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Joy: My turkish joys

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Istanbul makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Turkey, etc.

I'm from a small town in Nebraska. After working as news reporter for a couple years after college, I realized it wasn't for me so I started taking professional cooking classes. I always loved cooking and baking and it just seemed like a natural fit - do what you love.

In 2004, I moved to New York City and landed a pastry cook job at Jean Georges. Later, I worked as a pastry chef in fine dining restaurants in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, M.D.

In July 2010, I followed my husband to Istanbul, Turkey, because of his job. We had just been married a few months, and this seemed like an exciting way to start our new life together. Now, I teach pastry classes on a monthly basis and bake cakes and tarts for a coffeeshop.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

After two months of living in Istanbul in 2010, I started My Turkish Joys as a way to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Also, it was the first time in my adult life that I wasn't working full-time so I needed to keep myself busy. I decided to combine my love of cooking and writing into one place.

Over time, the blog has developed as a way to share my life in Turkey and about the people, the historical sites, the markets, the amazing landscapes and of course, the food. In addition, I hope the blog breaks down some of the misconceptions people have about Turkey and this part of the world.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Last year, we took a new seaplane to Bozcaada. As we flew over Istanbul, I took some amazing photos on this post: Flying Seabird Over Istanbul: Aerial Photos. Another favorite post is Sunrise at Mount Nemrut: Photo Post because that was a spectacular experience.

Tell us about the ways your new life in Turkey differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

I definitely cried during the first two weeks because everything was new, and I found the Turkish language difficult. Just going to the pharmacy was taxing and required a Turkish-English dictionary. But then I started tackling the challenges head on. I studied the language through Rosetta Stone and later took weekly Turkish lessons, which helped immensely. I quickly met other expats through groups such as InterNations, International Women of Istanbul and Professional American Women of Istanbul as well as a few locals and soon established a network. I started exploring the winding streets of Istanbul and the weekly pazars (markets) and fell in love with the city. Istanbul reminds me a bit of New York City so life in a big city didn't seem much different to me.

Back home, there is little diversity in the Midwest and still quite a bit of prejudice, unfortunately. In Istanbul, I have an international group of friends from Spain, Germany, France, Australia, South Africa, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. I am thankful to have met so many different people. Biggest lesson learned: You will only get out of the experience what you put into it. Just jump in.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Turkey? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I moved to Istanbul without ever setting foot in it. I trusted my husband's decision as he'd been here before on business. I had researched information about Istanbul and Turkey, but nothing really prepares for a new country until you actually live there.

Even if I had visited Istanbul before we moved, I doubted I would have changed my mind about living here. My husband and I were ready for a change and wanted to live abroad. This was the perfect opportunity! I think everyone should live abroad at some point in his/her life.

In hindsight, I wish I would have taken Turkish lessons in the U.S. before moving here. It certainly would have helped, but then I wouldn't have been ordering socks instead of soup in Turkish.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

My biggest lost in translation moment in Turkey involved buying a washer and dryer. I assumed all the washer-dryers here were the combo style since that's what we had at our temporary apartment in Istanbul. You start the cycle and two and a half hours later you have a load of steamed clothes.

My Turkish friend knew a salesman at an appliance store so I went there by myself. I had been looking at washer-dryers elsewhere so I pretty much knew what I wanted. The salesman spoke only Turkish and at that point I spoke about 10 words in Turkish. The washer-dryer had like 12 different settings, which I didn't understand, but figured I would look it up later.

When the machine arrived the next day, I used the computer to translate all the settings and quickly realized there wasn't a dryer setting. I thought my husband was going to kill me because I just spent 800 tl on a machine that only washes! I felt like an idiot and shed a few tears while talking to my Turkish friend about the situation.

Next day, I went back to the same store and bought a dryer from the same salesman. NOTE: not all appliances are the same.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Turkey?

  • Explore. I’m always out and about in the city with my camera. There are so many nooks, crannies and winding streets to explore.
  • Be flexible and adaptable. Things in Turkey are not done as quickly/timely as they are done in the U.S. or elsewhere. You may make an appointment and that person may or may not show up. Deliveries may or may not get delivered on the day they are supposed to. Deadlines aren't really deadlines. Sometimes it's frustrating, but many things are out of your control so there's no reason to stress out about it. The common phrase here is: "Burası Türkiye.” (This is Turkey.)
  • Learn some Turkish. I cannot stress this tip enough. Sure, you could stumble along life in Turkey with English, but you would never have the same rewarding experience. The Turks appreciate any bit of Turkish that you can speak. We've traveled all over Turkey by ourselves and are thankful we can speak enough Turkish. It's been an amazing experience.

How is the expat community in Turkey? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

In Istanbul, there is a huge expat community and in some of Turkey's larger cities as well such as Antalya, Adana, Ankara and Bodrum. However, I think it's much easier for women to meet other expats because most of the groups are geared towards them, especially if you have children. I think I've formed friendships faster with other women here because we can relate to each other. Some of the women's groups in Istanbul are International Women of Istanbul, the Foreign Women of Istanbul on Facebook and the International Professional Women of Istanbul Network.

You just have to get involved, network and meet other people. There are plenty of opportunities and groups like InterNations that make it possible to meet other expats.

How would you summarize your expat life in Turkey in a single, catchy sentence?

Eating everything and traveling everywhere I can in Turkey!

Sven Baudach

"My business partners, also mainly expats, and me, we always use the wonderful InterNations Events as an informal get-togethers."

Maggy Roswick

"With all the great information and contacts provided by InterNations, it was no big deal to get settled in Istanbul."

Global Expat Guide