Multiculture, Profiles

Mehmet Çakir: “High salaries do not cover living costs”

This young Bulgarian arrived in the British capital four months ago looking for a better future.


Javier Duque


At the end of January a London-bound flight landed from Istanbul, the city Mehmet Çakir and his parents had moved to, shortly after his birth.

His parents emigrated from Bulgaria to Turkey with the same aim as every immigrant, according to Mehmet, “to search for work and a better life.”

Mehmet could consider himself practically Turkish as he lived there for 22 years of his life, until he decided to come to the UK. “My career in Publishing finished, I was with one company for a few months in training and then I saw the time had come.”

He didn’t have any problems entering the country due to being European and having a Bulgarian passport. Although in order to work, he did need authorisation from his employer, a necessary requirement for all Bulgarian citizens.

But his boss, owner of the café where he works, helped him with the paperwork because Mehmet spoke English very well and had previous experience.

He gained his experience in hospitality and catering during summers spent in the United States, in 2008, 2009 and 2010 in New Jersey, Wisconsin and New York respectively. “Those summers allowed me to master English and discover the country. It was very expensive, of course.”

Also, the young Bulgarian studied English at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, a private university where classes are taught in English.

Although, he says that a lot of the time they gave classes in Turkish because some of the students did not understand and asked the teacher to do so. But whenever there was an Erasmus student present, the class was taught in English.

Mehmet was also an Erasmus student. He spent 6 months of last year in a small Dutch city, where he was intrigued by how few people lived there and the high quality of life.

Adaptation

Development in London compared with in Istanbul is great. But the hustle and bustle of people is nearly the same, assures Mehmet. Both cities contain more than 10 million inhabitants.

The immigrant population was indeed a big change for him. He comments that in Istanbul there are not many immigrants, although last year people from Iran, Iraq and Syria began arriving. “Here in London, there are people from all over the world. Without a doubt, it’s obvious that there is work here.”

Despite all this, Mehmet finds himself well settled in London because his flat has a “nice atmosphere” and he has an excellent relationship with his flatmates. He has also met up with some of the friends he made in the Netherlands.

With regards to salaries, he is also surprised. He considers them very high compared to Turkey, but he is not left with much after paying rent and transport fees. Even so, he remarks “earning almost £1000 for working in a café is perfect.”

He is not yet sure on his future plans. He believes he will end up doing a Masters in another country, probably in the Netherlands because he has seen that they are cheaper there.

He will most certainly not embark upon a Masters here in the UK, because it costs a lot of money. And although he says he has heard talk of student loans, he dismisses the idea because he does not want to be in debt for the rest of his life.

(Translated by Emma Harris – emma_harris123@hotmail.co.uk)

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