Louise: One Foot in Europe
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Istanbul, etc.
I’m originally from Birmingham in the UK, I moved to Istanbul last October when my old job was getting unbearable and I needed to get out of there. The opportunity arose and I grabbed it. This has been the best thing I have ever done and I am so glad I threw caution to the wind, not only for the purpose of sanity.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I had a food blog in the UK (not long started) but found that I couldn’t continue it here due to my lack of oven and my love of baking; I just couldn’t do it anymore. I decided to write about my experience here so that I could continue writing and also so that I would have a record of the things I have done here and the way I felt, so it would always be there to look back at.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- Cumhuriyet Mahallesi Blues: I remember writing this when I was feeling a bit down about where we lived. So far away from the centre! I was still new to the place so still had the urge to jump on the next flight home in the back of my head. This was me trying to be positive about it.
- The politest way to get ripped off in Turkey: Getting ripped off isn’t a shock but it doesn’t make it any easier, we felt annoyed but wiser for it and are much more vigilant now.
- Must learn Turkish: I have much improved now but those language barriers can be frustrating at time. Turkish is so hard!! I’m trying!!
- Fethiye Frolics: This was about my recent holiday to Fethiye, it´s a wonderful place and I managed to get some nice photos with my new camera.
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?
Life here is much better than back home because I like my job. I hated my job back home and it’s easy to let that affect your life outside of work. I was overworked and underpaid. My work life balance here is much better. Being an expat is great because everything is new. Everyday something interesting happens just because you are not used to it, little things, like people reversing the whole length of a road at top speed! I would say it took me a month to get used to things. The first month was a bit of a rollercoaster, from loving it at first, to hating it and missing my friends and family, to everything falling in place and feeling content. I think being away from home and not knowing anyone was the hardest thing to get used to. I’m not sure if I would call it culture shock, there was something there that wasn’t sitting right, I was comparing everything to being at home and thinking, ‘we wouldn’t do it like this in England for everything’. I had to stop doing that and learn to go along with the way they do things here. Like queuing for example, I am British, we love order, we like to wait our turn. In Turkey it’s every person for themselves. You can be standing at the front of the checkout and someone will walk in front of you and take your place. That took some adjusting to. Now I can get to the front like the best of them. When in Rome…
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 really didn’t look into it because I am that sort of highly unorganized person. I like going with the flow, which doesn’t always work in my favour. I think in a way it’s a good thing because I didn’t have any expectations of what it was going to be like and I wasn’t basing my experience on any preconceptions. The only thing I would change was doing more research on where we wanted to live. I let my employers choose where we lived and agreed blindly without realizing how far away from everything we are. If I could do it again I would live somewhere else.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
We once got into a taxi and the driver told us to get out a beer. We thought he was going to drink it but then he opened it and told our friend to down it (all in Turkish of course) singing along in encouragement. He then proceeded to blast out house music and shake the steering wheel so that the car was dancing along with it. The taxi driver was of course an elderly man. We left the taxi slightly traumatized.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Istanbul?
- Don’t over pack. There are loads of cheap clothes markets to stock up on over here. I made that mistake.
- Research where you want to live. In the centre close to all of the action or further out where it’s quieter and there is more space to breathe?
- It’s a good idea to join forums before you leave to meet other expats, it’s a good way of making friends and getting to know what to expect beforehand.
How is the expat community in Istanbul? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community here is huge, there are so many likeminded people living here from all over the world, in this city it’s impossible to be bored. I have a great social life over here, there is always something going on.
How would you summarize your expat life in Istanbul in a single, catchy sentence?