Diane: the daily dilk
- Recommended Expat Blogs: Istanbul
- Lili: Love.Life.Istanbul
- Adrian: Postcards from Istanbul
- Louis: Sirkeci Restaurants
- Connie: Endings, Beginnings and Panic
- Lisa: Inside Out In Istanbul
- Maddie: Maddie's Vine
- Joy: My turkish joys
- Trici: Drawing on Istanbul
- Louise: One Foot in Europe
- Lidia: Hos Geldiniz
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Istanbul, etc.
My husband and I met in South Africa and traveled for the better part of a year before we moved together to New York to start our respective jobs in law. We were married there, and our son Aaron was born the following year. When Aaron was around three months old, we moved to Istanbul for my husband's work.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Blogging was an easy way to keep in touch with family and friends back home. I also got a new camera and some nice lenses before we moved here, so I figured I'd use them around Istanbul. Lastly, I'm a stay at home mom, which can get pretty boring! It was a nice way to do something creative, however small.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My three favorites so far are this post about why Turkish breakfasts are the best in the world, our trip to Rumelihisari, which is my favorite attraction in the city, and a post about an afternoon I spent with my son around Taksim Square and Itstiklal Caddesi - I just love the photos from that day.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Istanbul differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
It was really interesting moving here with a young baby. We found the locals to be, very generally speaking, remarkably welcoming and helpful. There's no shortage of offers to help if I need it when I'm out and about with my son (Istanbul is a very hilly and old city, which is part of its charm, but also makes getting around with a stroller a real handful). A lot of people here are completely baby-crazy, and it makes raising a child here really wonderful.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Istanbul? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don't think anyone's ever prepared! We honestly didn't spend that much time thinking about our move because we had or hands full with a tiny infant (Aaron was born about three months before, and we got confirmation we were moving a few days before his birth). It's counterintuitive, but I think that distraction really helped us. No matter how much you mentally brace yourself, there's still going to be issues and problems you only discover upon hitting the ground. Sometimes it's better just to acknowledge that, and be more relaxed about moving internationally.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
People here are just so crazy about babies that it's hilarious to see. When we moved here we had to have a bunch of appliances delivered and some shelving installed, so the first few weeks were filled with deliverymen and handymen coming in and out of our apartment. They were really quick and efficient, but there was always at least 10 minutes tacked on at the beginning where they'd just play with the baby: holding him, bouncing him, tickling him. I've also had strangers lift him out of his stroller while out with my son!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Istanbul?
- Make an attempt to learn some Turkish - you don't have to be anywhere near conversational, but I think it's important to at least know some basic vocabulary to get around in a grocery store or to give a cabbie directions home. Plus, people always appreciate the attempt.
- Get used to the traffic! We picked a neighborhood that doesn't have much in the way of easy public transportation since it's out of the center of the city - we love it, but whenever I wish we were more central I just remind myself that at least there's stuff to do within walking distance, and that we don't spend an hour (or more) each day stuck on roads.
- Get your fill of non-Turkish food before you come! There's a great tradition of Turkish food here, obviously, but one of the quirks of Istanbul is that although it's such a large and diverse city, international cuisine is hard to come by, and the few options are often disappointing. We were given a heads up about this long before we moved, and we're glad we spent our last several months in New York basically eating... nonstop.
How is the expat community in Istanbul? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Being a stay at home mom with a young baby made the first few months very isolating. Since Istanbul is such a large city, the expat population here also seems to be pretty spread out. You really have to be proactive in looking for people. Fortunately, my husband's colleagues are great--many are Turkish, or have spent quite a number of years here, so they were able to show us around and help us out. Further, there are specific organizations here dedicated to expat foreign women through which I've found other moms and playdates for our son. I also contribute articles occasionally to a website for expats, which has also been a good way to connect with people.
How would you summarize your expat life in Istanbul in a single, catchy sentence?
No real catchy sentence, but we jokingly refer to our life here as the "aftermath" - a lot of people thought we were insane for making a random move with such a young baby. It's worked out for the best, though!