Altuğ Yalin with his wife Elif and their sons, Berkay, 10, and Arda, 8.
“Moving to London was job-related, mainly—but London is the second-best place in the world, isn’t it?” says Altuğ Yalin, from Turkey. “I met my wife Elif in Turkey, then fifteen years ago I found my first job in Sofia, Bulgaria. I am a civil engineer working for BP, but I am internationally contracted, so I could be sent anywhere—you name it.”
“After Bulgaria we went to several countries, and London is basically another project I was assigned to. We are quite lucky, we stayed here three and a half years for my previous project and now we will stay another three years.”
Elif and her husband Altuğ are both from a quiet coastal town located by the Black Sea. “After university we left our homes and started living and working in Istanbul —we never went back to our home town,” says Elif. They return once a year to visit family.
“I think London is one of those cities where you really cannot help feeling like a tourist—it’s so diverse that you feel like you’re in a different place when you move from one neighbourhood to the next,” says Altuğ.
“I feel exactly the same as my husband,” concurs Elif, “though when I compare the other six countries we’ve lived in to the UK, I feel like I can blend in much more easily here—the language makes it easier.”
“Our sons Arda and Berkay started their English schooling in Baku, Azerbaijan, continued it in Oslo, Norway, and now here,” Altuğ explains, “so they are getting a good education.”
“They do speak Turkish, because we force them to,” says Elif, “we spoke it to them at home before they started school, but we didn’t give them a Turkish education—we believe a global education is much more useful nowadays.”
Before her sons were born, Elif worked for an American export company based in Turkey. “When we got married we started moving around; it was really hard for me to find a job. In Norway I started working for the Turkish Embassy as a cultural consultant and hospitality guru. For the last three years here I worked for the London Turkish Film Festival.”
She left the job when the pair recently decided to move to Surrey. “We know that in 3–4 years we are going to move to another place, so maybe that is why we are not getting too involved in things,” explains Elif, “We are afraid of the pain of leaving a place when we have got used to it,” agrees Altuğ.