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From Seattle to Istanbul: Postcards from Istanbul
24 September, 2012 09:35
My name is Adrian. I am from a small island outside of Seattle. I grew up in a world of beach bonfires and bustling coffee shops, surrounded by mountains, trees and the Puget Sound. Currently, I call Istanbul home. Istanbul is a city of beautiful chaos, incredible hospitality and constant activity.
1. Why did you move abroad?
During college, I spent one semester in London. Every day was a new adventure. I had friends from all over the world and I travelled on a regular basis. The moment I returned to US soil, I felt inhibited and yearned to return to life in a global city. As I approached my college graduation, I was full of wanderlust. I purchased a one-way ticket to Istanbul. I came with the intention to live in Turkey for a year. Three years later I am still here…
2. How do you make a living?
I taught Kindergarten at two different private schools in Istanbul. I served as both a branch teacher, as well as a classroom teacher. At the beginning of my professional life (and with little formal teaching experience), teaching provided me with the opportunity to be independent and creative in a professional environment. However, the work environmnet was very intense and exhausting. You can read more here.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Not often enough! There is a 10 hour time difference between the west coast of the United States and Istanbul. Thus, it is difficult to find convenient times for both parties. However, I email regularly with my parents and my closest friends from home. My mom uses Google Voice to contact me, which is great because we can both talk on our normal phones.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Istanbul?
Every day is different. My friends are from all over the world and have led unconventional, adventurous and interesting lives. Wherever you are, there is something incredibly exciting or beautiful to observe. The food is fresh, flavorful and delicious and there is no shortage of things to do and see.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Istanbul?
Daily life is very intense. Work hours are long. Traffic is excruciating. Plans and procedures change on a whim. It is very difficult to adapt to the intensity and chaos of the city.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss potlucks, libraries and Thanksgiving. I miss food of every nationality and flavor. And, of course I miss the comfort that comes from being in the presence of lifelong friends and family.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I joined everything! I became a member of Internations, MyMerhaba, Professional American Women of Istanbul and many more. I said yes to every opportunity. I arranged to meet people for coffee. I emailed people for advice and I wandered the streets attempting to discover shops, galleries, restaurants and neighborhoods that made me feel at home.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I hate wearing slippers in the house. My friends and family find this behavior quite amusing (however, the older generations fear that I will get sick), and now attempt to make me feel comfortable by assuring me that I do not have to do the slippers when I enter their homes.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
I have been asked the most bizarre and ignorant questions from every type of person. My dentist's secretary asked me if I speak Arabic. A family friend inquired if I had to wear a burka. Others have asked me if there were a lot of camels in Turkey.
The reality is that Istanbul is a large metropolis. You can find everything, everyone and every type of attire. There are incredibly modern and chic neighborhoods nestled close to traditional Muslim communities. While Istanbul is a large global city, it is also very different from the rest of Turkey. While Turkey has a rich history, it is a relatively new country. It is attempting to define itself and it is changing rapidly. While the rest of the world has faced a recession, Turkey’s economy is booming. Turkey is an incredibly unique and culturally rich country that is already an influential country on the global stage.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
In comparison to the United States, the cost of living in Turkey is much cheaper. Less than half of my salary is used to cover my living expenses. As a foreign teacher in a private school, your salary and benefits put you in the upper-middle class of Turkey. This is an incredible privilege and gives you the ability to travel in and out of the country and take advantage of the city’s nightlife, restaurants and cultural scene.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Connect with other Ex-pats and ask for help: There is a strong and dynamic community that goes out of its way to include and support new residents. Take advantage of this network!
Learn Turkish: It is difficult, but it is so essential to ensuring you experience Turkish life and culture. It allows you to go into people's homes, enjoy home cooked meals and regional specialties and experience the incredible generosity and hospitality of Turkish people.
Be aware of your privilege: Ex-pats are usually paid more than their Turkish peers and co-workers. Additionally, most expats have the money and the freedom to travel on a whim. Be conscious of this as you build relationships with Turkish people. Give back in any way possible.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog, Postcards from Istanbul because I craved a way to document my experiences and share them with friends and family. Additionally, after two years of teaching I craved a creative outlet and the opportunity to enhance my writing abilities. It has also proven to be a wonderful excuse to learn about Istanbul and Turkey, and connect with other ex-pats.
Adrian's blog, Postcards from Istanbul
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