Terry: Adventures in Ankara
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Turkey, etc.
I am a resident of Turkey, a native of the U.S., and a citizen of the world. I was raised in Chester County, PA, in a town that had the feel of an old and small northeastern city plopped in the midst of the green pastures of horse country. I loved it, but eventually moved to the great City of Brotherly Love – Philadelphia. There I lived and practiced law for more than fourteen years. In March 2010, I moved to Turkey, having married a Turk the prior year. Upon my request for more adventure in my life, he lined up a job and moved back home to Ankara about six months before me. I proceeded to pack up our 3-story Victorian home, sell it, and made plans for my new life abroad.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging my experience in April 2010, shortly after my arrival in Turkey. It started as a way to keep in touch with my family and friends. Everyone wants to know what I am doing, and that is a tough story to repeat over and over again. The blog quickly became something more. I write about my travels in Turkey, back to the States, and to other lands. I write about every day common experiences that I find quirky. I add recipes – Turkish, American, and German, and write restaurant reviews. More importantly, I have begun gathering useful information for expats living in Ankara including where to shop, how to find certain groceries, things for kids to do, how to buy bus tickets, and more.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Yes, I do!
- My most recent posts are a series on a weekend adventure in Kaş, west of Antalya on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. You can read about Day 1 of that trip here.
- One of my most popular posts, other than recipes and restaurant reviews, is about furniture shopping.
- Among my personal favorites is a story I wrote about language differences and intolerance.
- I did write a post in which I gathered 10 of my favorites.
- The post that affected me the most was about a bittersweet memorial in my neighborhood.
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?
Life is actually easier for me now. Not much is expected of me since I don’t speak the language well. Other than teaching English, it very difficult to get a job that will sponsor a work permit. I get contract work from the States that I do online, but it is not full-time work. I love it because it allows me the free time to explore, write my blog, and do whatever crosses my mind on a particular day. However, I am constantly questioned by others as to how I spend my time. It seems a bit unusual to many that I could actually enjoy being at home every day. My friends in the States, on the other hand, would probably ask me how they could sign up for this life! The biggest shock was the way people drive here, that is to say, no rules! To Turkish drivers, a good defense is a strong offense! I quickly learned to abide by their lack of rules and can drive like the worst of them when necessary!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Turkey? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No one is ever fully prepared for a complete change in lifestyle. The main thing I may have done differently is taken a little more time to learn the language. I don’t really find it a hindrance, but it would be nice to understand a little more. A second thing would have been to better understand the size of a “container” when shipping things to Turkey. I could have stuffed a lot more of my personal items and furniture into that truck! If I had known the value of real wooden furniture here, I would have brought a lot more.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I think one of the funniest things that happened to me was trying to bake a cake for the first time. First I had to go shopping and translate the items I needed. Then I had to convert measurements. And then there were all of the little icons on the oven with which I was not familiar! I settled on a box mix. Who knew that even that would be different?! You can read all about it here.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Turkey?
I have three pieces of advice that I have offered over and over again.
- Keep an open mind. Just because things are different does not mean they are wrong.
- Get out and meet the natives. You are in a foreign land, take advantage of it! It’s a unique experience that will teach you a lot!
- Laugh. Do it every day, whether you are feeling it or not. It helps to keep things in perspective.
How is the expat community in Turkey? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I understand the expat community can vary according to what part of the country one is in. Ankara has a very strong expat community. It is home to the Embassies, and many other businesses and universities hire foreign employees. We actually have email groups that connect us easily for any reason – questions, concerns, how to find . . . I don’t actually seek out like-minded expats though. I find it more fun to meet the Turks and get to know them. I am inspired though, by the amount of foreigners from other countries that I can meet here on any given day.
How would you summarize your expat life in Turkey in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in Turkey, or any other land with which one is unfamiliar and doesn’t speak the language, is like learning to fly. Just do it!