I work for a multinational company which gives me an advantage of working with people from different corners of the world: both online and in real life. One of my colleagues turned out be a very close friend of mine in time and I would like to have the honor of having her here in this blog, to share her story of moving to İstanbul.
Welcome in here and tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Elina. I am 25 years old and I have been living in Turkey for 3,5 years. Hmm, what do people tell about themselves to answer this kind of questions? I like to take pictures and to spend my time checking Instagram and Pinterest, looking at all those nice pictures. I am also a control freak which is a very bad thing to have when you live in Turkey.
How did you end up living in Turkey, all the way from Finland?
I have always wanted to live abroad and I made this decision when I was really young, when I was around 10 years old or so. I met my current Turkish boyfriend in Poland. And it just kind of happened. Before coming to Turkey, I had already started living my dream, dream of living abroad, while I stayed in England for a year.
There are lots of foreign women in Turkey; aupairs, Erasmus students, and people who chase their beloved ones. What do you think was the hardest part when you moved here for the first time?
I fell in love with everything about Turkey by the first time I arrived in here. But in time, not having friends and not having a personal social life started to make everything harder.
But I guess this is not about moving to Turkey. Probably everyone who moves away experiences similar problems.
Indeed, this would have happened to you as well if you moved to İzmir for instance.
As far as I can see now, that era of your life is over (cheers to that!). So how did everything change?
I was always working, which was lucky for me, because it gave me an opportunity to have a normal life, to meet people and all, to have the regular everyday routine.
Did you manage to find a job before coming here?
Yes, I already decided that I would not come if I would not find a job. After I got an internship in İstanbul, it was time for me to move. After that, I just managed to find other jobs and now it is my third work place here.
What kind of difficulties you had to go through, while looking for a job, or when you just started to work at a new place?
I always thought you would not find a job in Turkey when you do not have connections but I saw it myself that it is possible if you keep looking for it. It is true that you have to deal with a lot of paper work, and there is no reliable source, wherever you go, you get a different answer. And then you read other people’s experiences and you get confused. In Turkey, everything tends to happen in a random way, things go well but first you need to go through some stress and need to check the same thing with different people / departments. I have never heard of anyone who could not get a thing not done, but I heard about people who had so many problems for a long time, even for months, for their residence or work permits.
Do you have any tips, trick or suggestions for people who decides to live or work in Turkey?
Patience, a lot of patience, and good humor. 😉
What about housing? As a Turk who had lived in İstanbul for quite some time, I personally had difficult times finding a decent place. How was it for you?
It was easy for me because when I came here, I already had my boyfriend and did not need to wander around. I know that there are a lot of foreigners in here. And they are always looking for flatmates. So it can be relatively easier to find a room instead of a whole apartment. Because this is a big city and rents are very high. And it is not easy to cover the rent and other expenses if you live alone, especially in central areas. Of course the further you go, rents get cheaper. But of course as a foreigner and a woman, you should consider the neighborhood you will live in. It is important to feel safe and comfortable when you walk to your home. Not that I am saying it is dangerous, but it can get annoying or disturbing sometimes. Also you might want to consider the amount of cars and amount of people as well. Because there is always traffic in İstanbul and the further you go, the more you need to deal with the traffic and the harder it will become for you to go to work or to meet your friends.
Where shall I start? 🙂
I think my strength is that I am a very adaptive person. I can live without my Finnish food for instance (which is important!), except of my Finnish gum because chewing gum here sucks. There are some nice things in Turkish culture which we do not have back at home so much. Then I guess I feel grateful that after living in here, I can appreciate my own culture more and my background. What was the question? Oh, okay the culture. And I have a very big love & hate relationship with this country. One day, I want to scream and shout and the other day I want to kiss the street cats and swim in Bosphorus.
What do you think is the reason of this contradiction?
There are only two kinds of things in here, it is either black or white; either really good or really really bad. There is no grey. There is no way in between; you are either really happy or really sad and upset.
What do you like about Turkey, or İstanbul to be exact, the most?
Especially about Istanbul, I like to have so many options and countless amount of possibilities. There are always different kind of activities and you will never get bored. Also because Turkey is really big, you can even have a weekend trip to so many different and amazing places.
I like people being not so stressed about everything, in Finland people think so much all the time but here as Turkish people say “Su akar yolunu bulur”. Also people are helpful. I feel that in here, there will always be someone I can lean on, whatever kind of support I need from friends etc, there is always someone willing to give it.
I like the food, no need to explain in details. Food is good, not just the kebap but everything else is as amazing as it is.
And street cats of course (I am a wannabe crazy cat woman (confession time!)).
Where to start? Let’s start with breakfast. I guess my favorite is the breakfast. I am not going to go into details but no one should leave Turkey without having proper Turkish breakfast. Turkish food is not only about kebap, and kebap is a very general word for a specific type of food. So any kind of kebap is worth trying for. For travelers, i would suggest to give a try to Turkish home made food, so if you ever get an invitation for a dinner, do not say no. You will never regret it and you will be forced to eat till you explode but the food will be so good and you will not even care. Turkey is a big country and there are different kind of foods from different areas but their common point is they are all very nice. I really appreciate there is always some fruits and vegetables in every season. Especially in summer you can find a large variety of fresh fruits which is not possible in many European countries.
I have not visited Karadeniz (Black sea region) yet, which I like to visit so much. If i had gone there, that will be probably my favorite place.
I have been mostly on the west coast of Turkey, and most of the places were really nice. But from all of the places, Pamukkale was the coolest one. And Cunda definitely comes as a second. I have also heard really nice things about Bozcaada and though I have not visited it yet, it is on my list for this summer.
As a general traveling tip for Turkey, I highly recommend the buses. Roads are mostly good and buses are comfortable. Prices are also reasonable. There are also night buses so that you can travel at night and not lose any day time of your trip. If you have some euros in your pocket, flight tickets are not expensive though. But traveling with a bus can be more fun.
You already said that you are an adaptive person. And I can even see it in you that you are really getting along well with Turkish people and their everyday routines. When you think about it, what kind of changes do you see in yourself?
I had changed a lot, to better I think. It has been only good for me. I think I have also become more “living in the moment and not making so strict plans ahead” type of person. Since I had a chance to compare two different cultures, state of mind of two different nations, at the end I combined good things from both cultures for which I consider myself very lucky.
Seemingly you had your share from Turkish culture. What about you giving back to your friends? Ever had a chance to teach something about your culture here in Turkey?
I guess it is only my boyfriend who absorbed from my Finnish culture, mostly in terms of food. I am also speaking up about the Finnish type of gender equality which is unfortunately still lacking in this country.
People here who meets me think that I am very cold, probably you also thought when you first met me that I was cold. That is kind of my personality, but for instance small talk does not exist in Finland. We even had English lessons about small talk, ie. “Humm the weather is really nice.” “Hmm indeed, I agree.” . We usually tend to speak when we have something to say, we do not call someone to just say “hi”. But even if it is a friend who you did not see for some weeks, you would speak 30 minutes tops.
In Turkey, it is so normal to have the smallest talk as “Hi – how are you – fine, you? –I am fine, bye.” Which is so weird from a Finnish state of mind.
By the way, what was the question again?
People already know me that I am not rude on purpose.
Your Turkish is really good, compliments for that. How did you improve it, ever had lessons? Or what would be your suggestions for starters?
People learn things differently so I can not have a proofed way of learning. But my suggestion is no matter how you learn it on your own, the main thing is to be brave. You should not avoid yourself but instead you should push yourself when you are around of people who can not speak in English. And because Turkish people are very helpful, even when you cannot express yourself, they are understanding, grateful that you are trying and still helpful as always. I took an 8 hour course for a month for a start. But mostly I have learned it by speaking and asking. My breakthrough was the time when I went for a holiday with my boyfriends’ family where nobody speak in English. I had to communicate with so many people so it had been a great challenge and experience at the same time.
As a Finnish and an expat local of İstanbul, what would you suggest to travelers, in terms of food, and places to visit etc?
Well, there are many options. Even though I would not recommend it, if it is a first time, I would suggest them to visit Old Town and Taksim. On the European side, I like Karaköy and Beşiktaş. This is more for like hanging around and sitting at a pub, or having diner and coffee at a nice place. For night life, Taksim is ofcourse a good choice. But Kadıköy I believe is not much worse. In Kadıköy, you can spend a day walking around and shopping because there are lots of small shops with interesting things and have a beer at one of the many nice pubs at the evening.
Maybe visiting Ortaköy in the evening to taste kumpir and waffle, and you can buy hand made jewelery and watch the Bosphorus bridge with the light show. If you want to spend time outside, then I would definitely recommend Princess islands.
And there is the beach way on the Asian side starting from Moda and goes till Pendik. Close by is Bağdat street which is nice to hang around.
But İstanbul is a huge city and it would take a one full blog post to tell about it.
After me and Elina can not figure out how to end this post, we totally forget about it and went outside as it was time for her to go home. The weather was rainy and windy; and unfortunately she did not have an umbrella so I walked her to the bus stop. There was 15 minutes till her bus to arrive so I decided to wait with her. Then she starred at me and said: “See, this would not happen in Finland, nobody would wait for another.” Well, it was just me, being Turkish.