From London to Turkey: Turkey with Stuff In
Hello to you wherever you are I’m Kym and I live in Turkey where the word Kim means ‘who’…. that’s been fun! I am married to a native, Murat, and my surname is now Ciftci which means ‘Farmer’ – I’m also a Turkish citizen now and with that I took a Turkish name so you can also call me Sevda if you wish. When it comes to names I am not at all precious – My husband calls me things like ‘Woody’ (when I had red hair and looked like Woody Woodpecker apparently). Sometimes ‘Dinosh’ after Dino in the Flintstones and his new favorite is Balina (whale). The last one being the least flattering, but I have to say he only started that one after I named him Hippo Murat, a name I have also taught the village kids to say
I have a son from a previous life and he calls me ‘Moosh’ – So you see, I really don’t mind what you call me, as long as it’s not rude.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I was your typical suburban resident with a nice house, a decent car and a great job, albeit a stressful one with a lot of responsibility. Whether it was down to stress or not I don’t know but I became ill and eventually had an operation. The operation was not a complete success; the surgeon nicked one of my organs and I ended up bleeding internally. This meant I needed a second operation and that also did not go as well as it should have and when I woke up covered in drips and drains and feeling a hundred years old, I decided life was too short. That was the turning point.
2. How do you make a living?
My initial intention was to write a book (how many people have said that eh?). I did end up doing that and it sat on my hard drive for 6 years. It is now about to get an airing as I have been approached by a publisher….. Back up 8 years though and I had taken a TEFL course before I left the UK, just in case. I fully intended to use this but a chance conversation on a dolmus (bus) resulted in a job in a Real Estate office. That experience I put to good use when I met Murat and we eventually opened our own Estate Agency.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I consider Turkey as home now and I’m surrounded by my new family. I don’t come from a close family so it wasn’t really a wrench to leave those UK shores. My son lives there now, although for the past 8 years he has worked on various Greek Islands and in Cyprus. Both have been easy to get to from here so I was able to visit. Now he is back in the UK though we talk every day, mainly through the internet.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Turkey?
The weather! I really dislike being cold. As a child I lived with my Grandfather and he was very ‘economical’ – If I complained of the cold he would say ‘put your coat on and sit in bed’ bless him. I remember vowing then that when I was an adult I’d never be cold again. I also prefer to be outside in the countryside and here we are spoilt with the most beautiful landscapes which I can enjoy for most of the year in good weather.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Turkey?
Whenever anything beyond your control happens and you need to communicate, especially when you need to make yourself understood to get the help you need, e.g. illness, accidents, emergencies or anything of a bureaucratic nature
6. What do you miss most?
As a Londoner I am used to the buzz of a big city and all that it brings. I really miss things like the theater, the museums and always having something to do no matter the weather. I still salivate at the thought of places like Covent Garden! I do however have a great love for Istanbul as I feel at home in big cities; I understand them and know the rules.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
In 2005, when I moved here, I Initially socialized in the beach bars during the summer season but, when winter came, this packed tourist resort turned into a ghost town. It was a bit of a shock. I eventually started a women’s group by putting an ad in the local paper and 60 women turned up for the first meeting - I did wonder where they had all come from? Of course when I met my husband, I married into a large family and we spend a lot of time with them. I kind of live my life somewhere between the two cultures; a foot in each camp as it were.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I am very independent having lived on my own since the age of 15. I raised my son as a single parent and I’ve always made my way in this world with no help so, to watch the women in the family being dependent on the men and subservient to boot was a bit much for me to stomach. Initially I would sit with them on ‘girl’s nights in’ and I would be on my soap box about women’s rights and opportunities, telling them about the UK and how life could be. They looked at me quizzically and basically said ‘’why would we want to do that? We have everything we need here’’ - Indeed they do. They are happy with their lives so who am I to question that? A lesson learned for me definitely.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That everyone rips you off and everyone lives on kebabs!
1) Turkey is a country built on a bartering system and that is what is expected of you. If a Turk says to you ‘’that costs 100tl’’ and you pay it, but the next customer barters the price down to 80tl, it’s unfair to say you have been ripped off. I hear people say ‘why can’t they label everything with the price’ – I always respond with ‘why should a whole country change its historic customs to suit you?’ Learn a bit about the culture and the customs if you plan on visiting or living here, after all, you are the guest in this country. It seems the British Empire mentality lives on!
2) There are indeed a plethora of Kebabs on offer here with every region having their own specialty but, that’s not what the natives eat at home. If you have ever had Chinese or Indian friends you will know the food they eat at home is nothing like the food you get in the takeaways.
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?
It’s definitely lower although cars are very expensive along with petrol. A lot of people never get out of holiday mode and spend their time in the bars. If you live like that then you will go through money like you do vodka! For me, I am delighted to be able to fill my fridge with organic fruit and vegetables for next to nothing.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
The best bit of advice I can give anyone is to learn the language as it will make a big difference to your life here. Also, learning about the customs and culture will help you integrate……Walking into the bank or municipal buildings in your bikini top is really not the thing to do!
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I wrote a newspaper column here from 2006 to 2008 and I had a lot of very nice comments and responses to it. That gave me the incentive to start my blog which I finally got around to in 2010. It is a labor of love and I would do it even if nobody read it. I am compelled to write, it’s just what I do…. have always done. I write therefore I am
Kym's blog, Turkey with Stuff In
To be considered for an interview (as well as other articles), add your blog to BlogExpat!
Thank you Regina :-)Kym Ciftci 07 Jul 2013, 05:49