Tag Archives: expat lesson

Expat lesson learned: there’s a Turk for that

The most striking thing I’ve found about living in Turkey is not so much the east-meets-west cliche, but the fact that the modern world and the old school of doing things coexist. While I can order food delivery online, you still see many Turks lowering baskets into the streets and getting passersby to go on a beer run (okay, more likely an Ayran run) for them. I can shop or eat at nearly any multi-national chain, though there are also tons of tea houses women haven’t entered in decades and shops that have probably have been running in the red for as many years. I’ve also learned that nearly any task or errand can and will be performed by a specialist with a job description that you may not find anywhere else. No matter what you need done, chances are, there’s a Turk for that. Continue reading

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Expat lesson learned: pantomime and broken Turkish

I’m going to ignore my many pending posts and excuses about not blogging and just post about a typical Istanbul experience. Months ago, Husband got the bright idea to apply for a mortgage refinance on our Brooklyn apartment. Due to annoying coop rules about subletting, it has been sitting empty since we left in April and with lower interest rates, he figured it would be a good way to save some money on the place while we’re away in Turkey. With visions of a few hundred dollars more in my bank account each month, I agreed and applied online through our bank. A few weeks after getting approved for the lower interest loan, I received a letter by email outlining the many pieces of paperwork I’d need to provide the bank, and then realized my coop board would require even more. Thus became the first of many times in which I burst into tears of frustration over the refi.

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Expat lesson learned: you don’t have to go home but you can’t bank here

Another bit of frustration I’ve experienced here has been financial, and not just the exorbitant prices I’m willing to pay for wine and pork products. While banking and international transactions can be tricky whenever you travel, it gets more complicated when you are traveling long-term and don’t know when you’ll next be home or near your local bank branch.

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Expat lesson: the concern of Turks

I’m hardly the first to point out how nice, hospitable, and gracious Turkish people are, and beyond the typical tourist interactions of waiters, guides, and hotel staff, I’m finding out how deeply their concern runs for foreigners. Each Turk that I’ve met and asked for recommendations on restaurants or help on getting errands done has offered to make calls for me or accompany me to the cell phone store, which I often happily accept. In a few situations, I’ve found the concern of strangers to be a little much, albeit well-meaning and thoughtful.

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Expat lesson learned: say okay and pay

After six weeks, four visitors, and two trips out of the country, I’m beginning to settle into expat life in Turkey. It’s a bit like being a retarded child: you speak in stilted and monosyllabic sentences, simple tasks take hours or even days, and you can get away with things regular folk can’t because they know that you don’t know any better. Occasionally or even daily if you try hard enough, you will have a small victory and learn something new about your new city.

One of my favorite (and few) Turkish words is tamam, which means okay, all right, perfect, etc. Most of my transactions here begin with me asking for something in broken Turkish (“Shoe. Fix. Please. Yes?”), them giving me a lengthy response I don’t understand, me smiling and saying tamam, offering what I think the price is, and eventually leaving with more or less what I needed. Once I realized that there is little chance of agreeing to something serious in another language when you are in a shoe shine shop, I figured it was okay to just smile and nod. Additionally, every business that I have had even a mildly successful transaction with has earned my full loyalty. The first time in my local cobbler, I left one shoe to have the sole repaired with no idea how I would claim it or when it would be ready, and returned an hour later to find it fixed, shined to a blinding sheen, and paid about a dollar. I’ve been back several times since with similar results. And maybe eventually the old man’s words will sink in through osmosis and I’ll actually understand the long stream of comments he is making about my shoes.