Louis: Sirkeci Restaurants
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Istanbul, etc.
My name is Louis Herman, and I came to Istanbul in 2008 for the first time as part of a Study Abroad program from my home university in Greensboro, NC, USA. I never wanted to leave, but ran out of money and had to return to America for a bit to save up enough currency to reach escape velocity from the gravity of shallow consumerism.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I kept a travel blog on my first trip to Turkey in 2008, but the Turkish government in all their infinite wisdom decided halfway through my term to block the Blogger.com website so that page died. The sirkecirestaurants.com idea formulated itself during a think-tank discussion with local business owners and an NGO striving towards urban revitalization of the Sirkeci district.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
All of my posts are my babies but I always liked this picture and the meals at Can Oba are some of the best I have ever had in Istanbul.
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?
Talk about a loaded question. In broad strokes, Turkey, as every place in the world, is essentially the same as every other. There are people, they live their lives, they try to find something to make them happy. They have families and kids and they eat. The differences you really notice are in the small things, the way friends walk down the sidewalk with their arms linked not allowing any other people to pass, or the way time works in a much more fluid an inexact way, which is necessary with Istanbul traffic since no one would be on time anyway. The biggest culture shock I ever experiences was back in the States for a visit. The experience was overwhelming... eating in a cafe where you can understand every trivial and inane piece of conversation, or trying to decide which foods to buy in a grocery store bigger than my neighborhood mosque back home in Istanbul.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Istanbul? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No one is ever prepared, and if they are, then they are not traveling to a place exotic enough to really get the brain juices welling. A bit of uncertainty, some fear, and a hint of panic are essential precursors to the joy and relief that a travel can feel upon being warmly received upon arrival at the end of the road.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I went to a party at some Polish friends house once. It was a bit loud, and the neighbors, instead of being kind and asking us to keep it down, simply called the police. The cops, being very courteous and polite, escorted the entire party down to the police station, where they proceeded to lecture us about being respectful of Family Life and finally agreeing to let us all free as long as we promised to invite them next time we wanted to have a party!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Istanbul?
- Don't teach English unless you absolutely have to
- Don’t find roommates on Craigslist
- Eat as much çiğ köfte and lahmacun as possible
How is the expat community in Istanbul? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There are tons of expats and many different cliques depending on what they came here for. There are the Erasmus students. There are the missionaries. There are the 28 year old Americans who experienced ⅓ of life crises and came to Istanbul to teach English. There are the diplomats. There are the reporters. It’s easy to find them and if you are really desperate to speak to a foreigner just stop by any of the thousands of Starbucks and you can find a few.
How would you summarize your expat life in Istanbul in a single, catchy sentence?
Istanbul is a deliciously mean angry she-boar who I continuously slay to find my daily bacon allowance.