Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Istanbul, etc.
I first ventured to Istanbul in 2009 to visit my best friend who was living here. Within an hour of landing, I had a sense of “being home”. That initial twang of the heart strings initiated my love affair with the city, and when Istanbul appeared in the dark grinds of my coffee cup, I was convinced I had to come back for more.
Nine months later, as a singleton, no dependents and with the love and support of family, I left my home in Australia. I anxiously traded in the corporate stilettos and a somewhat predictable well-paid consultant career for the unpredictable world of Istanbul. Five years on, I’m trying to break into the travel writing industry alongside my regular work as a freelance writer / grant proposal writer for Australian and American businesses.
I’m a lady in my late 30s and go by the nickname Lili. I like to stay anonymous with Love.Life.Istanbul to protect my other inbox from Keyboard Romeos!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Love.Life.Istanbul started in 2012 as a way of documenting my observations and experiences in Istanbul. I soon realized the stories resonated with others world-wide, which encouraged me to keep writing. Surprisingly, my main followers are Turkish people living as expats in other cities around the world and I am always motivated by their emails to keep writing.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Blogging for me is about taking off my perfectionist / intellectual hat and unleashing stories from the heart. I’m not writing a novel, nor trying to win the next literary award but the posts where I show my potential to craft a story are my favorites. So “10 Things I miss About You…Istanbul” and “When the Real Miss Turkey Stood Up” are my favourites for this reason. They also capture major turning points in my relationship with Istanbul so I read them with fond memories.
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?
I don’t recall feeling any culture shock, I have just felt incredibly welcomed — and continue to feel this way. I’ve always been open-minded and inquisitive so if something doesn’t make sense I ask questions and find there’s a perfectly good reason why things are the way they are.
To describe how my life in Turkey differs to that of Australia is a whole blog post in itself. I went from a structured life of an eight-hour work day, proud home owner with a mortgage, and owner of the latest-model car in a city of two million people to a freelancing lifestyle of an unknown income, cheap rent, and public transport in a city of over 17 million people. Everything is so different. Nothing is the same. I’m just thankful I have two homes, one in each hemisphere. Life is never dull!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Istanbul? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
As a professional planner, in my downtime I tend to “wing it” so I didn’t research Istanbul much before I came here on holiday. When I came to live here I didn’t prepare much either. I already knew that there was no point in being too organized in an often disorganized world that thrives on spontaneity.
I feel Istanbul has a way of nurturing you and guiding you to where you need to be. Even the setbacks I’ve experienced have taught me valuable lessons. So when I have lost, I have gained. It’s why I say Istanbul is my greatest lover — she can hold me close, and then reject me. But in an instant she lures me back with all her charms nurturing me to be a better person. On reflection, I wouldn’t change a thing (other than wishing airfares to Australia were cheaper!)
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My funniest moment was my debut as a dancer on Turkish TV, captured in “A lesson in spontaneity”. It’s a good story to tell the grandkids one day! The day grandma was a belly dancing Ms Ruffles Galore on Turkish TV.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Istanbul?
- Let go of control. You’ll never get your own way, but trust that Istanbul has a way of giving you what you need when you need it — good or bad!
- Ask friends about the taboo topics that have shaped Turkey. Asking a few friends who represent different ethnicities will help form an objective view.
- If it looks strange or sounds strange on the menu…eat it. It’s delicious.
How is the expat community in Istanbul? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I find it quite easy to meet women of all ages in Istanbul thanks to Facebook pages for foreign women. I find it hard, however, to find foreign men to be friends with, which is where InterNations provides the forum to meet and greet. Sadly though, some of the best friends you make eventually move on so the hardest part of being an expat is searching for new friends to fill that void when your besties have gone.
How would you summarize your expat life in Istanbul in a single, catchy sentence?
Hubble bubble, spoiled and troubled; Bosphorus breeze and hamam bubbles.