Monday, April 5, 2010

Seven Questions for Ex Pats in Turkey


If you are an ex pat, whether you have been here for years or months, I'd like to hear your ideas about the following questions.

Your ideas are important because I get a lot of emails from people who wish to move and live in Turkey. They ask a lot of questions about life here and I give them all the information I can think of, but I wouldn't pretend to be an expert. So, sometimes I wonder how much my opinion differs from other foreigners who reside in this country.

1. What are a few things that you like most about living in Turkey?

2. What are some things you found/ find hardest to adapt to?

3, What one event has most shaped your impression of Turkey?

4. In one sentence, what is your best advice for anybody who wants to live in Turkey?

5. What was the most surprising thing you found when you first arrived in Turkey?

6. What is something you hope will change in Turkey?

7. What's something from Turkey that you wish your own country would adopt?

I'd really like to hear your ideas. Of course, you don't have to answer all of them. Just as many as you wish. Thanks to all.


  1. I think you've just given me 7 posts! It'll take some time, though... Thanks!

  2. No problem. I think the various answers would be interesting.

  3. 1. Things I like - friendly people, cheap and nutritious food, cheaper cigarettes.
    2. Things hardest to adapt to - lack of decent trees (fields and fields of boring olive trees), the temperature in July and August, insane Turkish driving (I am a cyclist), 'yes' often means 'no' and 'impossible' means 'I don't want to do it', just how bad Turkish pop music is, no Marmite or sugar-free peanut butter and Turkish apples are pretty bad.
    3. Two events - firstly when workmen came to instal the iron bars on the windows - straight out of Laurel and Hardy, secondly the way they got the coach to stop and wait while a service bus from another company picked me up and drove to the coach allowing me to reboard it after I had missed the bus after a toilet break - that would not have happened in the UK!
    4. Learn just a little bit of Turkish.
    5. The salt and pepper pots were the other way round.
    6. Driving standards to improve, and more consideration for cyclists and pedestrians.
    7. The dolmus is a brilliant idea.

  4. On number 3, one time I took a bus from Ankara to Adapazari, and I knew I was coming up on my stop. So I informed the water-guy and saw the sign for Adapazari come and then another sign with a big red line running over the city name again, in quick succession. So I jump up and he manages to stop the bus and in the middle of the night I find myself on the side of the highway with my shoulder bag. They told me to wait another bus would be coming in a second.
    Those were long seconds and like Buster Keaton, I stood there. Then, along came the bus. I scrambled on and told the guy, "Adapazari. Adapazari" as plainly and clearly as possible. Now you might not believe it, but I see the town sign come and I looked back, and the water-guy is sleeping! I nearly missed my stop twice in different directions!

  5. 1. THİNGS I LİKE MOST: The people. The way families look after their elderly relatives. The weather. The food. The beauty...some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere.

    2. THİNGS I FOUND HARDEST TO ADAPT TO: The language. Mindless bureacracy. The way laws /rules and regulations keep changing. The nosiness of neighbours.

    3.NOT ONE EVENT BUT MANY THAT SHAPED MY IMPRESSİON OF TURKEY...OR MORE İT'S PEOPLE. Coming from a nation of suspicious people, who think that if someone does something for you they must have an ulterior motive, to discover that these people simply act out of kindness and the desire to be helpful...and want nothing in return.

    4. BEST ADVİCE: Try before you in Turkey for a whole year, before making the decision to settle permanently.

    5. MOST SURPRİSİNG THİNG: The way the Turks trust people. Eg not having money or change in a shop, and the shopkeeper giving you the goods and trusting you to pay later.

    6. WHAT I HOPE WİLL CHANGE:'s currently out of control. I'd like to see the leaders of this country stop and really think about how Ataturk intended this country to be. Turkey has lost it's way. I'd like to see it back on track.

    7. SOMETHİNG I WİSH THE UK WOULD ADOPT FROM TURKEY: Without doubt the strong sense of family values and neighbourliness. The way no-one needs to be alone, and if you have a problem there is always someone willing to help. You rarely see an elderly person living alone with no help here in Turkey. Unfortunately there are many 1000s dying alone in the UK.

  6. Isn't it sad and strange how misunderstood Turks.. as a people.. are? I mention Turks in the US and if they have any information at all (even general location) then it is inevitably "Midnight Express." Mind you, I don't want Turkey to get oo famous. I can be selfish with my bit of paradise.

  7. AS OF LAST WEEK, I HAVE BEEN HERE FOR 2 MONTHS. So my impressions are VERY fresh and are surely subject to change in the near future...

    1. THINGS I LIKE ABOUT LIVING HERE: the food, cheap shopping, the lira! Turkish hospitality, public transportation, Kahvalti, ekmek, kaymak, learning Turkish

    2. THINGS I AM STRUGGLING TO ADJUST TO: Paying for WARM water, feeling rude for NOT wanting that 6th cup of tea, lack of independence, Turkish hypochondriasis aka the unspoken agreement of all Turkish people to completely ignore science and cling to medical superstition. Turkish men (no thank you), the terrible television

    3. ONE EXPERIENCE THAT HAS CHANGED MY IMPRESSION OF TURKEY: I wish I could say it was a good experience. But over the last 2 weeks I have begun being followed by men anytime I try to walk anywhere by myself when I am in Taksim--even in broad daylight. There is nothing I can wear, no dirty face I can make, or rude comment I can say to make them go away. I have lived on my own for several years now and walked some dark streets in some big cities, but I have never been afraid to be alone in my life. Now I am afraid and I hate it. Maybe its wrong of me, but I am truly coming to hate Turkish Men.

    4. ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE EXPATS: Forget anything you THINK you know about your own country...the Turks will tell you how things REALLY are.

    5. THINGS I DIDN'T EXPECT ABOUT TURKEY: I didn't expect Istanbul to be so hilly! And the traffic--don't get me started! And most of the people here in Istanbul seem to know even less about Islam then I do. I guess western media gave me the impression that all "Muslims" are completely devoted to Muhammad and the 5 pillars.

    6. Cobblestone sidewalks are a slippery turned-ankle-waiting-to-happen, I hope that the ultraconservative party that is in power finds a way to erase the damage that it has done to the relationship between conservative Arab Turks and the Modern Ataturkist Turks. Its sad that 2 groups who have lived peacefully side by side for almost 100 years are now being divided by policy and litigation.

    7. Bread, cheese, cream...and Kahvalti. I will never eat another Cheerio ever again! Oh an juice, fresh squeezed...Step it up America, or I am never coming home, I will never drink from concentrate ever again!

    Vada, 22, Check my blog for more of my admittedly biased and uninformed (but I hope at least amusing) impressions and experiences

    P.S. thanks Nomad, reading others' impressions and writing my own has given me a bit more insight into this place and the experiences I can expect!

  8. About No.3, there is a phrase I would advise you to learn because it seems to be quite effective. Turkish men (as far as I can see) think they are born irresistible to women and continue thinking this well past their due date. No amount of frowning will deter them. However, Turkish women have a way that strikes terror in their hearts. They shout as loud as possib, "Bey EfENDim! Nap your sun!" With direct eye contact and snakes in the hair and everything. If you say it loud enough, you can actually cause the driver to pull over. Well maybe not but you can certainly have the every last soul rubber-necking like crazy. Maybe some of the ladies here can offer new and improved advice but you can try that one time anyway. Be sure to take some pictures too!

  9. To help deal with unwanted Turkish male attention, I would also recommend saying "çok ayıp"...very loudly...loud enough for passers-by to hear...should do the trick!

  10. Ah, the bottom-of-the-barrel Turkish men. Not much to be done about that sort but ignore them. Don't worry-- they are much in the minority, probably recent village transplants who've never seen a woman without a cadre of armed men to protect her, or a woman's bare arms... Add to that the foreign TV that leads them all to believe we're all gagging for it. Taksim is full of illiterate Neanderthals like that-- it's cheap entertainment for them, no?

    The other side of the Turkish man Neanderthal coin is that most men are actually quite gallant and chivalrous, and still do sweet old fashioned things like give up bus seats and hold doors and refrain from saying bad words. I say "other side of the coin" because I know a lot of people find this behavior annoyingly anti-feminist which it is, in a way, but it's also nice, in a way, and without a trace of malice.

    Seriously, ignore the idiots. Don't speak to them or look at them or even show you know they're there. Telling them to fuck off and die in either language apparently means, "I want you right now against this building." Eye contact is also an invitation.

    Nomad and Ayak is right about the "N'apıyorsun" and the "çok ayıp." Make sure other people hear you, they'll take care of the guy. Another useful phrase I learned early on was "(Bir) adam beni takıp ediyor," (a man is following me). It's not what Turkish people would say I don't think, but it's pretty freaking clear. Walk into the nearest shop (or better yet a pharmacy with 3 guys sitting around with nothing to do) and say that, and someone will take care of him.
    You'll likely be offered tea as well. This awful situation brings out one great thing about Turks is that they'll fall all over themselves to help a woman in distress, especially a foreign one. After helping you, they assure you that Turks aren't really like that, only the bad sorts. They're so proud of their country they don't want us going home with a bad impression.

  11. Another one of my favorite Expat bloggers in Turkey has just posted her answer to the first question. A marvelous bit of writing and very perceptive as well. If you get a chance to read it, I am sure you'll enjoy her answer.


Always great to hear from visitors to Nomadic View. What's on your mind?


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