your side is a good idea.
To conclude today’s article there is another piece of positive news: whilst public services and e-government aim at new speed records day in, day out once all is sorted you return to your neighborhood or the town center or the beach and sit down. This time there is no need to rush it – now you realize that Turkey offers speed whenever necessary and allows for daydreaming whenever so desire; what a great mix. Have a safe, happy June and please consult your passport’s expiry date for just in case.